Beyond the Stigma: Building a workforce to support recoveryBy SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 29. 2018 9:42PM
It’s not only colleges that are investing in building the workforce New Hampshire needs to help those struggling with addiction find recovery.
NH Healthy Families, a Bedford-based managed care organization, supports scholarships and mentorships for individuals who go into substance use disorder (SUD) fields.
Andrea Rancatore, director of SUD programming for NH Healthy Families, said her company realized that workforce shortages were leaving too many of its members waiting for treatment. So they launched a workforce development project to sponsor training for individuals to become certified recovery support workers (CRSWs).
To get that certification in New Hampshire, Rancatore said, individuals need to complete requirements that include classroom education, practical training and supervised work. Individuals then have to pass an exam and send all their credentials to the state board of licensing.
“One way that we found we could support this process is to sponsor and provide scholarships for candidates,” Rancatore said. They also offer mentorships to candidates and help them find supervisors and craft resumes, she said.
To date, 75 individuals have gotten scholarships, and 57 of them are enrolled in the mentorship program, Rancatore said.
Christopher Kennedy, director of external relations for NH Healthy Families, said the goal is to enhance treatment capacity in New Hampshire.
The company is one of two managed care organizations serving the state’s traditional Medicaid population, with about 62,000 members in that group. And on the commercial health insurance exchange, its Ambetter health plans serve just under 19,000 members, 15,000 of whom are in the so-called Medicaid expansion population, Kennedy said.
Why is a managed care organization getting involved in workforce development?
“We serve a membership that is disproportionately impacted by the SUD crisis,” Kennedy said. “To the extent that there is a lack of services and lack of capacity out there, we see it as incumbent on us to help build that capacity and to serve our members.”
“We want to be part of the solution,” he said.
Geoff Vercauteren is director of workforce development at Network4Health, the Manchester area partnership tasked with transforming how behavioral health services are delivered under a federal Medicaid waiver. One project involves building workforce capacity.
Vercauteren said retention is key to building a sustainable workforce to take care of people as they get into treatment and recovery. “As much as it’s important to keep people moving in the front door and getting more folks into the jobs, it’s just as important to keep them from leaving out the back,” he said.
Network4Health provides financial help for students in human services at Manchester Community College, Vercauteren said. And it offers management training and professional development to nonprofit and community-based organizations.
“Will we ever be at a point where we’re turning people away to work in this field? I don’t think so,” Vercauteren said. “But I think we could do better, and I think we are doing better, and colleges are responding by creating more programs ... .”
Vercauteren said he wants to “demystify” addiction-related fields, providing more information about the rewards and career pathways available. “People who go into this work do it because it’s incredibly meaningful work, not because they’re ever going to become millionaires,” he said. “This type of work offers people a real chance to make a difference in someone’s life.”
And that, he said, “is more powerful than money.”
Beyond the Stigma, a series exploring solutions to the state's addiction and mental health challenges, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, NAMI New Hampshire and private individuals. Contact reporter Shawne K. Wickham at firstname.lastname@example.org.