Unity's New Program Teams Up Recovering Addicts
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Much of Bernardine's life, a life fighting the lure of cocaine and crack, was spent around Rochester's Jefferson Avenue and Main Street neighborhoods.
"Everything that you need is in that block," she explained. "You only go from the dope man and back to your house or back to someone else's house. So your world becomes very, very small... and hopeless."
Nine months ago, Bernardine got clean thanks in part to Unity Chemical Dependency.
Unity's three clinics in Rochester, Brighton, and Greece treat more than 7,000 people a year through inpatient and outpatient programs.
Bernardine is now giving back. She's a volunteer in a new program at Unity called Project Light. It started 18 months ago. Recovering addicts volunteer their time to sit in on group sessions with others who are just starting their recovery. Others greet those checking into inpatient treatment, or help escort them to their unit.
"They see hope," said Ron Knott, a peer recovery coach and the person who helps recruit those volunteers into the program. "There's encouragement - if this person can do it, I can do it."
Knott says the program is working.
"The goal of Project Light has been to improve the retention rate of patients, help people want to stay in treatment longer," he said. "The numbers right now show that Project Light has contributed heavily towards the 25 percent positive increase in the retention rate between the three sites."
Today, Bernardine is drug free, living a new place and has a new job. She's hoping to show others they can do the same.
"When I go to talk to people, I tell them it's like a race," Bernardine explained. "There will be people who'll get a charley horse. Somebody just gets tired of the race. But there are some, their chest is on fire but they know they gotta keep running."
"I just gotta keep running, even with the fire in my chest. And anybody that I can say, come on let's run, they're welcome."