This group knows what it’s like to face the abyss. Clad in black shirts that read “Make Recovery the Epidemic,” a group of 17 men and women, ranging different generations, ethnicities, and cultures, share one common bond: they all want to end addiction across North Central Washington.

“Not everyone knows how to ask for help, so we are extending our hands for help” says Karen, a soft-spoken redhead with a quiet confidence of someone who has faced adversity, and come out the other side. She and her peers are a part of the first cohort of Recovery Coaches to complete the Recovery Coach Academy offered by North Central Accountable Community of Health this month.

“We’re trying to make recovery the epidemic. We’re not trying, we’re doing it. And, that’s going to help stomp out the disease,” says Victor, one of the chapter leaders of the Central Washington Recovery Coalition, who also participated in the Recovery Coach Academy.

The Recovery Coach Academy is just one of the strategies to address the opioid crisis under NCACH’s Opioid Project, but it’s a critical one. According to the Center for Addiction Recovery Training, emerging research indicates that people receiving peer recovery support may experience: decreased criminal justice involvement; decreased emergency service utilization; reduced relapse rates; reduced re-hospitalization rates, as well as reduced substance use rates in general.

Recovery coaches are peers who offer support those in long-term recovery from substance-use disorders. A recovery coach brings the lived experience of recovery, combined with training and supervision, to assist others in beginning and sustaining their long-term recovery. According to a study released by the Vermont Recovery Network, participants receiving recovery coaching services were more likely to engage with other support services (like accessing primary care, housing, mental health treatment, etc.) which reduces social costs associated with addiction.





“I want to come forward as a voice to help end our silence so we can move forward and help people recover from this disease,” says Sahlly, another participant in the Recovery Coach Academy.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 21.2 million Americans needed substance use treatment. According to the same report, approximately 3.7 million people, or 1.4%, received treatment.

While treatment, including medication-assisted-therapy (MAT), are all essential parts of the journey to recovery, programs like recovery coaching are gaining momentum across the country as another part of a complex strategy to bring an end to addiction and substance use disorder.

“My lived experience has created a foundation in which I can stand to assist others on their pathways to recovery.” – Nokey

“Recovery [coach] academy is providing me a path to helping people heal.” – Yvonne

Participants in the Recovery Coach Academy, led by instructor Jim Leingang, with Harmony Recovery Support Services, are now able to go out and provide important peer supports to members of the recovery community here in North Central Washington. The training also included a “training of trainers” component, which means that the graduated Recovery Coaches will be available to train others to become Recovery Coaches which builds even greater capacity across our region.

As their shirts say, these recent recovery coach graduates are on a mission to #MakeRecoveryTheEpidemic.

To learn more about Central Washington Recovery Coalition, please visit:
To learn more about NCACH’s Opioid Project, please visit:

All photos used with permission.

A special thanks to Victor Estrada for sharing photos.