Drug Crisis

Peer counseling’s value being recognized

One of West Virginia’s best, most realistic hopes of getting past the drug abuse crisis was on display earlier this week at a conference in Flatwoods. In essence, it was about people who really understand the challenges of weaning oneself off chemical dependence — recovering addicts themselves.

The event was the West Virginia Peer Recovery Support Services Conference at Flatwoods, sponsored by the state Department of Health and Human Resources. DHHR officials said they exceeded their goal for attendance.

That in itself is excellent news. More important is the fact that the value of peer counseling is being recognized.

It ought to have been obvious. Recovering alcoholics have known for decades that support from people going through the same experience is critical.

State Bureau for Behavioral Health Commissioner Christina Mullins told MetroNews she expects use of peer counseling to help drug addicts will increase: “All of the planets are lining up, so to speak. Medicaid is acknowledging that this is a vital part of the continuum of care. They are reimbursing for services. Agencies are hiring peer recovering specialists, the courts are acknowledging the value of it.”

Mullins added that the purpose of the conference was to help peer counselors get new tools to help other recovering addicts.

That is vitally important. It adds to the effectiveness of recovering addicts in helping their peers.

West Virginia remains ground zero in an epidemic that has swept the nation. Maximizing both the use and effectiveness of peer counseling ought to be one of the primary strategies state officials use to battle it. DHHR officials are to be commended for recognizing that.