In this interview, John Gordon (Managing Director, Community and Recovery Services) speaks on his role in managing and implementing CRW’s role within the Citywide Addiction Support Network (CASN) Grant.   

How are we at CRW operationalizing both the prevention and recovery services aspects of the grant; what does the work look like in practice in Washington Square Park?  

We have developed an organizational structure for prevention and recovery services consisting of coordinators working with the leadership team to identify and ensure fidelity of grant deliverables.  Our prevention team has concentrated on expanding service capacity and implementation of two evidence-based, selective prevention interventions focused on school and family social-ecological settings, for which they have received additional training: 1) Support for Students Exposed to Trauma, and 2) Positive Parenting Program.  Prevention activities in general focus on youth and adolescents ages 10-16 who have been exposed to traumatic events— especially those negatively impacted by COVID—and are at increased risk for substance use.  

Our Recovery team has focused on expanding access in hospital emergency departments and outpatient settings to evidence-based medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD).  They have also focused on outreach and engagement in treatment and peer-delivered recovery services for populations that have historically encountered disparities and/or discrimination in accessing health care, especially residents who are Black and Hispanic, justice-involved, low-income, LGBTQ+, youth, veterans and/or homeless.   

Regarding the Washington Square Park (WSP) initiative, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office launched an initiative to deploy peer teams in WSP.  The area experienced a marked increase in drug use, drug sales, and homelessness, exacerbated by COVID.  Our peer recovery advocates and prevention professionals are working together to engage and offer hope, referrals to treatment (if requested) to individuals struggling with addiction, while simultaneously providing valuable opioid awareness education and Narcan kits to community members and park visitors.   

As someone responsible for overseeing prevention and recovery services, what has been the bulk of your work so far with regard to the grant?  

I would say the bulk of my work has been translating the grant into targets for our respective teams, as well as hiring and onboarding new staff members. Lastly, integrating the grant deliverables into the overall logic model for CRW Prevention and Recovery services, which has two main goals:  

1) Delaying the initiation of substance use among high-risk youth and adolescents & reducing the risk factors and increasing protective factors (Prevention). 

2) Expanding Peer Services’ footprint in the community through collaborative relationships with our partners (Peer Services).  

How’s it been going so far, what has been successful and what has been challenging?  

We have incorporated the Musical Pathways to Wellness program into our service delivery paradigm and successfully launched the Washington Square Park initiative.  Our prevention team has successfully implemented the Support for Student Exposed to Trauma (SSET) to thirty-nine students in one of our LES schools and received requests to launch it in other locations. 

I would be remiss to not mention COVID’s impact on our community and ability to safety engage the hardest hit and most vulnerable of our LES community.  The pandemic compelled us to consider more creatively ways of engaging the community while prioritizing our messaging. 

How do you see the prevention and recovery services aspects of the grant growing and developing together overtime?  

I think the data collected, shared experiences, and lessons learned by the CASN network providers will inform new ways of addressing substance use disorders and social determinants of health, including forming new partnerships, addressing gaps in prevention services and offering recovery services to more low-income LES community members. 

Do you see this as a unique type of project in the recovery field and if so, why?  

One of many unique qualities of this project is the collaboration between the CASN network members. CASN is a newly formed network of twenty-one NYC non-profit and community-based behavioral health agencies and the NYC Health + Hospitals system, offering comprehensive outpatient, inpatient and emergency addiction treatment, recovery and prevention services throughout NYC. The collaboration with other CASN organizations makes greater accomplishments possible as compared to each organization working on its own.   

Do you have any closing thoughts?  

One of the most enduring sayings in culture across the world is “it takes a village”.  While the phrase is often used to describe raising children, it can be applicable in addressing social determinants of health and health disparities. The communities we serve and the Prevention, treatment, and recovery fields will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the CASN network members and “learning collaborative”.