Peers Pursue Purpose

Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador 

In the old West, when a community was plagued by bad guys, the townsfolk got together and formed a posse and chased the bad guys out of town. Western movies starring the Lone Ranger usually ended with the Lone Ranger riding into the sunset and a townsman asking, “who was that masked man?” Any irony in this today? We might define each peer posse as being group of peers with a common purpose to overcome the “bad guys”— Substance Use Disorders (SUD). First responders respond to the purpose and needs of the moment. Clinicians and Peer Specialists respond to the purpose and needs of the future and the sustainability of positive outcomes. It takes passion and courage, but they get a big bang for their pluck.  

In a previous blog, I wrote, Together WAre Stronger. A voice is a whisper, many voices are a shout. I note that there are many communities, collectives, coalitions, consortiums, and cultures seeking a broad spectrum of choice, chance, and change. With all these words and labels starting with “C”, There must be some relationship to the term “C” change. It simply means transformation, so “Cs” the day. Between the pandemic and politics, its happening. Indications are that both parties are giving attention to the needs for clinical and peer support rather than incarceration There is growing attention to the various mental health issues developing and growing due to the negative social impact of Covid 19. These include depression, suicide, addictions, and domestic violence.  

In 2018, mostly in response to the opiate crisis, congress took action in the passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Ac It includes policies and resources that support people in recovery from addiction across the lifespan. This provision reauthorizes and modifies the Building Communities of Recovery program to include peer support networks. It provides funding for community organizations providing long-term recovery support services related to substance use disorder. There are opiate funds available.  Seek and you will find.  

Recovery Community Organizations are being formed at a growing rate with knowledge that the pandemic will put new burdens on the community from increased mental health and substance use disorders. Nothing About Us Without Us.  People with personal knowledge of the recovery process and the historical challenges faced by people seeking and in recovery free of conflicted interests are the best suited for recovery advocacy leadership.  RCOs can motivate and educate the newly elected or re-elected community leaders. “By repairing past and current harms in our communities, we bring new possibilities to the future. Community leaders will be true and valuable servants. 

The founders launched Orange County, California’s first Recovery Community Organization recently, The Purpose of Recovery—TPOR. Preceding the launch were conferences, trainings, virtual meetings. Legal matters and site visits to providers of Substance Use Disorders. Our focus was on peer support services. It was gratifying to learn about so many humans doing for other humans being. A fun experience for me was a visit to a new resource, Recovery Road providing food, clothing, and a place of fellowship. I loved the sight of stacks of Vienna sausages. The Salvation Army complex was a wonder of complete services to men and women. It was a community unto itself. It rang my bell.  There are many providers and partners with TPOR with mutual opportunity to serve the local communities. Websites, Facebook and social media provide a broad range of information and resources.  Working in peer support is an especially rewarding experience. You get to share the tools, skills, and information you have learned to transform your own life with individuals going through similar struggles. Not only do you get to contribute to the lives of others, but you also sustain your own recovery and wellbeing in the process. 

As more and more people learn about the impact of peer support, opportunities, and career paths for peer specialists the support will grow and expand. The growth of peer support has the potential to radically transform the ways we support people in the behavioral health system. All states have a certification program with defined paths to career opportunities. Our California certification entity is CCAPP, California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals. Salaries vary, state to state, but tend to range between $31,000 and $39,000.  Of course, the rewards beyond financial can be priceless. 

Remember, they don’t care what you know till they know that you care.   

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