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Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Recovery + Increase the REach = Second chances & a Better Life

Oftentimes, unresolved criminal justice issues combined with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and mental health issues can have such debilitating effects on people who are trying to navigate their recovery journey, become stronger and make meaningful impacts in their communities. However, thanks to the Increase the Reach (ITR) grant, Rise Up Central Kansas, was established as a task force to help people "Rise Up" from substance abuse disorders, health inequities, mental health issues, and poverty. Not only did Rise Up Central Kansas exceed these goals, they were also able to dramatically increase access to justice and increased workforce development efforts thanks to the ITR grant.


We are so excited for you to meet Rob. Rob is candid in sharing his SUD recovery and mental health journey that has included consequences in dealing with the criminal justice system. Throughout the course of the ITR grant, Rob worked as a Peer Navigator and supported the ITR Project Coordinator Amy Ferguson's efforts as they crisscrossed the five central Kansas counties in holding countless mobile meetings with SUD folks. Amy, Rob and the other ITR Peer Navigators held countless meetings to educate people on the COVID-19 vaccine/boosters, as well as promote the whole lifetime of vaccines. The lived experiences of Amy, Rob and the Peer Navigators made them extremely effective in reaching the SUD populations, including those who have encountered mental health, workforce and court issues. 


Rob said that his mental health suffered when he was off his medications and hit a dark chapter where he did not consider the consequences of his legal issues. Rob shared that during this part of his life, he was teetering into psychosis, so he voluntarily sought help and resources. While Rob was waiting to be admitted to receive psychiatric services, he had an unfortunate interaction with a security guard and a resulting assault charge occurred as a result of his psychosis episode. Rob recognized his actions led to his court issues and credits his case manager, his sponsor, peers in recovery and others who helped him stay safe and ensure the community was safe as well. Rob recognizes that when he is off his medications, it's critical to inform local law enforcement personnel for de-escalation efforts to occur. We are so proud of Rob for seeking to resolve his court issues and a debt of gratitude goes to Amy Ferguson for removing transportation barriers so that Rob could travel to Sedgwick County for his court date and plea negotiation. It was determined by the Sedgwick County attorney's office that Rob's condition and actions were due to a mental health issue, and not a criminal issue.


Today, Rob does not have a warrant out for his arrest, or deals with the barrier it caused during countless interviews while seeking employment. Rob concluded by saying, " I am so happy to be a better candidate to get a job now. I don't have a warrant over my head anymore. The ITR grant enabled me to talk and meet with other SUD people about vaccines, bettering our mental health and helping me earn income that has enabled me to get my own stable housing. Not to mention, I am vaccinated!"


We cannot think of a better name for Rise Up Central Kansas, because thanks to Amy, Rob, and the Peer Navigators - Sharr, Charla, Amanda, Tia, Vanessa, Amber, Dan, Candace and Dustin - they have each risen up to improve vaccine equity, mental/public health, improved access to justice and workforce opportunities!


Thank you, ITR and WSU Community Engagement Institute (CEI) technical assistance staff who enabled us to fulfill a unique grant project that continues to make meaningful impacts in central Kansas and beyond!

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