What is the Future of the Recovery Coach Program?

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

When the Recovery Coach Program came to Winthrop two and a half years ago the Town was just reaching out to people with addiction problems as the police and fire departments were responding to overdoses and yet it was difficult to follow up and get people the help they often desired.

Now the grant that funds the recovery coaches is not enough to fund the coaches with a living wage. The recovery coaches make $20 an hour for 35 hours a week with no health insurance or other benefits.

A pitch has been made to turn the two positions into town employee positions.

Town Manager James McKenna said there are some concerns regarding insurance and liability.

“The peer recovery coaches have always been a vendor (with the town) and supported by a grant,” he said at last week’s council meeting”

He added that in the next few weeks he will have a report.

“We need to know what other agencies have to offer,” McKenna said. “Funding issues need to be answered and licensure is an issue.”

North Suffolk Mental Health, Mass General Hospital and East Boston Neighborhood Health offer an agency model of treatment and support. This limits the client to the services of just that agency.

“You only get what the agency has to offer,”  said Winthrop’s Public Health Nurse Deanna Faretra

The three-year,  $300,000 grant is the Winnissimmet Regional Opioid Collaborative (WROC) grant through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and is shared among four communities: Revere, Winthrop, Chelsea and Saugus. The City of Revere is the grant administrator.

Part of the grant was to partner a municipal office with a community partner. Winthrop did this by partnering with CASA (Community Action for Safe Alternatives). The Police Department became involved and the model for the recovery coaches was created. The coaches now work not only in Winthrop, but also at Drug Court at the East Boston District Court and the Suffolk County jail.

“The model has a community based focus on the individual,” said Faretra, and the coaches help with all aspects of life, treatment, housing, employment, life skills and additionally drawing on their own experiences and what they have learned.

Winthrop’s program has received national recognition at the National Drug Summit held in Atlanta a few months ago. Faretra said they are now getting calls from across the country from other cities and states.

“We’ve had calls from Las Vegas and Colorado,” Faretra said.

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