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Peer Supporter Training in Portage

Portage County held its first Peer Recovery Supporter Training in May. A peer supporter is someone with a shared experience of living with mental illness or an addiction. Peer supporters work one-on-one as role models, mentors, coaches, and advocates to support people through recovery.

If you or someone you know if interested in the training, visit:

The following article was published in the Record Courier, 5/28/19


Michelle (Batch) Dyer felt like she was at the end of her rope.

Lying in a psych ward hospital bed at Coleman Services, the Rootstown native almost gave up in the midst of a mental health crisis after her father died from suicide in 2012.

On Friday, she got her certificate as a peer recovery supporter. Now she wants to help others who are going through similar situations.

“There was just no hope or positive anything coming out,” Dyer said. “And if I just had this one little spark it would have made all the difference in the world.”

Six people received their certificates on Friday after a week of training as a peer support specialist at Coleman Professional Services on Lover’s Lane in Ravenna. The 40-hour training focused on giving tools and resources to the peer recovery supporters, a term Ohio uses for certifying recovery coaches, peer specialists and peer supporters.

All six of the participants had gone through either mental health crisis, addition crisis, or a combination of the two, the participants said.

Darnell Howard, executive director of Free Agents 4 Recovery, and Jessika Easterling, executive director of Open United Recovery Place, and who also works at Family and Community Services, led the training, which was funded through a federal grant.

There are a variety of paths after the graduation. Some of the newly certified peer recovery supporters want to work with nonprofits such as Coleman Professional Services or Townhall II. Some wanted to go through the training so they could volunteer.

Ohio began certifying peer recovery supporters in July 2016, according to the state of Ohio Mental Health and Addiction website. It became a way to standardize many types of people who were already working in Ohio during the opiate crisis, according to the site.

Howard stressed the importance of having someone who had been through recovery connect to someone in the early stages of their recovery. Howard said he is a former cocaine addict who served time for his drug habit. Connecting to counselor was key for him when he left prison, he said, and the way for him to do that was connecting to someone who had also been to prison and through addiction.

Antoine W., who lives in Portage County and asked not to be identified by his last name, said he wanted to go through the training in part so that he could continue to help friends and other people he comes into contact in the community.

He’s hoping to use the tools he got though the training to help others recover, he said.

Others, like Shelley Stevens, are looking for jobs. Katrina Phillips, another person who went through the training last week, said she had been hired as a peer recovery supporter for Family and Community Services. She said there was a need for a connection between professional health care specialists and people who are in recovery.

“There’s a big difference between someone who points you in the direction of a path you’re supposed to walk on, and someone who takes your hand and walks the path with you,” Phillips said. “And who has already walked the path.”

Everyone said they had plans and hopes to make Portage County better.

“I think I can say, and I’m speaking for the group, that we are really excited and dedicated to helping Portage County any way we can,” Dyer said.

Another training is being planned for the fall, Easterling said. Anyone interested in the training can contact Howard at or go through the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County.

Contact reporter Eileen McClory at 330-298-1128, or @Eileen_McClory.

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