Addiction Services

Reliance Health in Norwich Receiving Funding to Hire More Recovery Coaches

Reliance Health is receiving federal funding to hire two additional recovery coaches.

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Kelly Vais is living a life that she did not dream of just three years ago.

"I was a lost Kelly. I was addicted to drugs and for thirty years, that was my life," Vais said.

After struggling with addiction for decades, Vais met a recovery coach at Reliance Health in Norwich. Now, she has been clean for two years and says that she is living an "amazing life."

"I never thought I'd be where I am at now," Vais said.

Vais is one of hundreds of people helped by Reliance Health's Recovery Coach program. Since the program started in 2018, recovery coaches have made more than 500 contacts with people who are struggling with addiction in Norwich. Now, the program is expanding.

Reliance Health is receiving $125,000 in federal funding to hire two additional recovery coaches. The funding will double the size of the program.

Representative Joe Courtney secured the Community Project Funding in the 2022 federal budget.

"This is about saving lives," said Rep. Courtney, a Democrat representing Connecticut's 2nd District. "It is still a very modest program in terms of the number of recovery coaches and this is going to allow them to double. The data and the empirical evidence really justifies helping them grow."

Connecticut saw a record number of fatal overdoses in 2021 with more than 1,500 deaths, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. While the total number of overdoses in Norwich increased last year, the number of fatal overdoses in the city fell about 30%.

"We want that overdose number to be zero. We know that's not possible, but what this does is it allows us to reach a bigger audience," said Michael Doyle, director of the Recovery Coach Program.

The additional recovery coaches will help grow the program outside of Norwich, expanding their reach across the eastern Connecticut region.

"Griswold, Plainfield, points north, and then some of the shoreline towns down south that have been struggling and looking for help," Doyle said. "Take the program that we have that's working in Norwich and introduce it to other communities."

Autumn Bouchard, a current recovery coach, said she believes the program works because the coaches themselves have lived experience with addiction.

"We are coming from a point of more understanding, more peer support, less clinical," Bouchard said.

Over the last two years, Bouchard said she has definitely seen the need for help grow.

"And I know that we would like to do more, reach more people," Bouchard said.

Some people in the program are referred by community partners. Reliance Health also has an award-winning partnership with the Norwich Police Department.

After an overdose is reported in the city, a recovery coach and a police officer will drive to the address and follow-up.

"We try to go out there and just talk to them about options. Make sure they have Narcan," Doyle said. "The recovery coaches stay in touch. They just don't leave people hanging. What that really does for people who are struggling is it gives them that line of hope that they have someone in their corner."

Vais said she was thrilled to learn that Reliance Health will be able to hire additional recovery coaches.

"It makes me feel like more addicts are going to get help," Vais said. "And I think that's awesome. That's awesome."

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