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SAMHSA Grant Will Help Odyssey House Develop Peer Workforce

Odyssey House has been awarded a three-year, $1.2 million grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to fund enhanced services for people in recovery from addictions, with the money to be used to train — and pay a small stipend to — graduates of the program who will serve as peers. The new program, called the Odyssey House Recovery Oriented Care System (OHROCS), will use peers who have graduated from the therapeutic community to provide such services as coaching, personal recovery plans, support groups, and incentives in an outpatient facility in the Bronx.

The peers, called mentors, will be paired with individual people in recovery (mentees). The peers will help patients in the transition from treatment to independent living.

The service is not new — Odyssey House alumnae have been giving support to people leaving treatment for a long time. But the grant will help these alumnae get paid, and will help the program recruit and keep the best mentors, said Peter Provet, Ph.D., president and CEO of Odyssey House.

Initially, mentoring services will be offered to Odyssey House outpatient clients to build the initial cohort of 330 individuals, Provet told ADAW last week. Eventually, the services will be expanded to include people in the criminal justice system social services agencies, hospitals, and other drug treatment facilities.

The program will integrate the traditional therapeutic community component of peer mentoring with some of the core practices of recovery management and with the evidence based practice of contingency management for substance abuse treatment, said Provet. Key to the therapeutic community model is the concept of using the “community as the healing agent,” he said.

Odyssey House will initially recruit mentors from its existing 150 member Alumni Association and eventually from the South Bronx recovery community at large, said Provet. Mentoring will be delivered by individuals who have established personal recovery with a minimum of six consecutive months of community-based abstinence at the time of enrollment. They will be drug screened, interviewed and selected based on their motivation levels and demonstrated depth of community-based recovery.

Mentors will be trained to become Recovery Coaches by the Recovery Coach Academy, a unit of the Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery (Hartford Recovery Community Center). Training will cover the roles and functions of a recovery coach, and the guiding principles of recovery. Mentors will learn to about relationship-building, how to discuss medication-assisted recovery and co-occurring disorders, the stages of change, ethical issues, and wellness planning. Training, which will last three days, will include a “train-the-trainer” module for Odyssey House clinical staff that will embed the curriculum into the program’s services.

Mentors will support, coach, encourage and advise each mentee through weekly contacts with each of their four to six mentees.

Limited research

There isn’t a lot of research in the field of recovery, Provet admitted. But there is still evidence that promoting some of its components is effective in preventing relapse. “Although quantitative research on the overall efficacy of recovery coaching and personal recovery plans is sparse, many of its components and effects have been researched and supports using this approach with our target population,” said Provet, citing in particular the work of Bill White. “Recovery coaches, 12-step programs, spirituality, and social and community support are integral to sustaining recovery. Increased goal-oriented thinking was positively correlated to length of time abstinent, quality of life, and self-efficacy,” he said. Maintaining motivation and self-efficacy for abstinence and increasing active coping post treatment were predictive of more favorable outcomes, such as increased participation in 12-step meetings.

Asked how long people will stay in the recovery support program, Provet said the goal will be for each mentee to receive services over a period of six to 12 months to accomplish the goals set forth in the individual recovery plan. “Accomplishing each goal will, over time, build each mentee’s recovery capital to help sustain their recovery,” he said. “Our goal is also to provide each mentee, based on their progress in their recovery, with the opportunity to become mentors in the OHROCS program further sustaining their recovery support, this time through their mentoring of others in early recovery.”

The program will operate in the Odyssey House Outpatient Clinic in the Bronx. Activities that will take place in the clinic include: client assessments, weekly peer-to-peer support groups, monthly mentor support groups and all program administration. The clinic, which is open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., has a lounge with a TV and seating which facilitates casual meetings between staff, clients, and mentors and will serve as a space to facilitate informal resource sharing. There will be rooms for private discussions as needed. •

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