Support specialists are critical


Stephanie Roe, the education coordinator for Reach for Tomorrow, spoke to the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition during a meeting Wednesday about her efforts to help people attain peer specialist certifications and other certifications and licenses pertaining to substance abuse and mental health treatment.

“I promote the different aspects of certifications and licenses that people can get, and the biggest one I like to promote is the peer specialist certification,” said Roe.

A peer support specialist is a person with “lived experience” who has been trained to support those who struggle with mental health, psychological trauma, or substance abuse. Their personal experience provides them with expertise that professional training cannot replicate.

“If they’ve lived it then they qualify for the program,” said Roe. “It doesn’t matter how deep you went into it or how much it affected your life as long as you had a lived experience with it.”

Roe works to shepherd people through the certification and licensing process for a number of substance abuse and mental health positions. Often, the people seeking these certifications and licenses are in recovery for substance abuse or mental health problems.

“When you meet people who are fresh through their recovery program or in a transitional period, and they’re looking for what is the next step for their life, they have to keep their recovery or their mental health in the forefront, so I find that it’s a very good way for them to do the whole 12-step process,” she said. “You’ve got to receive it and learn it, and then you have to give it away to help others along the same path.”

Roe said she recently worked with a woman who worked as a beautician for more than 20 years, but wants to find a new career path because that work is a trigger for her disorder. “The biggest thing for her is that she wants to give back to people who are struggling the same way she struggled, so now she is starting her peer support certification and her CDCA [Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant] certification so that she can go into a career in the field and continue to keep it present,” said Roe.

Roe said the role of a peer support specialist is critical because an addict’s brain doesn’t work the same way as a person who has never had a substance disorder. “Most addicts, if they hear there is a bad batch of drugs or people are overdosing from it, they’re going to seek it out because it’s the best high they can hear of,” she said. “Our thought processes don’t work the same, but a peer specialist can remember the thought process, so they can relate to it on a better level.”

When someone is interested in the certification, Roe will explain the process. An initial set of 11 online courses are required to be completed from home. This is followed by a 40-hour in person training that, since COVID-19, has been done virtually.

“I recommend to them 30 to 45 days prior to completing their online training to go ahead and do their FBI/BCI background check because it takes that long for OMAS [Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services] to get it, and it will speed up your process at the end if you have already submitted it,” said Roe.

Following the 11 courses and in-person training, the certification candidate is required to pass a state exam. After passing the exam, the certification will be emailed in about 14 days. “For someone who doesn’t know about it or doesn’t know how to do it, it can sound really overwhelming, but when you break it down into simple steps it makes it easier for them,” said Roe.

Roe also helps people obtain licenses to become assistant counselors and counselors. “They can start a whole new career and life for themselves in a field that they have lived and personally know and that, most of the time, they are very passionate about,” she said.

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.

Stephanie Roe speaks at this weeks drug coalition meeting. Roe speaks at this weeks drug coalition meeting. John Hackley | The Times-Gazette
Roe speaks at drug coalition meeting

By John Hackley

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