Posted at: 10/11/2012 11:16 PM
Updated at: 10/16/2012 11:21 AM
By: Lynette Adams
It seems the battle against drug and alcohol abuse continues to be an uphill battle.
Last year, Unity handled more than 220,000 visits from substance abuse clients. But a relatively new treatment program seems to be making strides and changing lives.
Project Light pairs people who want to recover with people who have recovered. This not only provides support and a role model, but hope that recovery is possible.
Bernardine has a story to tell, and she shares it with anyone who will listen. She asked News10NBC not to use her last name because of her role in a recovery group.
Bernardine battled a crack-cocaine addiction for more than 20 years. In January, she made a decision to get clean, and 9 months later, she's helping others get clean.
Bernardine is part of Unity Hospital's program, Project Light. Recovering substance abusers mentor people who are on the road to recovery.
"I hope when I sit down next to them and tell them I know what it's like to have money and lots of friends and then when you make a decision to get clean there's nobody around. I know that feeling. So we can relate," Bernardine says.
The program is succeeding because not only is there support for people just beginning this journey, but it helps strengthen the person in recovery.
Ron Knott is the peer recovery coach. He says the impact Bernardine has had is phenomenal.
"Bernardine brings hope and inspiration to each person. She's been through it herself and that's the classic definition of peer. The retention rate has increased 25% within our system. Patients want to stay in recovery longer because of Project Light and the volunteers who are in Project Light," Knott says.
For Bernardine, that's what it's all about. "It allows me to be exposed. So someone else can see that it's okay to expose your pain, to expose your hurt, it's okay to get better," she says.
Right now, Project Light has 35 volunteers like Bernardine and another 35 are training to become recovery peers. There's still room for more.
To learn more about Project Light, click here.