You may have already seen the new link for EHSResults on the Executive Office of Health and Human Services website. EHS Results addresses one of my top priorities: increasing transparency in how Health and Human Services serves the Commonwealth.
EHSResults defines the Secretariat’s strategic goals which include: Improving Wellness and Quality of Health Care; Building Safe Communities; Promoting Self-Sufficiency through Employment; Supporting Effective Government; and Educating Kids in Our Care. EHSResults explains the significance of each of these goals and measures the progress of attaining them in order to inform decision making. The EHSResults website is an additional step toward fostering more open communication with residents of the Commonwealth about the successes, challenges, and accomplishments of HHS agencies. We’re making great progress on a whole range of issues, from reducing the number of uninsured residents to easing application processes through the use of the Virtual Gateway.
Recently, I had the chance to see firsthand the efforts of five peer recovery support centers that facilitate recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Recovery centers are peer-driven, community-based programs that provide a host of services that are integral to sustaining recovery from substance use disorders. The key to these centers is the active involvement of its members in the design, implementation and oversight of the center’s activities. What’s particularly exciting is that while fulfilling their missions, they are also making strides toward fulfilling five of the six strategic goals identified by EHSResults.
EHSResults Priority: Improving Wellness and Quality of Health Care
To promote wellness and quality of care, the PEOPLE Center in Lawrence focuses on health care by providing free health care services and encouraging members to enroll in insurance and find a primary care provider. Providing information and some services onsite reduces barriers created by transportation and scheduling problems. Activities hosted by the center emphasize the connection between fun and sober living. I met a PEOPLE peer named Erica who, after just two weeks in the program, had already obtained insurance, despite going without it for two years. She says she is now committed to a healthier lifestyle.
EHSResults Priority: Building Safe Communities
The RECOVER Project in Greenfield helps members re-enter the community after institutionalization by meeting with a pre-release group from the Franklin County House of Corrections to talk about re-entry issues, getting a job, and what it will be like to reintegrate into the community. A RECOVER member, Carl, was released from the Franklin County House of Corrections and credits the RECOVER Project for keeping him out of the court system. He says an emphasis on the RECOVER Project community and its code of ethics gave him guidelines for living better in the community and allowed him to draw on his experiences. In fact, he was released from probation early because of his work with peers, teaching computer classes at the RECOVER Project. This is the first time in 20 years that Carl has not been involved in the criminal justice system.
Everyday Miracles in Worcester creates safer communities by providing a place for members where people aren’t using. The peer members have created a code of conduct and code of ethics with expectations that members will be responsible for their own safe behavior and the community holds each other to that expectation. One member, Sally, told me she had been putting herself in dangerous situations and was acting in ways that were unsafe to the community before she came to Everyday Miracles. The center provides her a place where she can be safe, provides her with stability, and allows her to understand safety on a personal and community level.
EHSResults Priority: Promoting Self-Sufficiency through Employment
The Stairway to Recovery in Brockton encourages employment and self-sufficiency for its 600 members through the center’s peer-to-peer model. Phones and a computer lab allow members to work on their resumes, job search, and create email addresses to better communicate with potential employers. Stairway also supports employment through programs like resume writing workshops and referrals to "attire for hire" so members have access to suitable attire for job interviews. I met Roger, a veteran who heard about Stairway to Recovery while he was living at a local shelter. He credits Stairway with providing him a place to build his resume and conduct a housing search in a safe environment where he could work on his recovery. He is now one of Stairway’s success stories: he is working at the Veterans Administration and is giving back to the center by leading a veterans’ peer support group.
EHSResults Priority: Supporting Effective Government
Recovery Connection in Marlborough promotes effective government in its programming by using a participatory process, as do all the centers. Members of Recovery Connection develop a code of ethics, the Connection’s core values, and its mission statement; member involvement in this process creates greater commitment from the entire community. Lauren, a member of Recovery Connection, also serves as a member of the advisory board and the ethics committee, both of which she credits for teaching her team-building skills. Lauren values these experiences at the Recovery Center while she pursues a degree in health and human services.
EHSResults Priority: Educating Kids in Our Care
Although recovery programs don’t typically engage in direct education of children, the programs do help parents participate more fully in their kids’ lives by taking care of their own recovery needs and creating more stability for their children. Centers provide peer parent support groups and a venue for safe or supervised visitation. Recreational and social events in the communities sponsored by the centers encourage family involvement and model how to interact in a positive way.
All of these peer recovery centers strive to meet the Secretariat’s strategic goals while implementing their recovery programs. These goals are not only important measures of the quality of services HHS is providing, but they also encourage the kind of innovation in program delivery that these five centers have demonstrated. I encourage you to take a look at the new EHSResults website to better understand how we are measuring the work of all of our agencies.