Community Spotlight: Strength in Peers
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Strength in Peers has been providing peer recovery for people who are struggling with substance use, mental health and other trauma-related challenges since 2015.
The organization is entirely made up of people in recovery who serve the community by offering support to others who may have similar lived experiences.
“Our recovery programs really are the only ones in the area that are designed by peers and led by peers, and we really mean them to be an alternative to traditional treatment,” Nicky Fadley, Executive Director of Strength in Peers, said.
Everyone’s recovery path is different, and that’s why Strength in Peers offers a variety of programs and services so they can meet people where they’re at.
“When somebody walks through our doors, we don’t assess them to figure out what’s wrong with them. Their diagnosis is not of interest to us. What matters is what they think that they need at that moment,” Fadley said.
Peer Support Specialists are able to help meet whatever need someone may have. The organization offers one-on-one peer support, where peers can sit down to together to talk about recovery goals, strategies, coping mechanisms or even to just have someone to listen to what challenges they may be facing.
It also has several weekly support groups that focus on a number of topics.
“We have anger management groups, ones on substance use recovery, wellness, trauma recovery,” Fadley explained.
Strength in Peers also provides harm reduction services, like rapid HIV and Hepatitis C testing, clean needle exchange, training and Naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose.
“We can distribute Fentanyl test strips and have a variety of other harm reduction supplies to help people who are still using to do so more safely,” Fadley said. “Evidence shows that people who engage in harm reduction services are more likely to then go into recovery services, and not to mention, these services save lives.”
The organization has a resource center that helps connect people to services for things like housing, employment and transportation.
“We’ve also seen with the pandemic an increase in people who are unstably housed or are struggling to find housing because there’s a shortage of available rental units. We’ve identified people who have struggled to get back to work because they’re unable to find transportation or child care,” Fadley said.
She added more people are also struggling with anxiety, depression and stress, and who are using alcohol or other substances more than they used to because of the pandemic.
“More people today in the pandemic are struggling with mental health, substance use and other life challenges than ever before,” Fadley said.
COVID has also forced several jails to eliminate people coming out of incarceration.
“The jails don’t have the same peer support groups, re-entry workshops and recovery support that they had before the pandemic. So, so many people are coming out incarceration without any kind of support or connections to services in the community they can go to or that they’re familiar with to get more support,” Fadley said.
But she added that people who may be struggling, don’t have to through those challenges alone. Strength in Peers is just one of many health and social service organizations in the Harrisonburg area.
Strength in Peers is able to offer support through all of these services to people with a level of understanding of what they may be going through.
“As people who have been there and have had those types of experiences, we’re ready and happy to walk along somebody, regardless of what they feel is most helpful for them,” Fadley said.
But they can’t do these things without help from the community. Strength in Peers does receive grants that allows them to provide services for free, but there are other things they need that are not funded by grants.
“We need donations to stock our food pantry to provide food to individuals in our medically vulnerable, homeless, hotel voucher program, to buy supplies for individuals who are homeless and help them survive life on the streets,” Fadley said.
She added they are also seeing more of a demand for their telepsychiatry and telecounseling services that are offered through partners than what they had budgeted for. Community donations are needed to help cover those fees.
If you would like to learn more about everything Strength in Peers has to offer or would like donate food, supplies or money to help support its work, you can go to strengthinpeers.org.
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