In this interview with Robert Anderson (Executive Director), he discusses CRW’s prevention and recovery services work funded by the new CASN grant and how we are collaborating with other community-based organizations to serve our community:  

How are we collaborating with the city and the other providers?  

As the Center for Recovery and Wellness (CRW) has already been one of the forerunners for enhancing peer services in the state under the CASN grant, we are training and utilizing teams of peer recovery advocates to engage vulnerable communities and individuals ravaged by the opioid crisis. We are also working with the Children’s Aid Society to enhance the citywide prevention system. By building out coalitions and prevention resource centers, we will expand primary prevention strategies beyond school settings and grow them strategically to work with people of all ages and in low-income communities and communities of color most impacted by the opioid crisis. This allows CRW and other providers to focus on mission driven approaches and provide real time ways to battle the overdose crisis and enhance social determinants of health in marginalized communities across all of the boroughs we are allocated to impact. 

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

CRW is one of the NYS certified peer training institutes so it has been exciting to help train and build a strong and diverse network of certified peers recovery advocates. Our Prevention efforts have been successful as we are receiving training to train agencies and other community-based organizations in two evidenced based approaches to prevention: 1) SSET (Support for Students Exposed to Trauma) and Triple P (Positive Parenting Program). We have also been successful at engaging new agencies and different systemic partners in criminal justice, healthcare, shelters and more traditional school based and child welfare agencies. A challenge has been working within a system where each provider has to individually contract with the state and find talented people to fill the positions during the COVID pandemic.  

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

What I think is unique about CASN is that the state is helping to forge new coalitions and relationships whereas previously agencies have been working in a siloed manner rather than with other providers in their communities. With the dual pandemics of COVID and overdoses/opiates wreaking havoc across our nation, we are in a key position to help impact and create positive change within our systems of care and communities. We are breaking down silos and integrating healthcare systems with other provider fields such as harm reduction, vocational training, housing, and other key providers to improve the wellbeing of families in our community. Education and civic engagement are key to making this happen, and we at Educational Alliance have been focusing on these same values for years.  

It feels great to see the citywide recovery system looking at communities as partners rather than through a “we are the expert here to fix you” mentality. This is central to what the recovery community is about and embodies the idea, “nothing about us without us”. I see the peer engagement process of training community members to go out and bridge needed services to their friends, families and communities, as a win-win situation. Pairing these certified peers with community-based access to MAT, education, civic engagement, and other social determinants of health is enabling community members and youth to become leaders. 

What are your hopes for the future and do you have any closing thoughts?  

My hopes are that some of the work we are starting to forge with these networks of providers will continue to build systems that are equitable and meet the needs of the people we serve. The end results will hopefully be realized with a new generation where some of the social injustices in terms of disparities in health outcomes are addressed by that point. We are at a crucial time in our country where change is inevitable. Government investment in previously under-resourced systems is crucial to building equitable communities. Our siloed systems may actually start to work together because it is all about relationships. If the doctors know the counselors who know the teachers and the families use all these systems without fear or mistrust, we may actually get to a place where NYC is a great melting pot and everyone is fused together for the betterment of each other. I think in some small way, these regional collaborations and partnerships to achieve systemic healthcare change is one way where the impact can be long lasting, and in our future generations, anything for anyone is possible. I am so proud to represent CRW in this regional coalition, help to lead out this state wide effort to battle the dual pandemics we are in, and to make sure the needs of our community are represented.