Pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors of opioid painkillers have agreed to pay over $50 billion in settlement funds to several state and local governments across the United States over an 18-year span. Livingston County in New York is among the recipients of a portion of these funds, aimed at combating the local opioid crisis. Officials from the County Health Department collaborated with community members last year to strategize the optimal utilization of these funds. A prevailing recommendation from community deliberations was the establishment of peer recovery support services, particularly a Youth Peer Advocate role, to assist adolescents throughout the county.
To actualize this initiative, Livingston County is collaborating with Hillside, a provider of diverse community-based services, to recruit a dedicated Youth Peer Advocate, using the opioid settlement funds. This role is envisioned to support young individuals by leveraging personal experiences to offer aid and support, contributing a youth perspective to decision-making processes in the mental health service system, and aiding adolescents in managing emotions and self-advocacy. The partnership aims to enhance the capacity of youth to vocalize their needs and goals effectively as they progress into adulthood, with Hillside’s CEO, Maria Cristalli, emphasizing the unique connection Youth Peer Advocates can establish with the youth and families due to their lived experiences.
Kristen Fisher, Director of Community Services in Livingston County, highlighted the importance of supportive individuals for the youth, particularly to circumvent unnecessary interactions with administrative and legal entities. This new position is a strategic move to incorporate the perspectives and experiences of youth in shaping services and treatments, ensuring that the approach is reflective of the needs and aspirations of the service recipients, and to foster a more supportive and responsive environment for the young population facing multiple challenges.
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