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A Certified Peer Recovery Advocate can impact public policy through advocacy from a unique perspective. Their experiences provide real-life examples demonstrating the needs of people with substance use disorders and the outcomes of public policy on substance use disorder recovery success. The CPRA should not underestimate their ability to influence access to appropriate, efficient, and effective quality treatment for people with substance use disorders.
The CRPA is in an excellent position to share with many community leaders the importance of appropriate substance use disorder services available to its residents. Healthcare costs, access and successful outcomes are a large part of many political agendas. Although community leaders frequently are tasked with taking positions on various substance abuse proposals, it’s the CRPA who really understands the issues and because of personal experience should be trusted by the public. It is important that the CPRA prepares themselves to be able to speak up where decisions on policy are made. This gives the CRPA an opportunity to educate community leaders by incorporating their experiences and insights into the conversation.
The many opportunities the CRPA has to observe first-hand the positives and negatives of the current system enable them to identify needs and concerns related to the care that people with substance use disorders receive. When the CRPA has the ability to share personal experiences and insights with community leaders, they can advocate for their clients and the client’s family effectively and become a powerful force in the policy-making process. Whether the CRPA is advocating for increased access to treatment or increased funds for drug awareness education, their personal experience strengthens their ability to persuade community leaders to create the needed changes regarding care and services in a variety of areas.
Although personal experience can highlight issues, alone it does not offer sound solutions. The CRPA also needs the ability to analyze these personal experiences so they can propose sound changes and persuade community leaders to accept these changes. The CRPA should develop skills that enable them to participate in the public policy process. The CRPA should provide information to assist the community in understanding the problem, and solutions. This could be through generating coverage in the local media, distributing flyers and organizing presentations to local community groups. The cost and lack of access to substance use disorder treatments make it very difficult for some people to receive the care they need in order to recover.
People are often willing to share with the CPRA the difficulty they are experiencing in obtaining needed treatment due to cost and lack of access. Conversations with people with substance use disorders, neighbors, and the general public can highlight these situations and help the CPRA to address inadequate funding and access to services and the effect of this inadequacy on the person with the substance us disorder to receive services. A small amount of effort on the part of the CRPA can pay enormous dividends in terms of helping people obtain the services they need. The CRPA can impact the education of substance use prevention by advocating in primary and secondary school systems. The CRPA can become involved in the community and attend school board meetings to share the negative impact substance use has on society. It’s important for the CPRA to share the negative impact with the community and use their knowledge and personal experience to educate and advocate for change. The CRPA can advocate for the concern of the lack of drug prevention education with school principals, parents, teachers, and school boards.
Statistics and information on drug use in our youth can build a case to demonstrate just how important drug prevention education is for the community. By educating students, parents, and school administrators, the CPRA help them become great allies to effect needed changes to strengthen drug prevention education for students in the school system. The CPRA can impact substance use disorder treatment through their relationships and personal experiences in their various agencies. Perhaps a given agency is considering implementing a new program. A board meeting may be held to facilitate a discussion about the proposed program for that agency. The CPRA could attend the board meeting and offer information about why the proposed program would be a good idea. The CPRA can highlight, based on personal experiences, the benefits of the proposed program. The CRPA could describe the potential impact of the program for clients in the agency, including the impact of the program on client care, the length of time of the program, scheduling issues, and expected benefits of the program such as improved client care, positive outcome, and client satisfaction.
Frequently, funding for one program competes with funding for another program. Therefore, it is important that the CRPA gain a broad understanding of the different programs in their agency that may be seeking funding in order to better influence the debate about funding distribution. Doing this will help secure the funding needed for the new program be proposed. The CRPA can also impact the legislative arena. Providing information to elected officials can be a source of significant influence and reward. As a member of the peer advocate profession involved in the policy making process, the CRPA has the opportunity and the responsibility to provide accurate and up to date information. This opportunity requires the CRPA to be prepared to discuss the issue factually, that information be based on credible research, and the facts be double checked and presented in an easily understandable language. The first step in this process focusing on a certain problem or issue to address. The issue could be as simple as desiring to give public recognition to a person or event or focusing on an issue that has a more complex nature.
The issue needs to be communicated to community leader who believes the issue is worth addressing through the legislative process and who will work with legal counsel to develop a bill. Once the bill is developed, the legislator will approach colleagues to gain support for its introduction. A bill is usually introduced only after some support for the proposed piece of legislation has been secured. An elected official who is well respected and who sits on a committee can carry significant weight in this process and can best facilitate the bills advancement. The approach must be cordial and given in a spirit of cooperation with the hope of achieveng the desired outcome. The CRPA has the knowledge, experience, and skills to be excellent advocates.
The CRPA can create change by engaging in the advocacy process in the community to impact substance use disorder treatment access, cost, and quality. The skills the CRPA needs to become a successful advocate includes the ability to develop a clear and broad understanding of the issues, to know the players, and to know how the proposed solution will impact the problem being addressed. The CRPA should earn trust and respect of the community by be as knowledgeable as possible of the issue at hand. Trust is imperative in effective advocacy.
The CRPA has so much to offer: their knowledge, tenacity, and the courage of their convictions. The perspectives of the CRPA, personal experiences, and our passion for what we do are valuable tools for creating change.
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