LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Metro Health and Wellness officials say that the real life experience that peer support specialists can bring to their outreach programs are invaluable.
Community Health Administrator Ben Goldman went as far as describing their role as critical to connecting with people who have experienced an overdose.
“I have no lived experience in substance use disorder. I’m not a person in long term recovery. I have seen people in long term recovery make connections that even I, as a skilled social service worker, as an experienced clinician, connections that I haven’t been able to make. And so I will die on the hill of making sure that we hire people with lived experience,” Goldman said.
He addressed the Equity, Community Affairs, Housing, Health, and Education Committee Meeting Wednesday afternoon to seek approval for $85,000 of federal funding to create two new peer support specialist positions.
That money comes as part of Kentucky’s opioid settlement payment. Officials say that the funds are already been set aside for Metro Health and Wellness to use, but they need approval by the council to officially spend that money.
Goldman told council members that in an ideal world, their outreach teams would be comprised of a clinical expert and one of their peer support specialists.
“What we’ve found in terms of best practices for this model of the quick response team is having people at the scene, who are visiting the home, who have lived experience is critically important to building that relationship, to reducing those barriers, and to making our staff more approachable,” Goldman said.
There was some pushback by council members, namely district one representative Tammy Hawkins.
She pressed Goldman on the background of these employees, saying that because of their real life experience there is the possibility that they could relapse.
She asked if the department drug tests it’s employees, to which Goldman responded that they didn’t.
“As an employer I would hate to discriminate against people who have overcome a substance use disorder and prevent them from working in a field where they’re able to serve their community and improve the lives of residents,” he said.
Following that comment Hawkins reiterated her support for this program.
The committee passed the resolution without oppositions and it will now be placed on the consent calendar.
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