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Peer Recovery Specialists Become State’s First Peer SupervisorsDate: 08/24/2020
Peer Recovery in Arkansas continues to soar to historic heights as 10 veteran Peer Recovery Specialists have been promoted to supervisor positions. You might be wondering what a Peer Recovery Specialist is and the value they bring. Jimmy McGill, Arkansas’s State Opioid Response coordinator and the state’s first Peer Recovery Specialist, says that they are people with “direct, lived experience with substance use, addiction, and recovery, and/or mental health recovery.” In short, Peer Recovery Specialists have overcome addiction and want to give back to their communities by helping others recover.
In order to become a Peer Recovery Specialist, the person must have at least two years of sustainable recovery (non-substance use) to be eligible to go into Peer Support training. After passing the training program, they must gain a minimum of 500 hours of workforce experience providing peer support.
McGill says it was the leadership of Arkansas Drug Director, Kirk Lane, and Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, who saw the value of Peer Recovery and lead the way to the development of the Arkansas Peer Recovery Model. In fact, it was both Lane and Governor Hutchinson who signed off on hiring McGill and other people with criminal histories, including felony records, to state positions as Peer Recovery Specialists. McGill believes that historic, unprecedented leap of faith from these Arkansas leaders has saved and changed the lives of many Arkansans.
“With a Peer Recovery Specialist, you get a passion for treatment and recovery that cannot be taught, bought or replicated. When a person in the addiction cycle meets with a Peer Recovery Specialist, they instantly identify and relate with each other,” McGill says. “People in treatment and recovery programs are usually afraid to get honest because they don’t want to feel judged or maybe they will feel that someone is being condescending to them. With a Peer Recovery Specialist, the fear is immediately removed. Relatable equals transparency, and that is the key toward sustained recovery. That is also not saying that clinicians aren’t important because as a Peer Recovery Specialist, we’re not operating in a primary role as a clinician, but the two working alongside each other, that’s the dynamic duo.”
While the model has been successful, organizers realized they needed to offer more.
“The first thing we learned when we developed the Arkansas Model for Peers is that without something for Peers to work toward, a place for growth, they would burn out and find a different career,” Lane says.
So, they added a step to the Peer Recovery career ladder: Peer Recovery Peer Supervisor. The credential offers growth opportunities that takes work to earn. In order to attain the certification, the specialist must complete an additional 500 hours of workforce experience, pass a 75-question test, interview with the Arkansas Peer Advisory Committee – a committee of seasoned peer specialists – and consult with the Peer Recovery Coordinator with the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Aging, Adult and Behavioral Health Services (DAABHS).
The inaugural group of Arkansas Peer Recovery Peer Supervisors include Jimmy McGill, Lester “Les” Cupp, Bonnie Stribling, Teresa Apple, Gary Wade Carter, Gary McDougal, Misty Evans, Edward “Monte” Payne, Kyle Brewer, and Casey Copeland.