A new support group program in Hartford and other Connecticut cities is assisting persons who are currently undergoing or seeking drug and alcohol treatment.
The Imani Breakthrough Recovery Program is open to people dealing with alcohol, opioid or substance use disorders in need of holistic support.
Dr. Ayana Jordan, an assistant professor at Yale University and the principal investigator for Imani Breakthrough Recovery, founded the program with Dr. Chyrell Bellamy, of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.
Rev. Robyn Anderson, director of Connecticut Multidimensional Family Therapy at Advanced Behavioral Health and pastor of Blackwell AME Zion Church in Hartford, helped facilitate church engagement for the program.
In addition to Hartford, the program holds three additional group meetings in Waterbury, Bridgeport, and New Haven churches.
The program is broken into two components: group classes and wellness coaching. During the 12 weeks, participants meet once a week for two hours with program facilitators. These group sessions consist of discussions and activities focused on how the ‘8 Dimensions of Wellness‘ and ‘Citizenship and the 5Rs‘ relate to addiction recovery. These approaches help participants visualize how recovery leads to helping them become productive members of society.
“We’re dealing with the core medical illness of having a substance use disorder and connecting interested folks to medication-assisted treatment,” Jordan said.
In group sessions, participants are asked to explore how drugs and alcohol affect steps people may take to undergo addiction treatment and grow as a productive citizen. Additionally, they consider how spirituality, culture, and trauma inform drug and alcohol treatment and recovery.
Although the program follows a general weekly schedule — with room to focus on additional topics such as self-care, relationships, anger and stress management, financial health and voter registration — it is adaptable to accommodate each person’s needs.
Wrap-around coaching is also provided with a focus on assisting individuals in fulfilling addiction recovery goals. Wellness coaches follow up with participants, offering support to each person. Facilitators and coaches are community members from churches and people in addiction recovery who are trained to lead group sessions and provide coaching support.
Jordan noticed how participants have been receptive to the program and look forward to each meeting. She shared that she was overwhelmed with emotion during a recent session in New Haven because of the experiences that were shared.
“People are hungry to share their story,” she said. “We tackle issues such as racism, discrimination, lack of self-worth, living in risk environments and a host of issues that are never discussed in traditional systems of care, but are necessary and integral to recovery from addiction.”
Jordan mentioned that while it has been initially challenging to form partnerships with local agencies and obtaining free naloxone, she hopes to expand the program around the state and on a national level. By increasing outreach and intervention efforts, she said she believes the program will help reduce drug and alcohol use and related deaths.
According to the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 1,038 accidental deaths related to drug intoxication occurred in the state during 2017.
The Imani Breakthrough Recovery Program is funded by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) through funding provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Jordan expressed gratitude for the support provided by DMHAS and SAMHSA, not only for funding but for also “believing in the vision, realizing that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ treatment approach.”