Hagaman and Pack publish on recovery ecosystems

Dr. Angela Hagaman, Co-Director of the Addiction Science Center in the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, has published in Addiction Research & Theory.  The article is titled, An examination of peer recovery support specialist work roles and activities within the recovery ecosystems of Central Appalachia.

Dr. Kelly Foster and Morgan Kidd of the Applied Social Research Laboratory at ETSU and Dr. Robert Pack, Director of the ETSU Addiction Science Center and the ETSU/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center are co-authors.

Substance use/misuse is a leading public health concern in the United States. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, drug-related deaths exceeded 100,000 in a 12-month period for the first time in history. There is currently an urgent need for empirical evidence to inform community leaders and policy makers on the benefits of recovery-informed approaches to SUD prevention and treatment. The peer recovery support specialist is a certified professional who self-identifies as being in recovery from a substance use disorder, mental illness, or co-occurring disorder and may play an important role in positively affecting outcomes for persons with substance use disorder. However, the evidence for peer recovery support specialist services is limited in part due to methods that are ill-fitted to measure the dynamic process of recovery across time and within a complex service continuum.

This sequential exploratory mixed-methods study queried peer recovery support specialists in five Central Appalachian states regarding their work roles and activities within the context of regional service networks also known as ‘recovery ecosystems.’ 565 Central Appalachian respondents indicated that they frequently provide emotional support in a broad array of regional service settings but have few professional advancement opportunities. They also report that their role is frequently misunderstood.

The study concluded inclusion of peer recovery support specialist’s perspectives improved measurement of peer service delivery and should be considered when working with this vital recovery-supporting workforce.