USD’s Dittberner announces grant for peer specialist services

Women(Rosie Sun)
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 12:18 PM CDT
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VERMILLION, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Melissa Dittberner, Ph.D., a lecturer in addiction counseling and prevention at the University of South Dakota, recently announced the start of the Straight Up Care peer specialist grant program.

Straight Up Care has set up a local recovery task force and is seeking grant applicants. The program has authorized 100 $500 grants to cover the certification program and services of the taskforce, according to a press release from USD. There is no cost to residents that qualify for the grants to get trained and certified as a peer specialists to begin helping those in need.

The nation is seeing an increase in substance use disorders, and since the onset of COVID-19, there has been an escalated absence of mental health and addiction professionals. Straight Up Care seeks to fill this gap by connecting peer specialists to clients and providing virtual recovery services promptly and efficiently.

Peer specialists have lived experience and are trained to support those who struggle with mental health, psychological trauma, or substance abuse. Their personal experience with these challenges gives them unique expertise and helps make them an integral part of a coordinated care team.

According to Dittberner, the program’s goal is for peer specialists to be able to reach clients remotely. “My past research has shown that peer services are needed across the state,” she added. “These grants will help boost the workforce for people in recovery.”

A telehealth app, Straight Up Care provides the necessary training, administrative, client referral, and compliance tools for peer specialists to support their clients remotely. With this product, peer specialists will have access to HIPAA-compliant private chat rooms, video calls, payment processors, and scheduling tools to ensure they have the most effective means to communicate.

The platform was developed in collaboration with co-founder Jonathan Lewis.

“This is a turnkey web-based app for peer specialists,” Lewis said. “I have created an online learning platform that houses our 46-hour self-paced online certification. We are happy to be able to offer these training grants.”

To be eligible for a grant, participants must meet the following criteria:

· Must be a resident of South Dakota.

· Must identify as in recovery from mental health or addiction or have a loved one who they have helped navigate these spaces.

· Must be willing to help others navigate their recovery path.

· Must be over the age of 18.

Learn more about the grant program and how to apply on the Straight Up Care.