New path for those recovering from addiction: Training to be peer advocates

by Alina Tugend, CSM Contributor from NEW YORK

148963LaShondra Jones is among a small but growing number of people being trained by community colleges to become certified recovery peer advocates for people who, like them, have experienced substance misuse and mental health issues.Yunuen Bonaparte for The Hechinger Report

August 2, 2022

LaShondra Jones went through years of mental illness and alcohol addiction, and in her late 40s she was living in a women’s shelter in New York.

Finally stable and sober, she needed work – any type of work – for which her history wouldn’t count against her.

Ms. Jones Googled “free training in NYC” and learned that several area community colleges offered training for people to become certified recovery peer advocates for those coping with substance use disorder. Her experience, in this case, would be a big plus.

There were obstacles. Ms. Jones needed special permission to stay out past the shelter bed check time because her classes at Bronx Community College ended at 9 p.m. and the subway trip back to Brooklyn could take hours. But she completed the training, passed the certification test, and now works as a certified recovery peer advocate with people in, or in danger of becoming caught up in, New York’s criminal justice system.

“I enjoy the fact I never know who I’m going to meet. I never know what their story is,” says the 50-something Ms. Jones, who now has her own apartment – and a job – in Manhattan. “I might be the only person who has ever listened to them.”

The success of Ms. Jones and others who have gone on to become recovery peer advocates shows that with the right financial and other kinds of support, and in fields where they can use their personal experiences, even some of the most vulnerable people can succeed at college-level training – and colleges can succeed at graduating them into good jobs.

This has become more important as the number of students over age 24 enrolled in higher education has continued to slide, down nearly 6%, and more than 16% at community colleges, since the start of the pandemic, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

Page created on 8/2/2022 9:05:31 PM

Last edited 8/2/2022 9:26:51 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.