As we enter a new decade, it’s natural to think of 2020 as a fresh start, a chance to wipe the dirty slate clean. Often, though, our dirty slate can be someone else’s shield of armor. What we see as bad decisions, mistakes we want to put behind us, can be lessons and experiences that have the potential to help others.
One of the most meaningful and effective ways that individuals recovering from drug or mental health issues can be helped and then go on to help others who are seeking recovery is through a Peer Recovery Support model.
In Cleveland, Thrive Peer Recovery offers such support.
In 2014, Brian Bailys was recovering from substance use and mental health diagnoses. He recognized a gap in continuing care and partnered with local recovery agencies to launch the mobile application Ascent, connecting people with peers & professional coaches in recovery, available at any time – straight from their smartphone.
Shortly thereafter, Bailys met Bridgette Lewis, an RN who started Thrive Behavioral Health Center to offer peer recovery support. In 2018, Ascent and Thrive formed a partnership that allowed both peer support programs to continue and grow.
Coaches at Thrive must have a minimum of two years of recovery. Many are in recovery from both substance use and mental health issues. They receive 16 hours of online training and 40 hours of in-person training and must pass a state-proctored exam. References and background checks are also required.
In addition, coaches learn how to use Naloxone and fentanyl test strips via Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), a community-based program created to deal with Ohio’s opioid overdose epidemic through education and Naloxone distribution.
Thrive provides peer recovery support to its own staff and believes that staff recovery is a priority. The organization offers a variety of programs to assist those in recovery, including local emergency department programs, recovery housing, county jail programming, medication assistance, and homeless programs.
Recently, Thrive acquired Homeless Hookup CLE, a grassroots organization founded by Dean Roff, a recovering addict who has been sober for 12 years. Initially, Roff started the organization as a way to give back once his own life became more stable. His first mission was to “hook up” individuals who don’t have permanent housing by giving them much-needed hygiene items. Once homeless himself, Roff had big ideas and an amazing ability to connect with the people he was serving, but he soon realized that Homeless Hookup needed backing from a larger organization with more experience to secure funding.
Now a Thrive peer support counselor, Roff uses the “dirt” from his slate to help others going through similar struggles. With the help of Thrive, Homeless Hookup is able to continue its mission of helping as many people in need as possible. In addition to the weekly distribution of hygiene packets, Roff and his crew of volunteers provide services to a constantly moving community in an innovative way. Working with the Lakewood Fire Department, Roff developed a mobile hygiene bus equipped with 2 barber’s chairs, a shower, a thrift store, and a soup kitchen. The bus periodically travels to encampments of those living without homes, providing the hygiene and humanity that everyone needs and deserves.
Thrive hopes to hire 40 new peer recovery supporters over the next few months. For information about becoming a certified peer recovery supporter in Ohio, check here.