An Innovative Personalized Approach
SaVida Health, who currently has four stand-alone offices and two co-locations across the state of Maine, is a Medication Assisted Recovery (MAR) program with a holistic approach to care, setting it apart from virtual and medically driven programs.
“We emphasize the role of Recovery Health, allowing the medication to be one tool that supports our members in recovery,” says Abbie Rohde, Director of Behavioral Health and the force behind SaVida Health’s innovative and individualized approach to addiction treatment.
“Our program is primarily relational and behavioral based,” Abbie explains, “because we are firm believers that having a sense of connection and purpose, to ourselves, to others, and to our community, is what helps people find and sustain recovery.
“While we recognize that medication is lifesaving, connection and healing are life changing,” she shares.
SaVida Health’s Recovery Health model includes addressing physical health issues, nutrition, sleep, mental health, and self-care, as well as relationship repair and financial health. This model recognizes that addiction touches all facets of an individual’s life, and gaining recovery from illicit substances is not the end of healing. The work involved in recapturing a meaningful and purposeful life is supported throughout the entire scope of treatment.
One of the unique aspects of care at SaVida Health is the program’s commitment to their Professional Peer Recovery Coaches (PPRC). These individuals are a critical part of the professional team. Integrated into member care, development of goals, policy, and practice development and growth, the PPRCs are supported, challenged, and valued as equal members of the organization.
“The entire field of treatment, both within substance use and mental health, recognizes that vicarious trauma is not only occurring, but shaping the size and overall sustainability of this work throughout the scope of treatment,” Abbie explains.
“I was fortunate enough to enter this field after having worked within mental health for 10 years, and benefited from strong supervision, support, and training,” she continues. “As a state, I believe we can do more to parallel this approach, extending it to our Professional Peer Recovery Coaches, who are on the front line with us.”
“While living an active life in recovery is the core of a PPRC, it is not all that these team members have to offer,” Abbie emphasizes.
Joe Graffius is currently a PPRC at the Biddeford location.
“We moved to Alaska in 1999 for a family adventure,” Joe explains. “As kids, we’d run around on four wheelers with rifles chasing bears and caribou. It was pretty epic. But as a teen, I started self-medicating for undiagnosed issues like ADD, anxiety and depression.
“I got an early introduction to Alaska’s commercial fishing industry’s standard of open drug use being acceptable,” he continues. “Earning lots of money, then blowing it at the bars and the dope house on weeklong benders. That lifestyle just was not sustainable. It was a matter of time before I hurt myself or someone else.”
While serving two years in prison in Alaska for possession and drug dealing, Joe found sobriety. After his release, he completed a year-long residential treatment program with Alaska Adult and Teen Challenge before returning home to Maine. Back in Maine, Joe sought out and found a solid recovery community. He joined a church, and got married. He also found a job as a PPRC at SaVida Health.
“Right off the bat, I was welcomed,” he says. “Everybody is so kind and patient and focused on whole care for patients. As a PPRC, they want me to model healthy recovery principals, so they put my personal recovery ahead of everything else.
“It really is amazing that this is a job,” he continues. “Really my job is to be an ambassador of hope, to be an encouragement. To walk beside others, not drag them.”
Aaron Davis is a PPRC and a Community Outreach Specialist, within his role as a team member on SaVida Health’s MOUD Grant pilot program, awarded to them by the Office of Behavioral Health and Substance Use. The grant’s primary objective is to bring resources, and ultimately treatment, to those in rural areas who do not have ready access to care.
In reflecting upon his job as a PPRC, Aaron shares, “We are given a seat at the proverbial round table. We could feel like we don’t have anything to bring to the table except a history of some poor decisions, but the PPRCs are given an equal voice. Our colleagues value what we bring to the table, just as much as the individuals who have letters after their names and years of college behind them.”
“I’m no different than they are [members],” Aaron adds. “I’m just a little bit farther along in my journey. At the end of the day, I’m just a guy who was stuck 20 years in addiction and ended up landing in jail and prison. I couldn’t stop walking out in front of that bus even though I knew it was showing up at the same time every day.”
David Dobson, an in-reach Professional Peer Recovery Coach, within SaVida Health Washington County, shared on first approach he was wary of working within the field of addiction treatment. “I have seen many people active in recovery take jobs and ultimately that ended in a return to misuse of substances.” It is easy to get caught up in trying to help others and not stay balanced in our own recovery,” David explained.
When encouraged to share his ‘why,’ David explained, “I grew up in a home full of alcohol. I was pushed in-and-out of treatment centers, homeless shelters, jails, and institutions. Now, as someone in recovery, I am someone our members can relate to from the start. It is always nice to see and hear the voice of not just our members, but their family members as well. I believe it helps them gain hope.”
David reflected on knowing he made the right decision, professionally. “Being able to pass background checks and not having to worry about law enforcement, knowing my past will be shared to inspire others and not to pull me down—it is a wonderful thing,” David shared.
SaVida Health’s approach to supporting and developing their PPRCs has ripple effects beyond maintaining a healthy workforce.
“Members come into the office, seeking out their coaches first,” Abbie explains. “The combination of shared experiences, modeled recovery, and compassionate accountability, all within a trauma-informed space, leads to honest and genuine conversations around not just sobriety, but life.”