View from the Field: The Story of Together in Recovery

January 26, 2021

By Julie Burns, RIZE Massachusetts and Livia Davis, C4 Innovations

“Because of Together in Recovery, I learned how important it is to recognize that the path to recovery is very unique—not just to an individual, but also to each provider and organization, and that we may do things a certain way based on our population to meet their needs, but that our methods aren’t necessarily better or worse or more important than anyone else’s.” –Diliana De Jesus, Casa Esperanza

These reflections encapsulate the impact of Together in Recovery. In the spring of 2019, and in the context of a persistent opioid overdose epidemic, RIZE joined forces with C4 Innovations with the hope of fostering an accessible, integrated treatment and recovery network in Massachusetts that champions evidence-based approaches, supports multiple pathways to recovery, and puts people in charge of their treatment options. We committed to learning from as many people as possible, from all over the state, and from different backgrounds, disciplines, and perspectives. 

We convened a Change Team, met with stakeholders in several regions, and hosted a statewide convening. We partnered with and learned from so many passionate people—including individuals from peer, clinical, policy, family, and community roles such as health and human service providers, doctors, psychiatrists, first responders, advocates, policy makers, insurers, and faith leaders. One of the central tenets of our conversations and convenings was the importance of person-centered treatment and support. Many people who are in recovery shared their stories and expertise with us.

“My biggest takeaway from Together in Recovery was giving me—a person in long-term recovery—the opportunity to have my voice heard.” –Julie Bunch, Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery

Time and time again, Change Team members and people who participated in Together in Recovery meetings told us the most rewarding part of the experience was being able to have open, honest, and respectful dialogues with people across the state supporting those seeking and maintaining recovery. During these conversations, participants learned more about the many pathways to recovery and the diverse array of providers committed to delivering services and supports. Many participants said they will apply what they learned in their day-to-day work and continue collaborations fostered by Together in Recovery.

“The most rewarding parts of Together in Recovery was to see people from so many disciplines come together, be willing to work on the tough issues that face us all and to learn from each other.” –John McGahan, Gavin Foundation

Common barriers to accessing effective treatment and support services for opioid use disorder include misinformation and stigma associated with substance use and treatment. Together, we sought to bust common myths about opioid use. Together, we worked to deepen the understanding of evidence-based approaches and person-centered strategies. Together, we developed a shared vision for future collective action across the recovery and treatment network in Massachusetts. And together, our work continues.

We learned so much from each of the dedicated people who participated—all of whom contributed their rich experiences and expertise. To share what we learned, we are launching a series of blog posts—first-person accounts from the field as the work to end the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts continues and our work through Together in Recovery evolves.

Stay tuned for our next post where our partners will share information about the rights of people experiencing challenges when seeking treatment.  In the meantime, learn more about Together in Recovery and the shared vision we developed from participants in their own words.