Recovery Peer Support and Development, Inc. or RPSDI (pronounced rhapsody) is an organization seeking to develop support systems for people with addictions who are transitioning back into the community from detoxification units, rehabilitation programs, jails and prison.
Rockland Recovery Project
Each year, nearly 2000 adults with addictions issues move from institutional settings (hospitals, jails, or prisons) into the Rockland area community. The Rockland Recovery project will focus on transition or re-entry support for this population.
The transition from institution to community is a crucial and delicate moment in the recovery process. In order to foster and enrich the process of change that is the recovery process, Rockland Recovery will provide the empowerment and sense of hope of a Supportive Peer Community as well as concrete assistance and support in:
- Finding Safe Places To Live
- Breaking the Bonds of Addiction
- Training, Education, and Jobs
- Fostering Meaningful Relationships
The need for transition support is clear. Without it, relapse is considerably more likely and relapse is expensive both for the individual and the community. Relapse generally takes the form of renewed episodes of acting out, often in ways that are destructive to the person and to others. It is one of the major reasons offenders “come back”—repeat the same or other offenses—and non-offenders “come back” to crisis units or, worse, end up incarcerated. In any event, relapse has huge costs beyond the individual—beyond potential harm to direct and indirect victims, there are the huge costs of mental health and correctional programs. There is an urgent need to reduce these costs by reducing relapse.
Change is difficult. This is nowhere more daunting than the process of transition from an intensive institutional environment back into a community. The transition itself is change—moving is always stressful. But recovering people are faced with the additional task of implementing the changes in their own lives that are essential to recovery. They are moving from a narrow and controlled environment, often replete with disempowerment and helplessness, into an almost dazzling and immense social environment. A multitude of persons, places and things await to trigger thoughts and feelings that threaten to overwhelm them, along with their own abiding and often reinforced sense of shame and stigma. This is the fragile beginning of a new life and it is not surprising that this new beginning often collapses or is crushed. And, as Bullock, et al, put it, “Critical ingredients for recovery such as hope, empowerment, self-determination, and a new valued sense of self, are clearly in double- or triple-jeopardy for the mental health consumer who is also a criminal offender.” 
There is a strong and vital 12-Step community in the Rockland area, primarily Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, only a bare handful of Rockland Recovery’s target population find their way into this community. There seem to be various reasons for this including a lack of knowledge and comfort, especially among ex-prisoners. Many people with multiple addictions and addictions other than alcoholism have a very hard time finding a self-help community in the Rockland area. In addition, stigma, lack of mental health education, and hostility to medications among many members, means the necessary environment of empathy and acceptance may not be present for mental health consumers—those who have a co-existing mental health disorder.
A non-random sample of dozens of people in the Rockland area who have gone through the transition from institutional care to the community confirms that there is a lack of peer support available in the area and few places to share ideas, fears, strategies, hopes and frustrations, or to simply gain support from those who have or have had the same experiences. Most often mentioned in these conversations are the dimensions of company, hope, education, tools/skills of recovery, and self-esteem reflected in autonomy and empowerment issues such as employment, housing, education, and helping others.
In some ways, this transition is easier for those who move back into their old lives—who return to the same housing and family and friends. The physical transition is less daunting yet those same elements prompt the same habits of thought and feeling and action—prompt the same maladaptive coping habits that they are trying to change. Moreover, the well-intentioned concern and support of family and friends can promote dependency and helplessness and/or increase a sense of shame and stigma—to be an invalid is to be invalid. Thus, recovery peer support for these people is a crucial source of hope and empowerment.
For those who begin new lives, the physical transition is more daunting with immediate need for housing, transportation, and employment. Being overwhelmed by these tasks coupled with rejection and being shunned may lead to a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, shame and stigma. Lack of a community of support may lead to loneliness and isolation, discouragement and even despair. These thoughts and feelings, in turn, can prompt the same maladaptive coping habits that they are trying to change. However, accomplishing the tasks of physical transition can be an extremely valuable source of self-esteem, empowerment and hope. Thus, peer support for these people is a crucial source of encouragement, assistance and support in accomplishing and sustaining these tasks as well as an opportunity for them to help others by passing on their own experiences.
For all of these people there is an urgent need for a sense of hope and empowerment in order to begin and sustain the process of change that is recovery. Social attitudes that recovery is impossible, that consumers are forever stuck in illness, defeats recovery. Thus, there is first and foremost a need to present a counter-image—a sense of hope. Recovery is based in the firm belief that recovery is possible. Hope is the belief that change is possible rather than being stuck in a stigmatized and dependent identity. Without hope there is no recovery. Recovery groups by their very public existence communicate a sense of hope, a sense that change is possible, and that people are not alone.
If you are interested in helping with this exciting project, please contact Peter Lehman, Program Developer, at (207) 542–1496 or peter@GrowInME.com
 Jeremy Travis, “But They All Come Back: Rethinking Prisoner Reentry,” National Institute of Justice, 2000
 Wesley Bullock, PhD., Gayle H. Wuttke, Melissa Klein, and Heidi Bechtoldt, “Effectiveness of a Forensic Diversion Program in Promoting Recovery.” (State Mental Health Agency Services Research, Program Evaluation, and Policy Conference, Washington, DC, 2001)
 A substantial proportion of addicts, including alcoholics, have co-existing disorders and this proportion is even higher among those in jails and prisons. Double Trouble in Recovery, a New York City self-help group for dually diagnosed people, notes that the issues mentioned here are a fairly common.
In 2004, RPSDI responded to a specific DHS grant for a peer support center in Rockland: