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U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visits Reality Check in Jaffrey

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visited Jaffrey on Tuesday to discuss how Reality Check, an addiction support nonprofit, might use congressional funding to continue its mission.

Reality Check has applied for $145,000 in congressional funding, with three main goals, according to founder and CEO Mary Drew.

Drew said the funding, if approved, would be used to fund two annual week-long recovery coach trainings, stipends for coaches and to fund a conference to educate employers on how they can better support employees in need of recovery services.

Congress had a decade-long moratorium on directed congressional spending, but has returned to earmarking funds for specific sectors. Shaheen said those funds are helpful in supporting initiatives like Reality Check, which may be overlooked by federal grant funding, but are “an investment that’s important for the state.”

Shaheen said that addiction is “not a moral failure,” but a health issue, and needs resources to be properly addressed.

Drew said funding is an ongoing struggle for Reality Check, and that the grant funding they do receive is often finite, with programs ending when the grant does.

Now in the second round of the approval process for the congressional funding, Drew said it would be put toward community initiatives to build recovery supports and continue the process of educating employers about becoming “recovery-friendly” workspaces.

There is an ongoing need for a larger workforce in recovery services, Drew said, making continual training for recovery coaches a key part of responding to those who are entering recovery.

“I need to saturate New Hampshire with recovery coaches,” Drew said.

Drew said Reality Check has hosted an employee conference in the past, with 35 employers who attended – including the State of New Hampshire, which represents about 11,000 employees. The goal is to educate employers about the scope of the issue, and to create policies that are “more supportive and less punitive.”

Anena Hansen, the employee services coordinator for Reality Check, is already doing that work with some local employers. Reality Check has offered services to local companies interested in the concept, providing referrals and support services to employees and speaking to management and employees about how to recognize an issue and address it constructively.

Hansen told Shaheen that it’s a “win-win” scenario for both the employer and employees, because employers with a “zero tolerance” policy are likely to lose talented workers and spend money in hiring and retraining, instead of addressing the root cause of the issue.

David Jeffries of Jaffrey, who uses Reality Check support services, said having a local point of support had been “miraculous” for him when he started his recovery journey eight months ago.

Within a day of deciding he needed to quit drinking alcohol, Jeffries said, a friend had contacted Reality Check, and Jeffries was speaking with Reality Check representatives. Within a week, he had a sobriety coach, who he is still in weekly contact with, and had been connected to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

In comparison, he said, when he contacted a residential treatment center, he was looking at a wait of more than two months.

“These guys were there, like, immediately,” Jeffries said. “They made immediate connection and treatment possible.”

Shaheen said those types of stories are why services like Reality Check are important community resources.

“As we see with Reality Check, so much of what needs to happen is at a local level,” Shaheen said. “And to be able to fund what the needs are, locally, is really important, and that’s what this funding will do.”

Drew said along with the initiatives proposed to be paid for with congressional funding, Reality Check also is working on other projects to help those in recovery make connections and network outside of meetings or counseling, through spaces like cafes, exercise areas and planned monthly hikes.