Advocacy Corner: From Dope Dealer to Hope Dealer

Written by Amanda Cassidy, Reentry Advocacy Fellow

”One thing a peer does is infuse hope” – ReEntry Peer Support Training

One of the many goals I had when I returned home in July of 2019 was to find a way to use all that I had experienced, the good the bad and the ugly, to help those who have been through similar experiences find a way out of the desperation and into the hope. I was chosen to take part in the Via Hope ReEntry Peer Specialist Level 1 training under the Health Resources & Services Administration’s (HRSA) program to provide equitable health care to people who are geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable. HRSA put together the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training which develops and expands community-based experiential training to increase the supply of students preparing to become peer support specialists and other behavioral health-related paraprofessionals while also improving distribution of a quality behavioral health workforce.

The Level 1 program provides skills-based training, hands-on work experience as a peer specialist, mentorship, and supervision from experienced peer specialists over a 9 month period. Throughout this 9 months, I will:

  • Take the Core training, a prerequisite for RPS certification
  • Take five skill-building trainings
  • Receive placement for 250 field hours to complete certification, which includes a stipend
  • Have an opportunity to advance to a year-long stipend apprenticeship position in Level 2

Throughout the core training I learned that there is more than 1 definition of recovery and that each person has a different recovery journey based on their own life experiences and how they chose to grow from them. We discussed the power of the words we say and hear and how those words become belief systems. I learned how to be more intentional in the words that I use, using a person first language. I learned how to build recovery capitol and how to guide peers to build recovery capitol. We also discussed ethical boundaries. 

One of the profound moments was reading this poem. So I thought I would share it with you all.

Those In Prison, by Susan Zalatan

We want them to be responsible

So we take away all responsibility

We want them to be positive and constructive

So we degrade them and make them useless

We want them to be trustworthy

So we put them where there is no trust

We want them to be nonviolent

So we surround them with violence

We want them to be kind and loving

So we subject them to hatred and cruelty

We want them to quit being the “tough guy”

So we put them where only the “tough guy” survives

We want them to quit exploiting us

So we cage them where they exploit each other

We want them to take control of their lives

So we make them dependent on us

We want them to be a part of our community

So we separate them from our community

You want us to have self-worth

So you destroy our self-worth

And you call it “corrections”

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The Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable is collaborative promoting safe and healthy communities through effective reentry and reintegration of formerly incarcerated persons and individuals with criminal histories in Austin/Travis County, Texas.

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