Certified Recovery Coach Program Starts at MHA’s BestLife

SPRINGFIELD — The new Recovery Coach Program at MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health and Wellness Center in Springfield has been so well-received in its first three weeks that the certified recovery coach already has a full case load, and MHA is looking to add more staff. A certified recovery coach is an individual who has lived experience with addiction, is stable in recovery, has completed a state-offered certification program, and is supervised by someone who has completed a recovery-coach supervisor program, in this case a senior staff member at BestLife.

“With the acute need for recovery services in our community, and with the recently announced reduction in local in-patient behavioral-health beds, the need for these services is not diminishing,” said Sara Kendall, MHA’s vice president of Clinical Operations. “MHA is already conducting a search for a second certified recovery coach to join the team at BestLife. We are working to provide sorely needed services that are beneficial on their own and also can provide a bridge to complementary services that support people as they move forward on their own path of recovery.”

A certified recovery coach is someone who has been where the client is now and has moved ahead in their own recovery. “They ‘get it’ in a way that someone who has not personally faced the challenges of addiction does not,” said Kendall. “That experience can be important. For example, our certified recovery coach attended a weekly meeting offered locally, and the next week was approached by a person who said, ‘I listened to what you said last week. You’ve walked a similar path to me, and I think I can trust you. Will you work with me?’ That individual chose to work with our certified recovery coach because the fit is right and the trust is there, from the start. Once that trust enables an individual to engage productively with a certified recovery coach, individuals can work toward their unique goal, such as connections to vocational training, résumé writing, support with court-related issues, and connections to many different paths to recovery.”

BestLife also has begun offering services of a recovery support navigator, a bachelor’s-level paraprofessional that works with people who have a substance-use disorder or co-occurring disorder to provide a strong linkage between medical-health and behavioral-health issues.

“The recovery support navigator helps individuals remove barriers that can be a hinderance to getting needed services,” said Kendall. “They can help persons who are incarcerated, in detox, or in an in-patient environment to make connections so the bridge to recovery services is built before they return to the community. They identify individual issues and connect persons to needed services, ranging from assistance with medical and dental services to connections to behavioral health.”

The services offered by a certified recovery coach and a recovery support navigator can start early in recovery, before someone is back in the community, and then can continue to help people on their individual path of recovery once they are living in the community again.

“Given the extensive wait lists for certified recovery coaches, we identified the need to provide this service to the community,” said Kendall. “As of February 17, 2020, we started a recovery-coach program out of our BestLife Emotional Health and Wellness Center, and in just three weeks, our coach has a full case load. He’s working with the drug courts, with after-incarceration support services, and with every local provider of substance-use and addiction treatment in the region. It’s a great opportunity for all MHA programs to provide side-by-side support from an individual who is in recovery himself, who is state-certified, and who provides a role model and mentor to those in early recovery.”