Certified Older Adults Peer Specialists (COAPS)

OMHSAS received a third Transformation Transfer Initiative (TTI) Grant in 2012. Grant funds were used to cross-train a class of 20 PA Certified Older Adult Peer Specialists in Wellness Coaching, a nationally recognized wellness curriculum developed by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ, which is now part of Rutgers University). Wellness Coaches are trained in overall health, nutrition, physical activity, sleep and rest, stress reduction, healthy environment, metabolic syndrome, and smoking cessation. Staff from the University of Pennsylvania cross-trained a class of 20 NJ Peer Wellness Coaches in the COAPS training curriculum.

COAPS/Wellness Coach internships were created under the third TTI Grant project. COAPS/Wellness peer specialists interned in programs in senior high-rise housing and in a federally qualified health center (FQHC). The COAPS internships successfully led to permanent employment for the Certified Peer Specialists who completed the internships. More information about COAPS internships may be found on the COAPS website at www.olderadultpeerspecialists.org. Internships are contingent upon funding.

Lessons learned from the COAPS internships would indicate there is a broad application for the COAPS/Wellness cross-trained workforce. In 2013, OMHSAS in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Aging, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Experience Works, a Senior Community Services Employment Program began a three-year employment expansion for COAPS aged 55 and older.