An excerpt from an interview about the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery’s peer recovery support activities:
GREAT LAKES ATTC: You have recently started providing telephone-based recovery support services to people leaving Connecticut treatment programs. Could you describe the scope of this and what you’re learning from it?
PHIL VALENTINE: The Telephone Recovery Support premise is simple: a new recoveree receives a call once a week for 12 weeks from a trained volunteer (usually a person in recovery) to check up on their recovery. We have found, though, that after 12 weeks when we ask the recoveree if they still want to receive a phone call, most times the answer is “yes.” We now have people who have been receiving calls for 50 or more weeks, and they’re still in recovery. In our first full year of making these calls, CCAR volunteers and staff have made more than 3,100 outbound phone calls. We piloted the project for 90 days out of Willimantic, after meeting with Dr. Mark Godley from Chestnut Health Systems to refine our procedures (DMHAS supported this consultation through a Center of Excellence project). We tweaked the script a bit, and the process works amazingly well. Outcomes have been ridiculously good—our last quarterly report indicated that 88 percent of our recoverees were maintaining their recovery. Volunteers love making these calls; it helps them as well. It’s a win-win situation. We have trained dozens of people to make these calls out of all our locations. Anyone is eligible to receive a call—all you have to do is ask.
GREAT LAKES ATTC: Are all of your volunteers people in recovery?
PHIL VALENTINE: We thought the telephone recovery support would best be provided by people in recovery, but we have had some interns who weren’t in recovery who have done a great job in this role and have gotten the same results as our recovering people. I think it’s just the fact that the agency of CCAR, what we represent, is reaching out to them, and as representatives of CCAR, they really feel and understand that somebody cares for them. It may be more the institution and the relationship with the institution than the particular person who’s making that call. And I don’t even know if it’s the institution as much as the purpose. It’s the care, compassion, and love behind the call that seem to work.
GREAT LAKES ATTC: It’s hard to estimate the power of such contact.
PHIL VALENTINE: Early in my recovery, I was told to get a long list of names and phone numbers of people in recovery, and I did. I was a good boy. I had probably a couple hundred names. Did I ever call anybody? No. The idea of actually using the phone numbers was foreign to me. I couldn’t pick up the phone to call somebody, but when somebody called me, I would talk and talk and talk and talk and felt very grateful for the support.
GREAT LAKES ATTC: What keeps the volunteers coming back?
PHIL VALENTINE: It’s fulfilling. I sit here, and I listen to volunteers make telephone recovery support calls. I’m not ever sure who’s getting the most out of it, the volunteers or those they’re calling, but I see volunteers with eyes lit up, energized on the phone, really glad to hear from this person that they’re doing well, praising the person for all the good things they’re doing, being able to be a small part in maybe moving that person towards a life of recovery. There is nothing more rewarding in a volunteer position than playing a role in moving someone into a life in recovery.