Matt Andrews, 29, sits in the common space of Navigating Recovery’s third floor Main Street office on Monday. Andrews, who has struggled with substance misuse since he was 12 years old, has been in recovery for around six months with the help of Navigating Recovery’s services. (Leah Willingham/Laconia Daily Sun)
By LEAH WILLINGHAM
LACONIA — Matt Andrews knew he needed help.
Andrews, 29, had been addicted to a mix of alcohol and hard drugs for more than half of his life. He had survived a life-threatening overdose and served multiple stints of jail time for drug possession.
The problem was that Andrews had no idea how to live life as a sober adult – and worse, he feared it might be too late to learn.
That was, until Belknap County Recovery Court – a court diversion program designed for people whose substance use caused them legal problems – recommended that he go to the new Navigating Recovery center in downtown Laconia last April.
Navigating Recovery, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week, is a community resource center that offers free recovery coaching and workshops for those struggling with substance misuse. The nonprofit is located on the third floor of an office building on the city’s Main Street.
At the center, recovery coaches, many of whom are in recovery themselves, develop personal relationships with clients and help them set manageable goals to further their recovery process.
Andrews, who has lived in Laconia all of his life, has been in recovery for more than six months now. He said he stops in the center a few times a week for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings and to meet with his coach.
Navigating Recovery even helped Andrews get his job at New Hampshire Electric Motors. The organization's office has computer kiosks where clients can search and apply for jobs.
Andrews likened the recovery process to a game of bowling: recovery being the ball, and the center, the bumpers.
“You start slipping, and they just give you a little shove in the right direction,” he said. “They guide you on the right path.”
Andrews is one of the 241 Lakes Region people Navigating Recovery is working with after its first year on the ground.
Executive Director Daisy Pierce said the organization has come a long way since its opening last November.
When the center opened, most of the recovery coaches worked on a volunteer basis. But as of this month, all eight are being paid, Pierce said.
The center has also developed relationships with local hospitals for referrals.
They started an on-call program where a recovery coach will respond 24/7 to anyone in the ER who survives an overdose, or is hospitalized for another substance misuse issue, such as withdrawal. Pierce said Navigating Recovery has sent 70 coaches to Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital in the past year.
The organization hosts workshops on self care through crafting and yoga, as well as guidance for getting through the holiday season, which can be a difficult time for many struggling with substance misuse. Navigating Recovery also has coaches trained specifically to work with family members of those in recovery.
The nonprofit organization was started by a group of people working in the recovery community who saw a need for a resource center, or a “hub” as Pierce calls it, for people trying to recover from a substance use disorder.
Navigating Recovery was originally funded through a seven-month contract with the state. When that ended, the organization begana two-year contract with the facilitating organization Harbor Homes. Harbor Homes works with eight recovery community service programs and 11 centers in New Hampshire.
The organization’s ultimate goal, Pierce said, is to become self sufficient through Medicaid billing.
To do that, Navigating Recovery’s recovery coaches will need to become certified recovery support workers, a new New Hampshire certification.
The process of becoming a CRSW involves 500 hours of paid or unpaid coaching, an exam and application process. Pierce said several of Navigating Recovery’s coaches should be certified by the new year.
The organization will also need to become accredited with the Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services, a national organization that accredits recovery organizations, which will include a multi-day site visit and evaluation.
Pierce said this could be a challenge when the fate of Medicaid is unknown. Even if the organization is able to meet Medicaid requirements, the program could still be cancelled.
But no matter what happens, Pierce said the grassroots dedication that it took to start the organization will be the same dedication that will keep it going.
Former state senator Andrew Hosmer, who is on the board of Navigating Recovery and was one of the organization’s founding members, said he’s confident that Navigating Recovery will be a pillar in the Lakes Region community for years to come.
“I know that when our community faces a great challenge, that Laconia and surrounding communities come together to face that challenge,” he said.
As for the future, Pierce said the organization is planning to work with the Boys and Girls Club in Laconia and local businesses to provide more training on how to talk to children and employees who might be encountering substance misuse personally or in their homes.
She also hopes that the organization will be able to buy a van so they can broaden the reach of those who are able to access Navigating Recovery’s resources.
Pierce said it’s hard to measure the success of the program in the last year. She said her hope is that all of their clients can find jobs, and safe, stable living environments.
But she also knows that recovery isn’t easy – and it’s a lifelong process.
“I’d say one of the biggest markers of success is that if someone does have a setback, they know where to come,” Pierce said. “They come back – and they ask for help again.”
Executive Director Daisy Pierce talks about the progress Navigating Recovery had made in its first year in service on Monday. (Leah Willingham/Laconia Daily Sun)