A feeling of purpose and a steady income are no small factors in opioid addiction recovery, according to a leading addiction medicine specialist at Geisinger.

To that end, the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp. teamed with the regional health care network to enhance CPWDC’s fledgling Reboot Workforce Program, which aims to aid people in active recovery find work.

“From a fulfillment perspective, it’s important to feel a reason to get up in the morning. And an income, also, is not to be minimized,” said Jordan Barbour, Geisinger’s operations director for addiction medicine.

CPWDC received a grant of $1,018,500 from the Appalachian Regional Commission that must be matched dollar for dollar. The development group and Geisinger received $500,000 each while a third partner, SEDA-COG, received $18,500 for its involvement.

Reboot launched in 2019. Erica Mulberger, CPWDC’s executive director, said it provides job training, career, mental health and social support services. It’s about building connections within the community so when people in recovery enter the workforce, they do so from a position of strength.

With Geisinger, the goal is to wed clinical and workforce services. That can be achieved through an expansion of telemedicine, Barbour said. Teleconferencing seems ubiquitous in the COVID-19 era but it’s an approach emphasized before the pandemic in efforts to broaden access to specialized services, like addiction treatment, in underserved rural areas including in the Valley.

“Addiction specialists are a rare resource. We don’t want doctors spending half their time driving around the state when they could be taking care of people,” Barbour said.

Rather, patients arrive at a specialty clinic and meet with a specialty nurse coordinator who handles their nursing and case management. Then, they’re taken to a private room to teleconference with an addiction treatment specialist. As their treatment progresses and they’re prepared to seek work, they’re connected with CPWDC.

This bridging of gaps between clinical and workforce services isn’t a novel idea but it is relatively new, Barbour said. The grant will allow this approach to be enhanced in places like Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties while also expanding into geographic areas that are untouched, he said.

The grant is for a three-year term.

“We’ve got three years to prove that this works and figure out a way to make it stand on its own,” Barbour said.

Mulberger anticipates 120 people to pass through Reboot during the grant’s duration. About 20 could get on-the-job training where CPWDC strikes an agreement with their employer to fund half their salary for up to six months.

It’s an effort to entice companies that may be reluctant to hire someone in recovery, she said. The grant will also support employees of SEDA-COG and Pennsylvania CareerLink to assess companies’ personnel policies around substance abuse — anything from refining policies on tobacco use to allowing flexibility so workers can make it to clinic appointments during the workday.

“I think some companies are excluding this part of the labor force because of their policies,” Mulberger said.

Reboot has 28 people now working to earn certifications as certified recovery specialists. Mulberger expects some to be hired for that role in local emergency departments. The state-level certification can work as a resume builder, an additional skill an employer outside of health care might find a use for. With that certification, they could act as credentialed mentors to coworkers also in recovery.

“It’s more of a stackable credential,” she said. “It just gives them one more thing to add to their resume.”

Find contact information to inquire about Reboot at www.cpwdc.org.

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