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Ohio University awarded INSPIRE Initiative Award from ARC to help provide training and work support to individuals recovering from substance use disorder

Ohio University was awarded $500,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through INvestments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE), to create a series of paths through which individuals in recovery will obtain soft and hard skills, develop entrepreneurial capacities, and gain and maintain meaningful employment through engagement at three makerspaces in partnership with local recovery system ecosystem stakeholders.

This is one of 17 projects receiving more than $5.5 million from INvestments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE), an ARC initiative addressing Appalachia’s substance use disorder crisis (SUD) through projects that create or expand a recovery ecosystem leading to workforce entry or re-entry.

OHIO and its partners, Hocking College, Rural Action, Passion Works Studio, Perry Behavioral Health Choices, Columbus Idea Foundry and Burley Clay Products, will work with the three makerspaces in Athens and Perry Counties, offering training on recovery-friendly environments to the makerspaces and businesses in their respective networks, and work with each makerspace to develop a plan to attract more individuals in recovery to their sites.  Additional on-site services will also be offered, including access to art therapy, peer support specialists and community health workers.  Additionally, a Recovery Community Organization that is being established in Southeast Ohio will be supported in its development.

“We are very excited and honored to be receiving this award,” Rick Hodges, OHIO Alliance for Population Health director, said. “We saw this funding as an opportunity to continue to build on what we’ve already constructed with previous funding and we would like to continue the progress of this project in the future. We’re hoping this award can help advance the project and demonstrate the impact of this type of work to the region, continuing to support this project in the longer term.”

Tracy Plouck, an assistant clinical professor within OHIO’s College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) and a key member of the OHIO Alliance for Population Health, will serve as Project Director.

“Providing service in health and helping our local communities is at the heart of everything we do,” said Interim CHSP Dean Dr. John McCarthy. “To be sure, the direct and indirect effects of the recovery-friendly efforts afforded by this grant will positively impact the lives of countless individuals across our region in the years ahead.”

OHIO’s George Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service will also play an integral role in this effort by training and providing technical assistance for makerspaces and other business gateways through the LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network.  Additionally, the Voinovich School’s Social Enterprise Ecosystem will offer consultation to individual participants who are interested in entrepreneurial opportunities.

“Creating entrepreneurial opportunities that can lead to meaningful employment are integral to the health of individuals, and the economy, across our region,” said Dr. Mark Weinberg, dean of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service. “We thank the Appalachian Regional Commission for funding this project and enabling OHIO to help further boost our region’s recovery and economic support resources.”

Approximately 40 other businesses and other organizations within Athens and Perry Counties will also be engaged in training and light touch technical assistance related to supporting a recovery-friendly employment environment, and at least 85 individuals in recovery will receive entrepreneurial technical assistance and/or makerspace training, as well as vocational and recovery supports.

“The substance use disorder crisis isn’t only a health and family issue—it’s a workforce issue. The devastating impacts of this crisis also have severe economic impacts, keeping many Appalachians of prime working age from participating in the labor force and contributing to the Region’s economic growth,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “With ARC’s INSPIRE Initiative, we’re starting to change that. INSPIRE projects focus on creating recovery-friendly work environments, providing supports to both individuals in recovery and their employers, and training individuals to meet the demand in growing professions. When we help individuals in recovery succeed, our communities succeed.”

INSPIRE awardees will support the SUD recovery-to-employment continuum in seven Appalachian states by training and certifying recovery specialists, establishing cross-sector community recovery partnerships, expanding peer recovery support networks, launching recovery-to-work programs with a full spectrum of coordinated support services, and more.

INSPIRE draws on the work and recommendations developed by ARC’s Substance Abuse Advisory Council (SAAC) to address the disproportionate impact substance abuse continues to have on the Region’s workforce in comparison to the rest of the country.

November 23, 2021
Staff reports