Shaheen seeks feedback from recovery community

DOVER — New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Sheehan came to the SOS Recovery Community Organization office on a fact-finding mission.

Shaheen, a member of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, was seeking input from members of SOS on what is working in and what can be improved so SOS can provide better support to those recovering from their addictions. Shaheen said she was seeking the information so she can make allocation recommendations as federal budgets are crafted.

SOS, a program of Goodwin Community Health, seeks to “reduce stigma and harm associated with addictive disorders by providing safe space and peer-based supports for people in all stages of recovery,” it states on its website. While there are a few paid staffers, it’s a peer-driven organization that provides a variety of different avenues for those in recovery with many volunteers.

Some of the high hurdles those in recovery face are the stigma of addiction, lack of readily available treatment options, safe and affordable places to live and adequate funding for recovery supports, SOS Director John Burns and capacity building specialists Elizabeth Atwood and Richard Salvati told Shaheen.

“If you don’t have recovery support, treatment doesn’t hold up,” Burns said.

Often those at SOS will encounter someone who is ready for help, but places for treatment are not always immediately available. There are other times when a person is in recovery but can’t find an affordable place to live. That might force a person to live with a group of people living a lifestyle the person in recovery is trying to avoid, or it may force them to live on the streets.

Salvati told the story of a person who was trying to get into treatment and had no safe place to live. “He’s considering whether to violate his probation to go back to jail,” Salvati said.

“There are no detox beds to send them or safe places to send them,” he said.

When Shaheen asked what the most critical service SOS provides to those in recovery is, they said peer connection. Atwood said that any person who comes through the doors in SOS, no matter where they are in their recovery, is treated with respect. The peer connection allows those to feel loved and wanted, which helps them continue their journey. Salvati said people who come to SOS often say, “I can’t believe you guys are so welcoming.”

When Shaheen first walked into SOS’s meeting space on Broadway, it brought her briefly back in time. “I remember when this was a movie theater,” she said, recalling watching movies there with her husband William Shaheen early in their marriage.

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