By Mark Powell
From Treatment Advocates to Recovery Support Providers
A few years back, the math just didn’t add up. The number of treatment dollars available to treat people in addiction in Central Pennsylvania was going down, while the number of people needing that treatment was going up. Clearly, it was a dangerous trend. Treatment providers were doing the best they could, but it wasn’t enough.
“People had to beg their insurance company to approve more time in treatment,” remembers Denis Holden. “Treatment programs couldn’t fight for themselves. They needed someone to fight for them on their behalf.”
So, a group of concerned individuals sat down together at a dining table in 2001 and decided to do something. When they got up, the RASE Project was born. It provides a unique blend of both professional and peer-based recovery support services.
“We started out doing advocacy. Then that led us to direct recovery support,” Holden, the organization’s founder and CEO says. The RASE Project now assists individuals affected by substance misuse by fostering progress and working to enhance the recovery process.
That progress came slowly, but surely. In 2002, the group opened RASE House, the area’s first therapeutic residential house for women in early recovery. By 2005, it had expanded to RASE of Carlisle, providing service to three more counties. A fourth came later that year. In 2011, RASE Project Recovery Centers opened in Harrisburg and Lancaster. Two years later, Lebanon County was added.
That ongoing growth shows both the seriousness of addiction in Central Pennsylvania and the RASE Project’s commitment to addressing it.
While medication-assisted recovery services are provided, the group recognizes recovery involves much more than taking medication. “Working alongside others, we really learned the nuts and bolts of substance misuse,” Holden says. “Then we put what we learned to work by helping people in recovery and educating the community at large. That is an empowering experience. It goes a long way in helping break the stigma so often attached to addiction recovery.”
Holden points out the RASE Project embraces all pathways to recover. That includes the extensive use of volunteers and peer services with an emphasis on self-care. “For example, we don’t refer to the people we help as ‘clients’. That’s too clinical. We call them ‘participants.’”
It’s that “all hands on deck” approach that makes the RASE Project different. “We say everyone is part of the recovery community. Everyone becomes a certified recovery specialist. That way we’re better able to relate to people they are working with.”
What does the future hold for the RASE Project? One thing is certain: the group is willing to expand as needed. “We’re teachable and want to keep learning and growing,” Holden concludes. “We’re not trying to conquer the world; we just want to help people who are seeking recovery.”
The RASE Project was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.