How volunteering with this program can help those in Virginia with substance use disorder

How volunteering with this program can help those in Virginia with substance use disorder
Posted at 10:12 PM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 22:12:15-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A new federal program aimed to help people overcome substance use disorder is coming to Virginia and is seeking volunteers.

Recovery Corps was launched in Minnesota in 2017 in response to the opioid epidemic and is run by Ampact through Americorps volunteers.

"It was seen as a great opportunity to help complement the existing structures within the recovery systems," said Ampact Chief Advancement Officer Lindsay Dolce.

It has since expanded to Illinois and Virginia is next.

"Virginia is ground zero for much of what happened around the opioid epidemic. And we know that since the start of the pandemic, that the numbers have skyrocketed in terms of the overdoses that we've seen, we know that more individuals need support now than ever before," added Dolce.

In 2021, Virginia saw a record number of overdose deaths when over 2,600 people died from a drug overdose -- a 15% increase from the previous year.

Dolce said they are looking for 40 volunteers to serve as either Recovery Navigators (30 positions) or Recovery Project Coordinators (10 positions) and commit to at least a year of service.

"In exchange for that year of service, they are trained in a variety of different methods. So, including motivational interviewing, going through a recovery coach academy, and then supporting peers," added Dolce. "They receive a stipend, a living stipend, every couple of weeks. They receive health insurance. And then they also receive an education award that can be used to pay qualified student loans."

Dolce said the navigators must have overcome substance use disorder themselves and been in recovery for at least a year.

"They will serve in a variety of community-based organizations and a variety of different capacities, but supporting individuals who are in recovery," said Dolce.

Dolce said the volunteers will be placed with recovery residences in five cities (Richmond, Henrico, Lynchburg, Williamsburg, and Reston) that are a part of the Virginia Association of Recovery Residences (VARR).

"Virginia is a leader in the nation on the recovery front and through a partnership with Anthony Grimes at Virginia's Association of Recovery Residences, we saw a great opportunity to support the amazing work that's already been happening here in Virginia," said Dolce.

VARR certifies recovery residences around the Commonwealth

"From there, we help mentor a lot of these recovery organizations to, you know, have the best practices, have some guidelines, and really put in our professional expertise on how to serve different communities in different areas," said Robert de Triquet, RCO Division Director at VARR. "There's…26 [recovery organizations]…We have close to 1000 certified beds and close to 100 recovery residences throughout the state of Virginia."

"Here in Virginia, it's always an uphill battle with substance use disorder. Although, the recovery landscape throughout the state is in a really good place," added de Triquet. "We have a lot of support from community resources locally, in communities statewide with VARR, and various types of recovery organizations. So we have a lot of resources here that are being utilized and the Recovery Corps will be able to kick it to another level."

Regarding the requirement that the Recovery Navigators have gone through recovery themselves, de Triquet said it is an important aspect to help those starting their journey.

De Triquet has been in recovery for six years and spent some time in a recovery residence.

"The lived experience for someone like me seeking to get my life back on track is so important for me to identify with another human being," said de Triquet. "Because as a person in recovery, I respond to a message of hope, you know. So, when I'm talking with the individual that is this beacon or, like, this lighthouse of hope it really generates some motivation within myself that, 'You know, what? This thing is possible and I can do this thing. And you know what? I can get my life back together because this individual has.'"

That viewpoint is shared by Claudia Fleming, who has been clean for three years and now serves as a program coordinator at The WAR Foundation, the same recovery residence where she went for help.

"Nothing like a peer-to-peer, you know. Just because that's an individual who has lived experience is different than someone saying, 'Well, you know, this is how you can do it.' As opposed to saying, 'This is what worked for me. And I know it works because I am a living witness of it.'," said Fleming.

Fleming looking back on her time before recovery is like looking at a ghost town in an old western movie.

"When you see, like, the hay and stuff, kind of, roaming around and it's just, that's kind of how it was internally. That's the person who I was. I was very lost. I was surviving, I wasn't living. And so, today, I'm living," said Fleming.

To those who might qualify for the new Recovery Corps program, Fleming said it is a chance to do something meaningful.

"It is a positive experience to help and give back what's been so freely given to you. It's a blessing to help other people and also help yourself. It is a good way to stay clean by working as a peer," added Fleming.

If you qualify or are interested in volunteering more information about the Virginia Recovery Corps can be found here. The deadline to apply is August 10.

BIPOC Mental Health Event

Along with preparing for the launch of the Recovery Corps program, VARR is also co-hosting a panel discussion on Monday, August 8 to discuss mental health in Richmond's Black community.

The event was initially scheduled for July as part of BIPOC Mental Health Month.