ART named group of the year

The Kentucky Public Health Association recently recognized Achieving Recovery Together (ART) and the group’s founders, JuaNita Everman and Amber Fields-Hull, as the Outstanding Group of the Year.

This award seeks to honor a designated group or organization that has collectively contributed to public health program development and toward the enhancement of public health in the Commonwealth.

The opioid crisis has impacted all of us. As public health leaders, we spend much of our time educating our communities on the public health impacts of this epidemic. Many times, we hear, “they choose to do drugs,” or “they are going to die anyway.”

ART proves it is possible to do work daily with the hope of helping people recover.

More than five years ago, Fields-Hull and Everman met in a detention center. Fields-Hull was incarcerated on drug charges and gripped by a heroin addiction. Everman, in recovery herself, made regular visits to the detention center to talk to women about recovery. Several years later, after Fields-Hull lost her spouse to an overdose and overdosing herself on three occasions, their paths would cross again when Fields-Hull was ready for help.

Through the recovery journey, the two developed a strong bond and explored ways to give back and help others achieve recovery. 2017 provided an opportunity that would set them on a new course. They joined a leadership program sponsored by People Advocating for Recovery in Louisville which tasked them with completing a project. After doing their research, meeting with Van Ingram and others and learning about the Angel Program in Rhode Island, they set out to replicate the model, providing a response to the emergency department following an overdose.

With persistence and determination, they proposed their model to community stakeholders and formed Achieving Recovery Together, a 501c3.

They began recruiting individuals and with a grant from a local community foundation, sent them to train as peer support specialists.

In July 2018, after many months of discussion and planning, PSS began responding to overdose calls from the local emergency department, 24/7, with a response time of 30 minutes or less.

They quickly demonstrated their worth and calls soon started coming from other areas of the hospital (labor and delivery, med surg, ICU) when substance use disorder was a factor.

They also partnered with the Clark County Health Department and provided a peer support specialist in conjunction with the weekly harm reduction program.

They haven’t stopped there. Fields-Hull and Everman have engaged other community stakeholders. DCBS is now assigning a PSS to the case plans of any individual identified with substance use disorder, and a local OB/GYN is now referring to them.

To date, their nonprofit has had nearly a 60 percent response to substance abuse treatment uptake among patients consenting to their peer support services. In this short time, ART has grown by recruiting and training 16 peer support specialists and two recovery coaches. They have leased a house in the downtown area and are working toward establishing a Recovery Community Center in Clark County.

With a mission of “one more,” Everman and Fields-Hull are proof recovery is possible and they are a vital part of Clark County’s public health system.