Regional Transition Navigator program manager Sam Wilkinson and his team connect at-risk youth and young adults in West Virginia to resources that will help them develop independent living skills, create and cultivate natural supports, access and participate in treatment and recovery services, and thrive in independence. West Virginia University’s new program is funded by an award from the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
(WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)
Research shows that prevention programs are effective in reducing the risk of substance use and addiction, and the prevalence of drug use increases rapidly during adolescence and the transition to young adulthood. To support this population during these critical years of development, West Virginia University threw Regional Transition Navigator services.
Led by Lesley Cottrell, director of the Center for Excellence in Disabilities and a professor in the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, the program is funded by a $432,000 award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration through the West Virginia Department of Health. and human resources.
The new program is designed to connect youth and young adults in West Virginia, ages 14-25, who are experiencing, have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing severe emotional distress, mental illness, and/or related disorders. substance use with the necessary resources. Currently, the focus is on people who are homeless, coming out of foster care or juvenile detention, or who are at risk of human trafficking.
There are many biological and environmental factors that can lead to drug use, but no single factor can predict whether an individual will become addicted.
“Addiction is an opponent of equal opportunity” Sam Wilkinson, program manager, said. “Lives are not lived in black and white, but in shades of gray. Our desired long-term outcomes are to help people find themselves in better situations than they are in now, regardless of that situation.
Wilkinson is one of six navigators across the state in locations including Barboursville, Martinsburg, Morgantown, Mount Hope and Oak Hill. The team works with participants in their communities to identify needs, assess skill levels and develop a network of support and services to improve their health outcomes as they gain independence and transition into adulthood. .
“The program aims to be as malleable as possible when working with its clients,” Wilkinson explained. “What works for one client won’t necessarily work for another, and our goal is to maximize the flexibility that allows us to meet individual needs. Therefore, the response is tailored on a case-by-case basis, or perhaps more specifically, to each situation. Our goal is to work on solving immediate challenges as part of a longer-term strategy of teaching useful problem-solving skills throughout life.
Members of the Transitional Regional Navigator team will connect participants with resources for housing, transportation, utilities, food, violence prevention and support, education, health care , medication, communication skills to defend themselves, life skills and knowing who to contact for help based on their individual circumstance.
To enroll, individuals can be referred to the program by anyone – including themselves.
“We rely on those with awareness and knowledge of their own communities — medical professionals, frontline staff, social workers, counselors, teachers, coaches — and our partners across the state,” Wilkinson said. “We have registered about 30 participants and would like to meet more.
“Reaching young people can serve as an intervention before decision-making turns into deep-seated habits,” Wilkinson said. “We want to do supportive work that helps individuals choose healthier paths. Through providing a direct and personalized connection, we hope to benefit both them and their communities. »
Regional Transition Navigator services are supported by a grant (G210977) from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Behavioral Health with joint funding from the Block Grant for the Prevention and Treatment of substance abuse and Community Mental Health Services Block Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
(Note: This is part of a series of new stories released during National Recovery Month that highlight West Virginia University’s initiatives to address the overdose epidemic. Additional stories can be found on health.wvu.edu/addiction/news.)
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