PS@EDC Explores the Connections between Prevention and Recovery

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As the face of substance misuse continues to evolve, and the realities of the opioid crisis and COVID grow increasingly stark, the need to better understand the relationship of substance misuse prevention to recovery, and how both disciplines can work together to build resilient individuals and communities, becomes more important than ever.

To address this need, PS@EDC staff have been collaborating with partners across the country on a variety of projects focused on building connections across the prevention and recovery sectors.

In June, PS@EDC staff partnered with the Peer Recovery Center of Excellence, the Great Lakes Prevention Technology Transfer Center, and the Prevention Technology Transfer Center Network to design and deliver a two-part webinar for more than 500 substance misuse prevention and recovery practitioners.

“The recovery and prevention fields are often engaged in similar activities. They have common goals but use different language, strategies, and methods to achieve those goals,” says PS@EDC Director Carol Oliver, one of the webinar trainers. “Identifying the commonalities between prevention and recovery will help to reveal areas of potential collaboration. Developing a common language will also allow these communities to come together with the understanding that supporting recovery also supports health and wellness—which is ultimately prevention.”

The webinars explored the intersections between prevention and recovery approaches, strategies for applying a more holistic approach to the continuum of care, and opportunities for both sectors to tackle issues of racial and health inequity more effectively.

“We can’t separate our country’s long history of institutional racism from the substance misuse problems we’re experiencing today,” says Oliver. “We have to find ways to create both prevention and recovery programming that centers the voice of those communities who are most at risk,” says Oliver.

As part of this process, it is also important to reduce the stigma of substance use and the discrimination directed toward people with substance use disorders. To support this effort, staff from PS@EDC collaborated with Reingold, Inc. to refine the messaging on its Support Your Recovery website—a comprehensive resource portal for people in recovery and their families.

“The website is an amazing repository—a one-stop shop where people can get quality information about the signs and symptoms of substance use disorders—as well as treatment options,” says Oliver. “We wanted to make sure that the language used on the site conveyed the true nature of recovery—that it is an ongoing process rather than an endpoint—and that it didn’t in any way perpetuate stereotypes or assumptions about people struggling with addiction.”

In addition to this work with Reingold, PS@EDC staff are also working at the local level to support the Metrowest Recovery-Friendly Workplace (RFW) initiative, based in Framingham, Massachusetts. PS@EDC is collaborating with the RFW team to develop a collection of online, interactive resources and trainings to help local businesses create work environments that are supportive of people in recovery.

“We know that having a job is an extremely important part of recovery, especially early in the recovery process. It provides a sense of purpose, as well as the income and stability needed to remain substance-free. But many employers are reluctant to hire people in recovery. We’re working with RFW to change that,” says Oliver.

The Metrowest project will focus on correcting stereotypes and misperceptions that can prevent employers from hiring people in recovery. Individual tools and videos will explore the nature of substance misuse and recovery and the importance of maintaining a recovery-friendly workplace. They will also present concrete steps employers can take to create a culture of respect, including establishing clear policies that protect employees from discrimination.

“For too long, the prevention and treatment sectors have operated in silos. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to contribute to projects that are thinking more holistically about these issues, where we’re all working together toward a common goal,” says Oliver.

To learn more about PS@EDC’s work in substance use treatment and recovery, contact Carol Oliver at             coliver@edc.org.