In a time when the news is full of stories about West Virginia’s struggles with addiction and alcoholism, what really stands out is news about people finding recovery from those very things. Such is the case in Huntington - and across the state - courtesy of a wave of peer-to-peer programs and facilities that are leading the way in a recovery revolution. Mountwest Community & Technical College is a part of that revolution, utilizing what Mountwest does best: education.
Four students at Mountwest recently completed the first skill set of coursework in the peer recovery program, which began last fall. Gina Broce, Latrenda Clay, Nikki Malone, and Vicki Thomas completed the four PRSS (peer recovery support services) courses, including the History of Addiction to 1950, History of Addiction since 1950, Boundaries and Ethics, and a 25-hour practicum course that allowed the students hands-on experience in a peer-to-peer environment. All four students completed their practicum at Recovery Point of Huntington and HER Place of Huntington under certified peer recovery support specialists, also called recovery coaches.
“I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to learn about addiction and peer recovery, and I’m thankful there is so much hope in a place called Recovery Point," Clay said. "I truly hope to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Clay and other students completed a curriculum that meets the requirements to then pursue a PR (peer recovery) credential offered by the West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professional (WVCBAPP), which oversees credentialing in the behavioral healthcare field in the state. The PR credential is in its second year of existence in West Virginia, and provides a basic education geared toward standardizing the role of recovery coaches across various agencies, organizations, and facilities. The credential is achieved through an application process that includes a specific set of domains (education), experience, and the passing of an internationally-standardized exam administered by WVCBAPP.
"As the peer recovery workforce continues to grow in West Virginia, the need for a credential has become obvious," said Matt Boggs, executive director of Recovery Point of Huntington and one of two adjunct professors in the peer recovery program at Mountwest. "As more and more people are finding their way to recovery, education about boundaries, ethics, and advocacy becomes paramount to ensure all of us in peer recovery across the state are on the same page, and doing our best to carry the message of recovery."
Malone now has a little over five years of recovery and says the peer recovery courses taught her more about the root of her own addiction. In particular, the practicum at Recovery Point of Huntington helped bring her out of complacency with life.
“What Nikki and others are discovering is that recovery is indeed real, and that peer-to-peer recovery works well for those who truly desire to change their lives from addiction and alcoholism to hope,” added Greg Perry, adjunct professor at Mountwest and Recovery Point’s project coordinator. “They have seen the message firsthand, and are now equipped with the tools necessary to carry that message to others in an ethical manner while safeguarding the recovery of others and their own.”
Thomas graduated May 12th from Mountwest with both a board of governors and an early childhood education associate degree. She decided to add the peer recovery coursework into her schedule to learn more about addiction since experiencing it in her own family. She says the courses reassured her that recovery is possible, and she feels these Mountwest courses are another pathway to spur on the vision of recovery.
Broce was most impacted by her practicum experience at Recovery Point of Huntington and HER Place, completing more than the necessary 25 hours.
Far from being the end-all in peer recovery education, the curriculum at Mountwest and subsequent credentialing by WVCBAPP can serve as a starting point for further education.
“Through their involvement in helping others, students find a desire for future careers in fields such as social work, psychology, or counseling,” said Perry. “The possibilities are endless in education, just as they are in long-term recovery from substance use disorders.”
For more information about Mountwest's peer recovery support specialist coursework, contact Candace Layne, instructional specialist and mental health counselor at Mountwest, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-710-3388.