For more than 16 years, Donald has been working with individuals who are in the grips of addiction to help them access community-based supports to aid them in their journey to recover from substance use disorder.
Working alongside CHD’s residential support program (RSP) in Torrington, CT, Donald serves as a recovery coach and opiate outreach case manager for a grant-funded program known as How Can We Help (HCWH). In his role, Donald goes into the community to meet and build relationships with people who are facing challenges with opioid use. Very literally meeting them where they are in their journey, Donald talks with those he serves and lets them know where help is available—and even offers to bring them to a detox program if they’re ready to do so.
His work extends beyond those individuals, too. He also meets with families to connect them to the appropriate resources they’ll need as they navigate challenges. He not only helps them access supportive resources for their own mental health but also provides guidance on how they can be an active support to their loved one. He affirms that when families and friends are able to have an open dialogue about substance use, it provides a much deeper type of support that helps aid recovery and also prevent injury.
“A lot of people don’t like to admit when they have a spouse or family member or child who is struggling because they want to save face,” Donald said. “But it’s not something we should try and hide. We’re talking about people’s lives here. For that reason, it’s not a situation to cower from. We need to be able to talk about it.”
When he’s meeting with those he serves, Donald also carries naloxone (Narcan) with him and provides kits to individuals and families in addition to information to aid in the event of an opiate overdose. Understanding how to utilize Narcan to reverse or prevent overdose related injury or death is an important and life-saving tool, as are other evidence-based harm reduction techniques. Donald explained that creating a safe and open space with loved ones who are active in substance use can be a crucial step in preventing overdose-related injury or death.
“A lot of times people overdose because of the secret,” Donald said. “When they don’t have anyone they can discuss it with, and they’re sneaking off somewhere to do it, or doing it by themselves and no one’s aware, the next thing you know…”
An array of factors motivate Donald and his work. He loves being able to do good for his community and helping other people, but he is also uniquely positioned to connect with and provide support to those he serves. He feels especially tuned for this work because he himself is in recovery. “Understanding both sides of the coin,” Donald knows what to say and how to approach those who are struggling and how to get someone to consider his help.
“To me, the job is not just a job. It’s very personal,” Donald explained. He said he takes a lot of pride in being able to put himself into the shoes of the person he’s helping to try and get them what they need. For this reason, he approaches any situation where he’s called to help as carefully as possible, especially when it involves people who are in crisis. “In my work it’s not a ‘client,’ it’s a person, and a family, and a member of my community.”
“In my work it’s not a ‘client,’ it’s a person, and a family, and a member of my community.”
Donald, Recovery Coach, Torrington RSP
It’s this special connection to the work that inspires him to answer the call to help others in so many ways. In addition to connecting individuals to mental health and substance use supports, Donald also frequently collaborates with CHD’s Torrington RSP team, which helps individuals manage an array of aspects of daily lives, including money management, housing resources, coordinating appointments and legal guidance. Working in tandem, these behavioral health and life skills help provide participants with well-rounded supports to empower them on their recovery journey. He also helps run a variety of groups to foster a recovery community, including regular therapeutic groups as well as cooking tutorials, fishing outings and more. Beyond his groups, Donald likes to connect with folks individually and create a safe space for them to share anything that’s on their mind.
“I like to meet with people one-on-one and really let them express themselves and point them in the right direction. It’s like our recovery groups, but not specific to addiction recovery—it’s whatever they’re recovering from,” he said. “A lot of times they have family or personal issues they might not want to discuss in a big group. When they feel comfortable to speak freely about what’s on their mind, a lot of times it can help them understand challenges that may lead them to use substances.”
Across the nation and in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the opioid crisis has devastated communities. By helping people understand the root causes of addiction, such as co-occurring mental health challenges and more, Donald embodies CHD’s work serving those struggling with addiction, and their families, so they can access the tools they need to heal—ensuring they know that help is available, and that recovery is possible.
Residential Support Program - Hartford, Waterbury, Torrington
This program provides intensive support to people with chronic mental illness and substance use issues who can live on their own. We assist participants with all areas of daily living needs, including financial management, meal prep, education counseling, and treatment oversight with the goal of fostering greater independence.