Reliance Health in Norwich receives funding to hire more recovery coaches – NBC Connecticut


Kelly Vais is living a life she never dreamed of just three years ago.

“I was a lost Kelly. I was addicted to drugs and for thirty years that was my life,” Vais said.

After battling addiction for decades, Vais met a recovery coach at Reliance Health in Norwich. Now she has been sober for two years and says she is living an “incredible life”.

“I never thought I would be where I am now,” Vais said.

Vais is one of hundreds of people helped by Reliance Health Recovery Coaching Program. Since the program began in 2018, recovery coaches have made over 500 contacts with people struggling with addiction in Norwich. Now the program is expanding.

Reliance Health is receiving federal funding of $125,000 to hire two additional recovery coaches. The funding will double the size of the program.

Rep. Joe Courtney secured funding for community projects in the 2022 federal budget.

“This is about saving lives,” said Rep. Courtney, a Democrat representing Connecticut’s 2nd District. “It’s still a very modest program in terms of the number of recovery coaches and it’s going to allow them to double. The data and empirical evidence really justifies helping them grow.”

Connecticut saw a record number of fatal overdoses in 2021 with more than 1,500 deaths, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. While the overall number of overdoses in Norwich rose last year, the number of fatal overdoses in the city fell by around 30%.

“We want that number of overdoses to be zero. We know that’s not possible, but it allows us to reach a wider audience,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Recovery Coach Program.

The additional recovery coaches will help grow the program outside of Norwich, expanding their reach in the Eastern Connecticut region.

“Griswold, Plainfield, points north, then some of the struggling southern coastal towns looking for help,” Doyle said. “Take the program we have that works in Norwich and introduce it to other communities.”

Autumn Bouchard, a current recovery coach, said she believed the program worked because the coaches themselves had lived experience with addiction.

“We’ve come from a point of more understanding, more peer support, less clinical,” Bouchard said.

Over the past two years, Bouchard said she’s definitely seen the need for help grow.

“And I know we would like to do more, reach more people,” said Bouchard.

Some people in the program are referred by community partners. Reliance Health also has an award-winning partnership with Norwich Police Service.

After an overdose is reported in the city, a recovery coach and police officer will come to the address and follow up.

“We try to go out there and talk to them about the options. Make sure they have Narcan,” Doyle said. “Recovery coaches stay in touch. They just don’t leave people hanging. What it really does for people who are struggling is it gives them hope that they have someone in their corner. .”

Vais said she was excited to hear that Reliance Health will be able to hire additional recovery coaches.

“It makes me feel like more addicts are going to get help,” Vais said. “And I think that’s great. It’s great.”


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