New grant will help fight addiction in the Roanoke Valley

Opioid addiction continues to claim lives across the country and here in Virginia. A new grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will provide resources in the Roanoke Valley to meet the need for help.

For Niles Comer, addiction hits close to home.

“I mean, I’m recovering. And two of my brothers died of addiction and my father died of alcoholism. So it’s personal.

He is the director of the Roanoke Valley Collective Response. He says dependency rates have only increased since the start of the pandemic. And for every person facing the problem, there are several around them – most often loved ones – who are also impacted.

Comer says peer recovery specialists — people who have experienced addiction themselves — are key to helping others.

“The data shows that it’s very effective to use people who are recovering from addiction to work with people who are in the early stages of recovery,” he explains. “Kind of like veterans working with vets with PTSD. No one can understand the fight except those who’ve been in it. It’s kind of like no one can understand addiction like those who’ve been through it.

With a grant of more than $1.4 million to be disbursed over four years, Comer will be able to hire a coordinator and a handful of certified peer recovery specialists.

They will work with area first responders during overdose cancellation calls.

The effort will reinforce those already underway through the collective response of the Roanoke Valley and other area organizations. Comer hopes the program could be a model for other communities in Virginia and across the country.

About Rhonda Lee

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