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Peer advocates know how hard recovery can be


HUDSON–A man was found dead in his car in the Greenport Walmart parking lot in September. According to Sheriff’s Office reports, he died of a heroin overdose.

It only takes a moment to find other news stories of addiction’s impact on local neighborhoods.

A brochure from Greener Pathways, a program of Twin County Recovery Services Inc., says Columbia County saw a 233% increase in deaths “attributable to any opioid pain reliever from 2015 to 2016.”

Greener Pathways is ramping up efforts to reach as many people struggling with opioid or substance abuse as possible. Sometimes the best way to reach these people is with others who have lived through the experience. It’s called the Peer Advocate Program.

“Peer advocate programs work because of the philosophy of ‘been there, done that’,” Carl Quinn, assistant director at Greener Pathways, said in an email. “A client can relate better to a peer who has been to a treatment facility before or been through detox. Sometimes they can relate their lived experience of being incarcerated or being in active addiction. These are all building blocks of laying a strong, trustworthy foundation for the peer-to-peer relationship.”

Greener Pathways has three peers operating between Columbia and Greene counties. Their primary role is to work with people in four groups: those who don’t yet think they have a problem but want to talk to someone; those contemplating some form of treatment; people in treatment who need additional support and guidance; people who are in recovery who need recovery supports.

Mr. Quinn says the difference is noticeable. “People definitely connect better to a peer when they know they can relate to their individual situation,” he said. “We are seeing the most peer impact through our partnership with Columbia Memorial Hospital. The peer-to-peer connection that is occurring there… is resulting in people being agreeable to asking for treatment and making it out the door with a peer to get to that treatment facility.

“A peer will stay connected as long as it takes to get the outcome the client is looking for,” he continued. “In this way, recovery happens one day at a time.”

Peer advocates are certified by the state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. They use their own lived experiences to support the recovery goals of individuals who use drugs, alcohol or both. “Through a combination of lived experience and professional training, peers can provide an array of services to treatment program participants,” according to a fact sheet from Greener Pathways.

Some of those services include: developing recovery plans; raising awareness of social and support services; modeling coping skills; assistance with applying for benefits; providing non-clinical crisis support; accompanying clients to medical appointments, court dates and other appointments; and meeting in the community to do things with clients such as hiking, walking, going for coffee or art classes.

“A peer advocate’s day usually starts with calling or texting existing clients to check on them and see if they need any additional support,” Mr. Quinn said. “From there, they will schedule to meet some clients at sober support meetings or making sure they get to any supportive appointments they need.”

A typical encounter could be picking up a client at their residence, spending time talking about their recovery plan and wellness, attending an AA/NA meeting in Hudson, stopping at a food pantry or pharmacy and then returning the client to their home.

“The main goal of an advocate is to meet people in whatever stage of recovery they are at and provide them support and assistance,” Mr. Quinn said. “Some days that is just providing support by talking or going to meetings. Some days it involves getting people admitted to a detox center or a rehab center. Sometimes it’s solving a problem for them.”

While Greener Pathways isn’t currently bringing on more peers due to lack of funding, there are peer trainings offered by Our Wellness Collective of Valatie, and by Friends of Recovery-NY in Albany,

If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction and could benefit from any of the services offered by Greener Pathways, call 518-610-8703 in Columbia County or 518-291-4500 in Greene County. Evenings and weekends there is a hotline at 518-822-0090. For more information on Greener Pathways, visit

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