The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded $12 million to 33 projects through its Investments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) initiative on Thursday, September 8. The funds are meant to tackle Appalachia’s substance use disorder (SUD) crisis with investments in projects that “create or expand services in the recovery ecosystem leading to workforce entry and re-entry.”
Brooke’s House, in Hagerstown, was one of the projects to receive funds under this round of awards. A transitional house for women move from substance use disorder treatment back into community life, Brooke’s House was the project of Kevin Simmers, who lost his daughter Brooke to an opioid overdose in 2015.
Brooke’s House provides a safe, stable, community-based living environment for adult women in the early stages of recovery.
“Drawing from his experiences at rehabilitation facilities with Brooke, Kevin specifically designed the program to offer comfortable semi-private bedrooms and bathrooms, a spacious kitchen and common area, a chapel, a salon, and other features that many other sober living homes lack,” ARC officials said in their award announcement.
“What sets Brooke’s House apart, aside from its state-of-the-art treatment services and homey facilities, is its focus on giving women purpose to prevent future relapse. Residents help run the home’s social enterprises including an ARC-supported chocolate making project, dog grooming, thrift store operation, and junk removal, which helps build new skills, fosters a work ethic, and empowers individuals on their road to recovery,” said ARC officials in their award information.
Brooke’s House will use its ARC INSPIRE grant to expand support and engagement services, specifically by hiring a coordinator for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) program to help more women access job training and placement while in recovery. Simmer’s team expects the addition of this coordinator will help the CDL program serve 12 participants.
ARC-funded projects in 11 Appalachian states will develop and reinforce cross-sector recovery-focused partnerships, expanding peer recovery support networks, planning and implementing workforce training programs, strengthening community engagement and wraparound services, and more.
“The substance use disorder crisis isn’t solely a health and family issue—it’s also a workforce development issue, and thus a community issue. At ARC, we’re laser-focused on creating a comprehensive network of supports to help individuals recovering from substance use disorder succeed,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “INSPIRE projects are tackling the economic impacts of the substance use disorder crisis to grow the region’s labor force, and more importantly, provide hope and purpose for individuals in recovery.”
“The fight against substance abuse has torn apart communities and families throughout the nation, and the ARC’s INSPIRE initiative seeks to establish a holistic recovery ecosystem that will enable recovering individuals to re-enter the workforce while getting the help they need to heal, to recover, and to turn their lives around,” said ARC States’ Co-Chair Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. “The disease of addiction affects every community across the Appalachian region, and our all-hands-on-deck approach will positively impact the lives of individuals on their journeys to recovery while bringing more jobs and economic development to the region.”
Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the funding is part of the president’s agenda to unify Americans.
“The President has proclaimed September as National Recovery Month because he knows that when Americans recover from substance use disorder, our Nation becomes stronger and more resilient. That’s why we are focused on expanding the peer recovery support services workforce and eliminating barriers to employment, safe and supportive housing, and education for people in recovery,” said Gupta.
Since INSPIRE was established in April of 2021, ARC has invested $28.1 million in 83 projects across 289 Appalachian counties, improving nearly 1.2K businesses and helping prepare nearly 6.5K students and workers for new opportunities in the workforce. ARC is expecting to issue a request for proposals for the next round of INSPIRE grant opportunities in early 2023. Additional information and resources are available at arc.gov/SUD.