father drug, alcohol program secretary seeks insight at Sage’s Army in Hempfield

Groups whose mission is to help addicts recover from substance abuse still face many obstacles, a state drug and alcohol programs official said during a visit to Hempfield this week.

Those obstacles may include establishing access to treatment, maintaining a workforce of recovery specialists and finding housing for those in need.

“It’s a blessing to have (recovery organizations) to help them without slamming another door in their face,” said Jennifer Smith, secretary of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, during a discussion with officials of Sage’s Army on Thursday..

The nonprofit assists those recovering from substance abuse by connecting them with the resources they need.

Smith’s stop at Sage’s Army — founded 10 years ago by Carmen Capozzi following the March 2021 drug overdose of his son Sage — was part of a tour of substance abuse recovery organizations and providers across the state. The department is gathering information to produce a report on the status of those efforts in Pennsylvania. It ultimately will serve as a strategic blueprint for the new administration in Harrisburg, Smith said.

In a county as large as Westmoreland — with large swathes of rural areas — access to treatment facilities, the need for transportation to treatment centers and the lack of available housing are several obstacles faced by those trying to recover, said Adam Beers, operations director for Say’s Army.

“We work to make sure we connect them to the services they need,” Beers said.

Informing those on the road to recovery of the resources available to them is just as important, Beers said.

Since covid hit in March 2020, Beers said it has been harder to get people the treatment they need. There is also the challenge of finding centers that will accept patients who are on government assistance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, Beers said.

“Ninety percent of the time, we send them (clients) out of the county, to Washington and Allegheny,” for treatment, said Janice Olson, a recovery specialist supervisor for Sage’s Army.

The organization, which serves Westmoreland, Allegheny, Fayette and Indiana counties, received $700,000 from the state through the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Its services are free, Beers said.

With the funding, Sage’s Army has expanded its services, reaching more than 1,200 people every month through recovery coaching, HelpLine, support groups and meetings, sober activities and outreach events. The organization strives to get the clients what they need, including food vouchers and transportation.

Both Beers and Olson, who have had their own struggles with substance abuse, said they are able to draw upon their experiences in helping others recover from drug or alcohol abuse, or both.

“I think providing peer support with the lived experience of substance abuse provides us with a unique perspective that they (clients) can relate to as someone with that lived experience,” Beers said.

Smith also met with recovery specialists in Monessen before stopping at Sage’s Army.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, jnapsha@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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