Deborah Motley-Bledsoe beamed with pride on stage, prepared to present awards to those who were committed to battling an epidemic that has gripped the nation by sharing their own experiences with recovery.
This year Arkansas hosted the inaugural Region VI Peer Recovery Conference. The state has been acknowledged as a leader on a national stage for its approach to combatting the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders through peer recovery efforts.
“I couldn’t help but to think of how I’m a part of history, something that’s a game-changer in Arkansas,” the Department of Human Services Substance Abuse Treatment director said. “A peer can connect with someone who’s battling an addiction, because they can personally identify with what that person is going through. The peers are invaluable.”
A peer recovery specialist is someone who has experienced a drug addiction but is now in recovery and works to help others overcome their addictions. A person can become a peer by registering with the Arkansas Substance Abuse Certification Board. They must have also completed at least two years of substance abuse recovery.
Peers are somewhat new to Arkansas – but they’ve quickly made their presence felt.
Motley-Bledsoe has been part of the fight to end drug abuse since the 1980s. Naturally, she’s seen a lot. She said that the current opioid epidemic presents challenges that need the expert, personal knowledge that a peer can provide.
“It’s proven that a peer can quickly help a person, who’s in denial, to see what they’re doing to their lives,” Motley-Bledsoe said. “In order to recover, that’s an important first step. What’s more, is that a peer can identify and support that person through the challenges of recovery.”
DHS has two peers on staff. One in the Division of Youth Services (DYS) and the other in the Division of Aging, Adult, and Behavioral Health Services (DAABHS) – who is part of Motley-Bledsoe’s team.
“We’re fortunate to have a peer in Jimmy McGill. I’m proud of him as he’s doing great work. My staff and I have learned a lot from him,” she said. “During the peer recovery conference, I had a lot of peers telling me how much they appreciate my team for giving them a means to get sober. That’s what it’s all about, helping people recover and excel in life.”
If someone you love needs help, tell them to call the DHS Mental Health & Addiction Services Support line 1-844-763-0198.