The nation’s substance abuse crisis disproportionately impacts Appalachia, where in 2018 overdose mortality rates for people ages 15-64 were 48 percent higher than the rest of the country. Appalachians struggling with substance use disorder encounter additional barriers including transportation, housing, access to care, education, and steady employment. These challenges make it even harder for those in recovery to connect with long-term recovery solutions and reenter the workforce and community. Furthermore a compromised workforce can impede economic output. Using a multi-pronged approach – including the INvestments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative – ARC supports innovative efforts to establish community-based recovery ecosystems to save lives and strengthen the Region.
What ARC is Doing to Address Substance Abuse
The SUPPORT Act, passed by Congress in 2018, offered additional guidance to ARC for taking on the opioid epidemic throughout the Region. ARC is applying that guidance to regionally-focused solutions that help establish recovery ecosystems, which encourage communities to take a holistic view of the support services and training needed to maintain recovery and obtain employment. “Community-based Recovery Ecosystems support the difficult path from treatment into the workforce, and help make substance use disorder recovery sustainable,” Tim Thomas said. “We have heard time and again how work supports recovery.” In Fiscal Year 2020, Congress has appropriated $10 million for ARC to invest in pilot recovery-to-work initiatives across the Region.
The INvestments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative is a $10 million initiative addressing the substance abuse crisis by creating or expanding a recovery ecosystem that will lead to workforce entry or re-entry. Successful projects will support the post-treatment to employment continuum, as well as initiatives designed to coordinate, or link, recovery services and training that support the recovery ecosystem.
Recovery-to-Work Listening Sessions
ARC held listening sessions in six states between December 2018–April 2019. These listening sessions focused on the impact that the substance abuse crisis is having on economic and workforce opportunities across the Region and the support services needed to help Appalachians in recovery obtain employment. The session findings are summarized in this report, identifying five common themes that ARC should consider when addressing the economic issues stemming from substance abuse.
Substance Abuse Advisory Council
ARC formed the Substance Abuse Advisory Council—a volunteer advisory group of community leaders from a variety of Regional sectors—to offer additional guidance and recommendations for ARC’s recovery ecosystem support. The Council convened in May 2019 and presented their recommendations for supporting a robust recovery ecosystem to ARC in August 2019.
Recovery-Focused POWER Investments
In 2019, ARC invested over $9 million through the POWER Initiative to strengthen recovery efforts specifically in coal-impacted communities.
Opioids in Appalachia: The Role of Counties in Reversing a Regional Epidemic
ARC partnered with the National Association of Counties (NACo) to offer tools and resources that equip local leaders in the fight against substance abuse.
“Rides-to-Recovery” Seed Funding
ARC invested in a community-led rides-to-recovery pilot project in Huntington, West Virginia to address transportation challenges individuals in recovery often face in accessing treatment and other support services.