To examine whether roles of peer specialists affect service use among Black, Latinx and White youth ages 16‐24 with serious mental illness (SMI) in Los Angeles and San Diego Counties.
Administrative data from 2015 to 2018 was used to summarize service use among 6329 transition age youth age 16‐24 with SMI who received services from 76 outpatient public mental health programs with peer specialists on staff. Roles of peer specialists were assessed via a program survey. Generalized linear models were used to assess the relationship between peer specialist characteristics and service use outcomes (ie, outpatient and inpatient).
Having a transition age youth peer specialist on staff (vs older peer specialists) and having peer specialists that provide four or more services (vs fewer services) was associated with an increase in annual outpatient visits in both counties (P = <.001 each). In Los Angeles County, having three or more peer specialist trainings (vs fewer trainings) was associated with lower use of inpatient services (P < .001). In San Diego County, having a transition age youth peer specialist and peer specialists that provide four or more services was associated with lower use of inpatient services (P < .001 each).
Types of peer support and number of types of peer services were associated with mental health service utilization. Detailed examination of the roles of peer specialists is merited to identify the specific pathways that improve outcomes.