BCBSND partners with N.D. Health and Human Services to make peer support a behavioral health option for Medicaid Expansion members

a man and woman seated and holding hands

Fargo, N.D. – Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) and North Dakota Health and Human Services have recently announced the addition of peer support as a covered service under the Medicaid Expansion program. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, certified peer support specialists will be able to apply their lived experience to assist Medicaid Expansion members on their journey to recovery and wellness.

BCBSND administers coverage for Medicaid Expansion in North Dakota, which enables more people to access affordable coverage and preventive services.

“We are focused on creating a healthier tomorrow by partnering with providers in creative and innovative ways,” said Chelsey Matter, BCBSND Executive Director of Government Programs. “The addition of peer support services helps us expand coverage and better assist our members who have behavioral health concerns. This promising practice changes the trajectory of rural and behavioral health in our state and supports our goal of providing high-quality, accessible health care.”

A peer support specialist is someone who uses their lived experience of recovery from mental illness and/or addiction, plus skills learned in formal training, to deliver services that promote mind-body recovery and resilience. They bring hope by sharing their experiences, creating a sense of belonging.

The role of a peer support specialist is distinct and does not replace the clinician. Rather, peer support compliments clinical services. These services improve whole health, decrease hospitalizations/inpatient stays and can reduce health care costs.    

“We are excited to partner with BCBSND to enhance and streamline access to this proven and vital service,” said Behavioral Health Executive Director Pamela Sagness. “Peer support offers a level of acceptance, understanding and validation not found in many other professional relationships. We look forward to working with BCBSND as they continue to address North Dakotans’ needs.”

Peer support specialists have been recognized by both Mental Health America and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration as a promising practice for individuals with behavioral health conditions. Since 2020, North Dakota has supported the use of peer support by adding peer support specialist certification through N.D. legislation Chapter 75-03-43.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota
BCBSND was founded in 1940 with the mission to provide members with affordable access to health care across the state. As a member-owned, not-for-profit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), BCBSND is committed to transforming care and health across the state to improve outcomes, lower cost trends and make it easier to shop, buy and use health care coverage. Members have access to unmatched local service and to a comprehensive network of health care providers across the state, the nation and in 200 countries.

About North Dakota Health and Human Services
North Dakota Health and Human Services’ Behavioral Health Division is responsible for reviewing and identifying service needs and activities in the state's behavioral health system to ensure health and safety, access to services and quality services. It also establishes quality assurance standards for the licensure of substance use disorder program services and facilities and provides policy leadership in partnership with public and private entities.