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A Local Effort Grows into Statewide Initiative Following Request

Photo of Connie Phillips, program director of Springdale Treatment Center, holds of photo of loved ones affected by substance use.

Photo: Connie Phillips, program director of Springdale Treatment Center, holds of photo of loved ones affected by substance use.

Like many of the requests that come into STR-TA, Connie Phillips, M.Ed., ADC's request morphed from a simple request for her community to one that encompasses the entire state of Arkansas.

Ms. Phillips is program director of the Springdale Treatment Center, a methadone clinic in the northwestern part of the state. She recognized that those in recovery need more than medication; they need a support system that includes peers who understand the challenges they face and can lend support. Thankfully, STR-TA's launch came at a perfect time. Calandra Bradford, BHWP, the STR-TA Technology Transfer Specialist assigned to the request, immediately began working with Ms. Phillips to address the community's needs. It soon became apparent once work began that the request would bloom to include the entire state.

As Ms. Phillips and others began contacting people in the community for help and advice with the help of Ms. Bradford and an STR-TA consultant, the Arkansas Addiction Recovery Coalition (AARC) was formed—an organization whose charge is to help with the creation of peer support programs throughout the state. "Our purpose is to rally people to the need for peer support centers, if long term sustainable recovery is to be achieved" she said.

The Springdale Peer Alliance Recovery Center (SPARC) is still in the works, as well, but with the new broader goal, Ms. Phillips believes she can help those in recovery who live beyond the Springdale area. Ms. Phillips is herself in recovery and has lost loved ones to the disease of addiction.

Arkansas is a bit behind other states in the field of treating substance use disorders with medication, Ms. Phillips noted. The Springdale clinic is just one of seven state licensed opioid treatment programs in Arkansas. They offer both medication assisted treatment (MAT) and extensive substance abuse counseling. Rarely do substance abuse programs follow through with peer support, which can be a critical aspect of long term recovery.

Peer support is especially important in Arkansas, where acceptance of MAT is limited, leaving those patients who are taking medications unable to fit in with traditional 12-step programs, many of which do not support the idea of taking medications to treat SUD.

At the moment, the coalition is seeking non-profit status and is in the midst of creating a website.

STR-TA has been indispensable, Ms. Phillips said. Ms. Bradford introduced Ms. Phillips to Brandi Vore, the STR-TA Recovery Consultant providing technical assistance on this project. Ms. Vore is programs manager for OCARTA, an Oklahoma peer recovery support program that has been highly effective. Ms. Phillips and other AARC board members traveled to Oklahoma and toured the OCARTA facility to gain information and inspiration for the Springdale peer recovery center. In addition, Ms. Phillips was introduced to some of the leaders in the field of recovery, including Donald McDonald from Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national grass roots recovery network.

Ms. Phillips is extremely appreciative of all that STR-TA has done thus far. "Thank God we have this help. Without (STR-TA) I wouldn't have been able to keep going,” she said. "I'm just so excited to finally see some help for these people."