Recovery Coaching helps a person recognize that recovery is possible
Original Source: indystar.com
Matt Heskett had been struggling with painkillers, alcohol and heroin for several years. He was sleeping out of his car. He was broke.
Then, in the fall of 2015, police raided a trailer he was in with several others on the west side of Indianapolis.
The police were serving warrants. None of the warrants had been issued for Heskett. Still, with no money and a car almost out of gas, he found himself in a reflective mood.
“That was kind of the moment where it all smacked me in the face,” Heskett said. “I just remember going across the street to a gas station and kind of thinking to myself, ‘Is this really what my life is today?'”
Fast forward to 2018, and Heskett’s life is much different.
At Fairbanks Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Indianapolis, where he was once a patient, Heskett is helping others recover from substance use issues and addiction as a peer recovery coach.
He has also worked for the past three months as employer services coordinator at Fairbanks.
“Seeing where I’m at today and being able to use everything I have been through to help somebody else out is so cool and rewarding to me,” Heskett, 31, said. “I never would have thought I’d be working here.”
Matt Heskett, Employer Services Coordinator for Fairbanks Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center overcame his own addiction and now helps others. Indianapolis Star
Peer recovery coaches are more in demand today as Indiana and other states continue to battle an opioid and drug epidemic.
According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Indiana had 1,526 drug overdose deaths in 2016, a 23.1 percent increase from 2015.
CDC data also shows Indiana had 83.9 opioid prescriptions written per 100 people in 2016, wellabove the national rate of 66.5 prescriptions per 100.
Mentoring and connecting
Peer recovery coaches act as personal guides and mentors for people — or “recoverees” — trying to sustain recovery from addiction.
While not clinical professionals, these coaches have personal experience in recovering from addiction and substance use disorders, allowing them to connect with recoverees in ways health care professionals often are not able to.
Fairbanks has offered peer recovery services since 2007. More than 30 Indiana organizations offer peer recovery coaches, said Justin Beattey, lead peer recovery coach at Life Recovery Center, an addiction and mental health treatment center with four Indianapolis locations.
“When someone is even looking into recovery, that’s probably one of the scariest moments of your entire life,” said Beattey, 37, whose past substance use struggles landed him in prison before he began recovery on Aug. 24, 2014. “You have no idea what’s going to happen.
“But when you have someone there to walk beside you and offer suggestions, and, more importantly, offer you hope and optimism that recovery is possible, that’s the key component to peer support.”
Family members of those with substance use disorders can also become coaches.
Peer recovery coaches help connect recoverees to housing, employment and other resources. They are found in rehab and re-entry programs, jails, hospitals, detox clinics, churches and other community health settings.
In Indianapolis, recovery coaches are in emergency rooms at Eskenazi Hospital and IU Health Methodist Hospital to help patients recovering from overdoses.
“We’re not dictating any type of path or treatment plan,” said Dru Gaddie, one of two recovery coaches at IU Health Methodist Hospital who has 11 years of recovery.
“We just tell them, ‘This is what the other side looks like.’ There is hope.”
Peer recovery coaches Dru Gaddie, left, and Kristen Wisler are shown here at IU Health Methodist Hospital on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)
Since 2015, the Indiana Addiction Issues Coalition (IAIC) and Indiana Credentialing Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (ICAADA) have trained nearly 200 peer recovery coaches thanks to a three-year federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said Kimberly Miller, IAIC project coordinator for the federal grant.
IAIC and ICAADA are subsidiaries of Mental Health America of Indiana, a mental health and addiction advocacy organization.
Individuals can become certified addiction peer recovery coaches (CAPRC) through ICAADA. Two training levels both involve 30 hours of training specific to four domains: advocacy; mentoring and education; recovery and wellness support; and ethical responsibility.
Mental Health America of Indiana, 1431 N. Delaware St., oversees two groups responsible for training peer recovery coaches in Indiana. (Photo: Billy Kobin/IndyStar)
Participants in both levels must pass an exam and sign a code of ethics statement. Coaches who complete the first level can work in Indiana.
The second level, CAPRC II, is internationally recognized and involves 16 additional hours of ethical responsibility training, six hours of HIV/AIDS education, 25 hours of supervision and 500 hours of volunteer or paid recovery coach work.
The amount of time peer recovery coaches spend with recoverees varies. Miller said coaches complement rather than replace social workers and therapists.
“They are making themselves available to see if the person is ready and willing (for help),” Miller said. “A recovery coach removes barriers and obstacles that would prevent a person from getting in recovery.”
Heskett has been a recovery coach since April. He said he checks in with recoverees moving from inpatient to outpatient care, doing anything to help “guide them in the process.”
He shares his personal story of addiction and recovery to help recoverees see the importance of finding support.
Heskett said he had a “great upbringing” in Indianapolis with a supportive family. He graduated from Indiana University in 2009 and found good jobs in sales and business relations.
He thought his recreational drug and alcohol use at IU “never got too out of control,” but Heskett said his experience with painkillers went downhill in Bloomington.
After suffering a “drunken injury” at school in 2008, Heskett said he received pain medication from the campus health center. He had taken pain pills for past sports-related injuries but never in large doses. This time, however, Heskett said he went through the medication “extremely fast.”
“That was the first time I experienced the actual physical withdrawals when the prescription ran out,” Heskett said.
For the next few years, Heskett struggled on and off with painkillers, alcohol and heroin while trying to maintain employment. One employer even offered to help him find recovery resources, but Heskett turned that down and eventually left his job.
“I didn’t want to accept that I was struggling and needed some help,” Heskett said, “so I refused that support.”
He checked into numerous treatment facilities, including Fairbanks, but kept struggling with substance use. After the police bust in the trailer home, Heskett reached a “point of desperation” and finally reached out to his parents for help.
He went back to Fairbanks a few days later and became sober Oct. 20, 2015, also his father’s birthday.
“It’s a double whammy celebration,” Heskett said.
Expanding support networks
Helping those struggling with addiction can be tough for coaches. Recovery coaches working in ER settings are recommended to have multiple years of personal recovery.
“You have to take care of yourself,” Gaddie, 51, said, “because this will eat you.”
Kristen Wisler, the other coach at IU Health Methodist Hospital, with 5 1/2 years of recovery, said she is taking a break soon from the “huge level of commitment” that coaching requires to spend more time with her 4-year-old son.
Heskett, a CAPRC I who was hired at Fairbanks in August 2017 after completing treatment, and Beattey, a CAPRC II, said they turn to several peer recovery coaches of their own for support.
Beattey said a statewide association of peer recovery coaches that will advocate for coaches should be established by October.
Justin Beattey, lead peer recovery coach at Life Recovery Center, said he began his journey of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse in 2014 after waking up in an emergency room with staples in his head and no recollection of how he got there. (Photo: Billy Kobin/IndyStar)
According to an IUPUI Center for Community Health Engagement and Equity Research report, early studies show improved recovery outcomes and significant decreases in substance use for those who receive peer recovery services versus standard treatment.
Dennis Watson, an investigator in the IUPUI report and associate professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Medicine, said larger controlled studies are needed to prove the effectiveness of peer recovery coaching.
Watson said he is an investigator in a study on the effectiveness of recovery coaches at IU Health Methodist Hospital that shares data with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The early positive signs, Miller said, are why IAIC wants to train more peer recovery coaches throughout Indiana.
After a training session in July, Miller said 43 recovery coaches are available in Austin, the Scott County community that was the epicenter of an HIV outbreak in 2015.
Miller said IAIC will use a second SAMHSA grant to develop a statewide network of community recovery organizations as well as a mobile response team that would respond to crisis situations featuring multiple drug overdoses.
IAIC director Brandon George said the second federal grant will support 100 new recovery coaches. IAIC currently organizes six to eight peer recovery coach training sessions per year throughout Indiana.
“There is a very, very high demand for coaches,” Miller said.
Barriers, stigma remain
Advocates said several barriers prevent more peer recovery coaches from becoming trained.
No central funding source exists in Indiana to train more coaches. George said Indiana’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction is working on allowing Medicaid to reimburse recovery services.
Another barrier, Miller said, is many potential coaches are rejected by organizations unwilling to hire those with criminal backgrounds.
Miller said much of that criminal activity is related to drug use, but the experience of recovering from drug use allows coaches to act as “that inspiration to others.”
At Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry (PACE) in Indianapolis, two recovery coaches work with offenders and ex-offenders as part of an IUPUI-led study into peer support services.
Gina Fears, one of the coaches who has 22 years of recovery, said more than half of PACE clients have a history of substance abuse.
Fears, 58, said ex-offenders who relapse during recovery often get placed back in jail and receive no treatment.
“What costs less?” Fears asked. “To treat…or to incarcerate?”
The opioid epidemic and stigma surrounding addiction also takes a hit on Indiana’s economy and workforce.
A study published in the Indiana Business Review estimated Indiana’s economy takes a $1.5 billion hit each year due to opioid misuse and its impact on the labor force.
Heskett said his role as employer services coordinator at Fairbanks involves working with employers who want to help in the recovery process of their employees.
However, Heskett said the stigma around addiction causes many employees to act like he once did and not admit their struggles.
“Most of the time,” Heskett said, “employers don’t want to lose you and see you struggle and stop showing up to work.”
September is National Recovery Month. IAIC, Fairbanks and PACE plan on using the month to highlight the importance of peer recovery and removing stigma around addiction and mental health issues.
“Recovery coaches are going to be all over the place,” Gaddie said. “They’ve taken off in the last year like a wildfire.”
Call IndyStar reporter Billy Kobin at 317-444-6123. Follow him on Twitter: @Billy_Kobin.
IndyStar’s “State of Addiction: Confronting the Opioid Crisis in Indiana” series is made possible through the support of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, a nonprofit foundation working to advance the vitality of Indianapolis and the well-being of its people.