People in recovery who live in Harford County have stepped up and are reaching out to end overdose deaths in their community. They are engaging with people who use drugs, family members and those who are at risk of overdose through the backpack outreach model. These individuals have been trained through Voices of Hope and the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition. The team made their first walk this weekend – going through neighborhoods that have the most overdoses, training people on how to identify those most at risk for overdose, the signs of an overdose and how to administer Narcan.
Voices of Hope has used backpack outreach in Cecil County since 2018. In May, 470 doses of Narcan were distributed in the areas where overdoses occur the most in Cecil County. Even during COVID, Voices of Hope actively reaches out to those who use drugs and their families, offering connections to treatment, health care and support.
If you would like to participate in outreach in Harford or Cecil County, become a volunteer or be trained to be a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist in Maryland, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (443) 993-7055 today!
Voices of Hope feels an obligation to address our community about the challenges we have faced and our continued commitment to serve. The services offered by our newly established Crisis Center have been recently reduced due to the unpredictability of funding and need for coordinated efforts to address our overdose crisis. I am the current Chief Operations Officer, lifetime resident of Cecil County and a person living in long term recovery. I am a mom, sister, wife and neighbor who is proud to live here.
Voices of Hope is a non-profit 501(c)3 community based organization and one of the only Recovery Community Organizations in Maryland. People in recovery, family members and recovery allies from Cecil County created this organization in 2013. Our passion came from the frustration of watching our families become decimated by the addiction crisis. Our overdose rate was just below Baltimore’s, our suicide rate and child maltreatment rate led the state, and our resources were few.
Over time, we built a program to help people access recovery supports such as recovery housing and recovery education, and this work was supported entirely through donations and small local grants. We added backpack harm reduction outreach in our most disadvantaged communities weekly, connecting people to health care and treatment through compassionate relationships. We distributed over 3,000 doses of Narcan since 2018, and we operate a Certification program to train people in recovery to get jobs in the healthcare profession. More recently, we applied for big grants with the State and Federal government and we received foundation awards to support our work. We were primarily volunteer run up until 2017. These funds allowed us to hire over 25 local people, many of which are living in recovery. We are recognized as a leader in innovative substance use and disease prevention programs that have been built by grass roots efforts.
We were excited about the Crisis Center request for proposal and the services it would provide to our community. We were the only organization in Cecil County to apply. It funded a vision Voices of Hope already had and was actively pursuing. During the 2 1/2 months that our Crisis Center was open, we helped 75 people access opioid use treatment and 140 people were referred to us. Cecil County people received compassionate referrals to treatment providers, received transportation to services, and connected to peer and family supports. Although the State adjusted our grant and we are continuing to work with the Health Department to reach a new contract, we will continue to provide Substance Use Peer Support 24/7 with adjusted available resources through contacting (443) 993-7055 .
Voices of Hope embraces evidence-based practices as outlined by the CDC for how a community can respond to the opioid crisis. However, acceptance of these practices has been a challenge. Many supporters have asked, “How can we help?” Donations to support our mission are welcome and needed. Additionally, we need to strengthen relationships with community partners. Support from law enforcement, local government and health care providers are needed to adequately address the overdose crisis of Cecil County. More than just addressing the use of drugs, we need a community alignment to address our trauma from the effects of chaotic drug use and overdose deaths, build a recovery oriented system of care through coordination of resources and a structure that brings together prevention, early intervention, harm reduction, treatment, and the recovery community along with emergency responders, criminal justice and family preservation equally, encouraging all pillars to take their seat at the table. We need our politicians to be actively engaged with initiatives and invested in the success of our shared efforts. Without this, we are swimming against the tide of addiction that faces us in Cecil County.
Please support your local non-profit. If you know someone who has been helped by Voices of Hope, it is because someone donated to the cause and others volunteered in the effort. We sincerely thank all of those who have donated and have given time and support to our organization. Our strength is the people of Cecil County who are dedicated to preserving our families and our future.
Voices of Hope is an organization made up of people in recovery, along with family members and allies who support recovery. We have been working together to advocate and build recovery supports in our community since 2013. This year has been our busiest ever. Your donations of time, talents and treasures have made results that we are proud to report. We hope to inspire community members to continue to support us, or maybe give for the first time.
We have three main initiative where we focus our efforts.
Outreach – going into the communities and neighborhoods that are hardest hit by this epidemic.
CPRS Academy – providing training to our members so they are best informed to provide help to others, as well as creating a career path for those in recovery who often times face barriers to employment.
Fundraising – raising money to overcome barriers to treatment and providing funding for recovery housing to people in early recovery.
We began most of our official outreach programs in October, 2018. Our approach is based on harm reduction, reducing overdose deaths and addressing the various other health issues that plague our communities. We are also a connection to recovery for them if they decide to ask for help. Hope Street, our backpack outreach program, provides health resources and builds recovery relationships in our most disadvantaged areas: Hollingsworth Manor, Lakeside Trailer Park, Winding Brook and Downtown Elkton. Our Homeless Outreach provides peer support and engagement at Paris Foundation, the Mary Randall Center and everywhere in-between. Our Overdose Survivor Outreach engages people who survive an overdose at their homes and with their families. Here is our data from October 1 through December 22, 2018:
484 Connections (conversations and engagement)
178 Safe Use Bags given (wound care, clean supplies, resources)
121 Safe Sex Bags given (condoms, dental dams, resources)
102 doses of Narcan given
53 Discarded syringes collected
103 people attended 6 Town Hall meetings that we held throughout Cecil County. At these Town Halls, we invited local people to talk about their own recovery, the strengths that support recovery and some barriers that we would work together to overcome.
Healing Hearts Overdose Death Grief Support Group formed in March, 2018 and meets every other week. This group is for the families and friends of our neighbors who have lost someone they love to addiction. We are a place to grieve openly, when you want, how you want, with people who understand.
70 people attended Financial Capabilities classes held throughout the year, teaching people new in recovery or anyone interested how to better manage finances.
668 people attended various activities hosted by VoH: our Gratitude Banquet, Adopt-A-Hwy clean ups, Memorial Day cook out, etc. These events help promote the positive effects that recovery has on the entire community. When people recover, so do their families, friends and neighbors.
Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Academy
74 people attended 4 Recovery Volunteer Army Trainings that introduced Cecil County statistics on drug use and overdoses, domestic violence, abuse and neglect. Training was given on principles of trauma-informed care and harm reduction to people interested in helping their neighbors. These trainings are given free of charge. Attendees were invited to sign up to a VoH volunteer outreach team.
282 people were trained in courses that gave CEUs for the Maryland Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Credential. Courses included Recovery Coach Academy, Trauma-Informed Care for Peers, Harm Reduction for Peers, Recovery Messaging and Mental Health First Aid for Adults and Youth. We believe each student is better capable of carrying the message of recovery to those who suffer at any stage of sickness or in a crisis.
$2,508 was given to residents seeking recovery supportive housing in Cecil County as they left treatment, or to continue their housing during periods of difficulty. We also were able to provide transportation to treatment for people who had no other way to get there.
We believe that addiction and recovery is a health issue. By providing our community with the tools and information to stay alive and access treatment, we will lower the number of deaths by overdose. By providing safe use and safe sex equipment with resources, we will prevent infections that are costly to treat and can be barriers to recovery. By keeping people alive and out of jail, we will keep families together and reduce the trauma and cost of providing care for children living without their parents. By providing Narcan to people who use drugs, we are empowering people to save each other, more often.
Our volunteers and employees are people who are in recovery or family members of people in recovery. We reflect all pathways of addiction and mental health recovery and are passionate about the people of Cecil County, Maryland. We care and will go above and beyond to help someone seeking recovery. Our problem here is big and it will take big hearts to make the difference.
If addiction has touched your life or someone you love, please consider giving what you can to our mission: Attend a Volunteer Orientation and join a team that works with your schedule. Donate funds that will be used to purchase Narcan and contribute to someone’s safe place in recovery. Reach out to us and be a face and voice of recovery in a video or story of hope. Thank you!
People in recovery, family members and concerned citizens attended the 2nd Recovery Volunteer Army training on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at the Susquehanna Workforce Center in Elkton, MD. In this three hour training, participants learned about harm reduction and trauma informed care. They also received general information about all approaches to addiction treatment and support available in Cecil County. Training included information about homeless shelters and service providers, mental health treatment providers, how to access the Mobile Crisis Unit and Suicide Hotline.
Training also included statistics about the health and well being of Cecil County residents, as found on reports from the Cecil County Health Department, available on their website.
Participants were invited to join an outreach team at the close of the training. They were asked to use the information in the neighborhood in which they live or work. A brief overview of the Certified Peer Recovery Specialist credential was also explained and support offered.
Voices of Hope appreciates the individuals who have stepped up to be a part of the solution to the addiction epidemic. It is wrecking havoc and heartache on our community. Education, conversation, community networking and support is key. It takes follow up action that will make the difference in the recovery of our community: one person, one family at a time. Together, we must advocate for change – a change of heart, a change of policies and a comprehensive plan to bring treatment providers, recovery supports and community organizations together, empower them, cut through the red tape and appropriately respond to the emergency situation we are in. This epidemic is killing our neighbors and abandoning children in it’s wake. These are the concerned citizens that will make the difference.
Families who have found recovery, those who seek it for a loved one and families who lost the battle were among the group who attended the North East Recovery Town Hall at St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church parish house on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Voices of Hope planned and invited the community to attend.
“We never know who will show up.” said Jennifer Tuerke, President of the Board of Directors of Voices of Hope, Inc. “We just set the date and invite everyone: treatment providers, recovery supporters, people who seek recovery and those who have found it. We want to bring the resources to the people, offer and listen to solutions, but most importantly, to build relationships. Active and caring relationships are what makes a community whole and healthy. We believe that, with our limited resources, it is our best defense against what is happening in our community”
Two people who are seeking Senator seats were in attendance. Two area treatment providers were present: Ashley Addiction Treatment and the Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center (ADRC) from the Cecil County Health Department. Pastor Phil Meekins represented Monarch Recovery Ministries halfway houses and some of the women residents of the Amy House were present. Father John Schaeffer of St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church talked about the 12-Step Recovery Church Service there on the second Sunday of each month and the food provided to those in need twice a week. Many people in recovery attended as well as family members whose children are in recovery. Some were seeking treatment and recovery supports for a loved one. A grieving mother was attending the Recovery Town Hall before the Healing Hearts Overdose Death Grief Support Group meeting across the street later that night. She shared a brief introduction which brought many to tears.
Voices of Hope presented how people can get involved in helping and healing our community by attending the Recovery Volunteer Army training on August 25, 2018 from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at the Susquehanna Workforce Center in Elkton. Information about treatment and recovery supports in Cecil County will be shared, and how to access them. Training will also cover harm reduction principles and trauma informed care. After completing this training, one can decide to join an Outreach Team or just take the information home with them.
5 people were Narcan trained by ADRC at this event. Amazing donuts and coffee was provided by the Chesapeake Bay Coffee Company in North East. Thank you to all who participated – you make a difference!
Alyssa Holsopple is a member of the Voices of Hope backpack outreach and homeless engagement teams and is a resident of Cecil County. She drove early to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 to represent the needs of our local recovery community. She joined a team from across Maryland to advocate for recovery issues and resources to our policy makers. The day was coordinated by Faces and Voices of Recovery and started with a briefing sponsored by the House Bipartisan Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Afterwards, Alyssa met with a member of the appropriations committee and representative for Congressman Andy Harris. Following that, she met with a Staff Aide for Senator Van Hollen.
Alyssa said that the advocacy team talked about bills currently being considered that need funding added for recovery supports. They stressed that the funding going into the existing treatment structure just is not enough. The Federal block grants given to the states for prevention and recovery gets significantly cut by the time the money gets to where it is intended. They also discussed how the overall correctional system needs monetary support for recovery programs. Alyssa said the briefing included representatives from New Hampshire and Maine who talked about how the addiction problem effects so many. The representative from Maine shared about how his brother died from an overdose. The representative from New Hampshire has a brother in recovery.
Alyssa represents Voices of Hope – people in recovery, family members and allies who support recovery in Cecil County, Maryland. She makes a difference by being an active part of the solution to the behavioral health crisis we all face. You can too. Join Voices of Hope and come to our next Volunteer Recovery Army training on August 25 from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at the Susquehanna Workforce Center in Elkton.
8 Cecil County recovery allies met on Saturday, July 7 at West End Gardens Motel to clean the stretch of Route 40 in front of the Cecil County Detention Center and Hollingsworth Manor in Elkton, MD. Clean ups are required quarterly as part of the agreement to Adopt-A-Highway through the State Highway Administration but Voices of Hope has been doing it more frequently this year.
“It feels good to give back and to make a positive contribution to our community”, stated one participant, a young woman who is in recovery and lives in a Cecil County recovery house.
“I think it is important to show the families that live in this area that they do matter and people do care about them, especially the children.” said Voices of Hope President, Jennifer Tuerke.
Mike Massuli, Deputy Director of the Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center at the Cecil County Health Department, was also present to contribute to the shared mission. The group hopes to expand their operation to locations in or around Lakeside Trailer Park and Winding Brook. If you would like to participate in the clean up effort or other programs with Voices of Hope, please email email@example.com.
15 people supported the Recovery Town Hall on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at the Cecilton Community Center. 5 residents of the area, including Crystal Beach and Earleville, were in attendance. Although there were no town officials, first responders or safety officers present, citizens from around the County attended to show their support of our neighbors south of the Canal.
Local treatment representatives were Mike Massuli, Deputy Director of the Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center at the Cecil County Health Department and Patrick Webb, a Peer Recovery Advocate at ADRC. Two employees from Recovery Centers of America (RCA) attended: a driver in recovery and a Recovery Support Specialist, along with an alumni from RCA. Lorri Irgang from Maryland Coalition of Families was also in attendance. Two members from the Cecil County Progressive Caucus who support recovery were participants as well. A mother who lost her daughter to overdose in Earleville attended along with the residents of the area. People in recovery/sobriety and our supporters made up this Recovery Town Hall.
The group discussed the most current overdose fatality statistics available: out of the 35 overdose deaths in Cecil County this year, 6 are from this remote area (1 from Cecilton, 5 from Earleville). Recognized barriers to recovery are a lack of transportation to treatment and supports, zero 12-step meetings south of the Canal and no recovery housing. Finding childcare while the parent/caregiver attends treatment is also a barrier that was discussed. Online support meetings are not easily accessible in this area where wifi can be very spotty.
Solutions involved coordinating efforts to take interested people to meetings in Middletown, Delaware through Cecil Transit. A resident talked about how this is currently a practice for seniors in this area getting their prescriptions filled. Another solution is to approach RCA and ask for support with providing a place for recovery support meetings to occur regularly. We talked about how and who to proceed with these solutions.
Mike Massuli trained 5 residents to administer Narcan.
Our next Recovery Town Hall Meeting will be held in Rising Sun, MD. Always on the second Wednesday of each month. Please join us and be a part of the solution in Cecil County!
On Saturday, March 10, 2018, Voices of Hope hosted a banquet to express our gratitude for all of the Cecil County First Responders who administered Narcan and first aid to individuals experiencing an overdose in 2017. This event was sold out beyond capacity. In attendance were first responders, public safety officers, politicians and town officials, small business owners, treatment providers, people in recovery, family members and recovery supporters.
A recorded 587 people experienced an overdose in 2017 in Cecil County. 71 were fatal. We credit our first responders and the increased availability and use of Narcan for those lives saved. We chose to acknowledge and honor Officers First Class Jeremy Fuller and Thomas Saulsbury from the Elkton Police Department for saving Erin Woodie, a young mother from Cecil County. Erin read the police report that was filed that day at the banquet. She talked about her family and their gratitude for the Officers’ actions and humane treatment that day. She credits them for saving her life, as she now is experiencing long term recovery.
Also honored was Shelley Smith, a volunteer of Voices of Hope, Inc. for her grateful service and willingness to help achieve our mission. We presented her with the Distinguished Volunteer Award.
Although music and dancing was available, most people opted for the free Narcan training at the end of the night, hosted by Mike Massuli and Katie Carroll from the Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center. 24 people received the training and took home the life saving medication.
Please check out all the photos from the night on our Facebook page or #VOHBanquet2018
We are so grateful for the sponsors and supporters that made this night such a success, thank you!
Union Hospital of Cecil County
Ashley Addiction Treatment
Recovery Centers of America
A and M Tent Tents
A & M Elegant Affairs
David Heitur Fotograph
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)