With Ohio reporting record drug overdose cases in 2021 from Fentanyl addition in an atmosphere of isolation perpetuated by COVID 19 shutdowns, Cale Burke has helped launch a peer-based recovery support program on campus at Hocking College to give addicts the tools they need to stay sober.
South East Ohio Hope Center: Recovery Community Organization (RCO) space opened in April to provide a safe gathering space for people in recovery to make meaningful and permanent changes in their lives by offering job training and fellowship from a community that understands what they are going through.
As independent, non-profit organizations, RCOs are led by members of the recovery community in long-term recovery, along with their families, friends, and allies. Picking up where graduates of 12-Step and similar programs are oft-times left with little or no support beyond the first 90 days, RCOs offer participants long-term support from “people who understand the challenges of addiction and the beauty of recovery,” said Burke, senior project manager at Ohio University’s George Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service.
As interim director, it is Burke who is responsible for coaching and supporting entrepreneurs in recovery from substance use disorder.
“It’s run by people who are in recovery, not clinician based, but we can refer them to clinicians if that is what is needed. Our model is peer-based recovery support, or PBRS. That means it’s people who’ve lived recovery who can help them navigate the social services that allow them to be in long-term recovery, like how to get their license back and what to do with the other 23 hours that they’re not sitting in a 12-Step meeting.”
Participants in the program gain access to multiple job training options, enabling them to earn short-term certificates in work force management that will empower them to obtain sustainable, living-wage employment. Courses offered include glass blowing, metal work, painting, commercial driving, ceramics, and wood working.
The program is designed to supplement whatever programs participants may be following on their individual paths to recovery, Burke said. The goal is to provide them with the support and skills necessary to affect life-altering changes to their addictive lifestyles.
“We honor all paths to recovery,” Burke said. “Whatever your path looks like, we’re going to help you. We want everybody to be able to recover.”
Working in partnership with Ohio University and other organizations across southeast Ohio, the program provides participants with tools and training to combat their addictive tendencies, Burke said. Funded through the INSPIRE (Investments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems) initiative, a program of the Appalachian Regional Commission, the support services provided promote successful reentry into the workforce.
About 40 other businesses and organizations across Athens and Perry counties are involved in the RCO efforts, offering training and technical assistance in environments that support recovery-friendly workplaces. Now in his 11th year of long-term recovery, Burke said he’s excited to be directing a program that offers those anchored in addiction a second lease on life.
“We’re wrapping people looking for long-term recovery around people who are learning how to get their lives back together, giving them options so they don’t have to go back to the same old life,” he said. “I was given the gift of sobriety, now it’s my responsibility to give to people what was freely given to me.”
Beyond the classroom, participants can also benefit from safe spaces provided to them at area rock festivals in the coming months. These safe spaces promote staying sober in arenas where drug and alcohol use are often prevalent among concert-goers, Burke said.
Silver Yoga classes and other fitness classes offer participants healthy outlets to promote clean living choices.
In addition to its work with recovering addicts, Burke said the program will also endeavor to offer support for U.S. military veterans who may be in need of help transitioning back into society after serving in combat situations.
“We want our veterans to be supported,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of resources available to them outside of the VA (Veterans Administration). We’re trying to augment that.”
Information on the recovery program is available on the Southeast Ohio Hope Center Facebook homepage.