MANCHESTER, NH – For those familiar and frustrated with the lack of addiction recovery services in New Hampshire, there is hope on the horizon.
Hope for NH Recovery is a groundbreaking concept for New Hampshire, an idea that began taking shape in earnest about a year ago, after Melissa Fortin-Crews saw a screening of “The Anonymous People” at Springfield College in Massachusetts.
The documentary looks at how long-term recovery is possible when communities come together to create a support network that provides services to those trying to reclaim their lives from the clutches of addiction.
⇒ Click for details: April 9 meeting to discuss NH Hope for Recovery/Manchester Recovery Center.
They are services proven to effectively reduce substance abuse and relapse, part of a national recovery movement propelled by those 23 million Americans who have found their way back to life, after addiction.
Crews believes it’s vitally important for addicts to hear a hopeful message in a recovery setting from others who were once former addicts themselves.
“It’s really important on a few different levels. One is that it gives people hope that people do recover. There are 23 million people in long-term recovery in the United States, but there’s only a handful of people who actually admit that they were able to treat their disease and recover,” Crews says.
Crews, a local restaurant owner and mother of two, has served as a board member for Easter Seals NH and its two addiction treatment programs, Farnum Center and Webster Place. She has also been in long-term recovery for more than 20 years.
Through the lens of her own life experiences she had an “a-ha moment” after watching the movie, and recognized that this was the missing piece of the addiction epidemic puzzle here in New Hampshire – the only New England state where such services are non-existent.
As she started to dig in and see what kinds of services were available here, she was directed to connect with Friends of NH Recovery.
“They were barely limping along at the time,” says Crews.
Instead of feeling discouraged, Crews was moved to action and joined the effort already underway to transform Friends of NH Recovery into a new, more active entity. With continued financial support from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which had already provided $900,000 in grants over the previous five years to the organization’s mission, Hope for NH Recovery was launched.
They prepared a business plan and assembled a board of directors.
One of those board members, Marty Boldin, was familiar with the mission of Friends of Recovery and asked Crews what made her think Hope for NH Recovery would be different from other efforts that fell short.
“I told him I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I see the need, and I know the sustainability is there. It just needs to be done in the right way,” said Crews, which for her meant doing the legwork.
Board members went into learning mode and began site visits to recovery centers all around New England, and came away with a wealth of information.
“This is what we learned,” says Boldin. “Each center will look a little bit different, depending on that community’s needs. What works in one area might not make sense in another. In Manchester, a recovery center needs to be a structured environment – we can’t be watching Jerry Springer on the TV. People will come for a reason, either engaging with a recovery coach, working on their resume, or coming in for a meeting, or possibly to be volunteering for telephone recovery support,” Boldin says.
Their five-year plan calls for two peer-based pilot recovery community centers, to be located in Manchester and Portsmouth, with additional regional sites to follow in each of the state’s 13 public health network regions.
Although the organization is still zeroing in on a temporary site to set up operations in Manchester, they are ready to begin in earnest with phone counseling services sometime in May.
Funding will come through a combination of grants and a statewide $5 million Campaign for Community Recovery effort, with the goal of engaging individuals, businesses, healthcare providers, foundations and government entities. Individuals with experience in recovery will be trained to help assess where people are in their recovery process, and what they need to move forward.
Crews says the organization envisions a collaborative approach that might include connecting with those in recovery who are about to complete their 28-day rehab stay.
“We’ll come in to a place like the Farnum Center when they are in their last week of a 28-day program, at a point when they’re excited and happy and gung-ho, full of hope for their future recovery. We can sign them up for telephone recovery support and we can continue to check in on them and help connect them to the next step,” Crews said. “Right now, there’s nothing like that.”
At the helm of Hope for NH Recovery is Executive Director Cheryle Pacapelli, who like many of her board members, has been in long-term recovery from drugs and alcohol for more than 25 years. She brings with her a decade of experience in recovery services in Connecticut, working with CT Community for Addiction Recovery.
“It’s really exciting to see the passion and the energy people have for community recovery centers, and providing support for people to be able to achieve sustained long-term recovery,” says Pacapelli. “I’ve seen it work; it’s life changing for people struggling with addiction, and for their families.”
They applied for and received a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which allowed them to hire Pacapelli.
“They had funded Friends of NH Recovery in the past, and were probably a little nervous about it, but we are grateful that they saw enough organization and fundraising initiatives that they supported us,” says Crews.
Tym Rourke, Director of Substance Use Disorders Grantmaking and Strategic Initiatives for the Charitable Foundation, said such efforts will go a long way to build momentum for recovery services.
“The Foundation has been thrilled to see the recovery community coming out – and coming forward – to bring the face and voice of recovery to our state,” says Rourke. “Peer support and an organized recovery movement has been a significant gap in the service array, and the momentum in local communities around establishing recovery centers is exciting to see and support.”
Other board members include Dave Doiron, Kenneth Daggett, Karla Gallagher, John R. Sweeney Jr., Allan Hock, and Cheryl Colletti.
Boldin, who for years served as Director of the City of Manchester Office of Youth Services, is an accomplished addictions and social work professional who has started the next chapter of his career. After years of being stuck in the bureaucracy of an under-funded system, he enrolled as a fellow in Boston University’s School of Social Work doctoral program, planning to emerge with the skills needed to transform New Hampshire’s broken system.
He says it’s vital to develop a statewide strategy for recovery services “so everyone has access to something.”
“The thing people don’t understand is that there are no non-profit networks that provide a complete service array. Hope for NH Recovery is trying to correct that by developing a mode for statewide implementation,” Boldin says.
Hope for NH Recovery will provide data tracking through a software system that will chart where people are coming to them from, why they are there, and what their recovery journey looks like.
“We’ll be able to track data that isn’t currently being collected, and we’ll be able to start holding recovery programs accountable for continuum of care outcomes,” Boldin said.
“There are 23 million people in long-term recover in the U.S., and we are an unrecognized and unreckoned resource in our community. Recovery centers provide a voice and an opportunity for those in long-term recovery to share their practical experience and help addicts get into recovery or maintain strides toward recovery,” Boldin says.
“Addiction is a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. Trying to stop it by incarcerating addicts is like putting out a fire with gasoline,” Boldin says.
He says the problem of mass incarceration in the U.S. is directly related to drug laws put in place over the last 30 years.
“It’s a great example of the snake eating its own tail. We’re incarcerating at a rate greater than any other country in western civilization. Ripping valuable dollars from education and heath care to continue down this path is ludicrous,” Boldin says. “We are not ahead of the curve on this in New Hampshire. We’re spending more money on penitentiaries and jails, and costs associated with probation, than on education.”
After years of reading sensational headlines about the growing epidemic of addiction, compounded by the tragic stories of loss and hopelessness for local families, Boldin says it’s time to shift the conversation to one of hope.
“In our state we’ve had to wait and watch as hundreds die every year from overdoses,” Boldin says. “Hope for New Hampshire Recovery is an innovative business model that counteracts the negative consequences of systematically dismantling the substance use continuum of care in our state over the last 20 years,” says Boldin. “When people in long-term recovery shift the narrative away from disasters to one of hope and solutions, it changes everything.”
SAVE THE DATE: Hope for NH Recovery is planning a screening of “The Anonymous People” at the Palace Theatre on May 28.
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If you or someone you love is having a problem with alcohol and drugs, there are places you can find help in NH today. Here are a few places to get started:
- NH Treatment Locator
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Families Sharing Without Shame
- Find Treatment
- NH Bureau of Drug & Alcohol Services Resource Guide
- Smart Recovery New England
- Drug Free NH
- Keene Serenity Center
- Derry Friendship Center
- Celebrate Recovery – CenterPoint Church Concord, NH
- Find a Celebrate Recovery Meeting
- FASTER:Families Advocating Substance Treatment, Education & Recovery
- Live Free Recovery Consultants