Addiction Task Force Seeks Volunteer Peer Recovery Specialists
Elkins, W. Va., December 3, 2021: The Addiction and Homeless Resources Task Force is looking for volunteers to assist community members who need help recovering from addiction. More information about this opportunity and the work of the task force in general will be available at a public forum scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. on December 14 at the Phil Gainer Community Center.
The Addiction and Homeless Resources Task Force, which started working last spring to identify effective strategies for addressing these issues in the Elkins area, includes Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco, Randolph County Sheriff Rob Elbon, and City Councilor Dave Parker (Fifth Ward).
One strategy the task force identified is peer-supported recovery, in which people who are already in recovery are trained to help others access the services and support necessary for their own long-term recovery. These people are known as peer recovery support specialists, and the task force is seeking volunteers interested in serving in this role.
Candidates need a high school diploma/GED. They must have been in recovery for at least two years and not have received treatment for a substance use disorder in the previous six months, except for medication assisted treatment (e.g., opioid dependency medications such as buprenorphine).
Volunteers who are selected by the task force will receive training and work toward the PRSS certification issued by the West Virginia DHHR. Initial training includes first aid, CPR, and naloxone administration.
Once trained, specialists would work in teams of two, in coordination with emergency health services, law enforcement, the court system, treatment and recovery programs, and harm reduction programs. These teams will primarily respond with medics or law enforcement to the scenes of overdoses or other substance-abuse related situations. They might also talk with people who have been hospitalized for substance use disorder or collaborate with mental health providers who help people recover from addiction.
Although these positions are unpaid, the task force is exploring grant funding and other options to provide long-term stability to this program. Initial training and related costs will be covered by ARPA funds the task force has requested from City of Elkins.
Markie Jeffries, who is already a certified peer recovery support specialist with Appalachian Community Health Center, will lead the program and supervise the volunteers. According to Jeffries, these specialists play a crucial role in the community response to addiction.
“Because of the stigma so many people place on addiction, it can be hard for people who need help to open up to someone in law enforcement or health care,” Jeffries says. “When I tell people my backstory and they see I’ve been in the exact same situation they’re in, they start opening up.”
Jeffries’s backstory includes an opioid addiction that grew out of what was at first only “social” use but eventually led to overdose and incarceration. She has been in recovery since 2017.
In addition to the satisfaction of helping others, working as a peer recovery support specialist has helped Jeffries in her own recovery.
“Doing this work helps keep me humble,” she says. “Throughout my recovery, I was so appreciative of the people who helped me, and I always hoped I could pay that forward by helping others. People suffering from addiction often feel there is no hope for them, and I’m able to show them that’s not true, there is hope for everyone—just look at me. It’s very rewarding work.”