How Summit Recovery Hub RCO is bridging the gaps in the path to recovery
Words by Sophie Franchi
Why don’t they just get help?
This question often runs through the hearts and minds of friends and relatives of people suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders. The truth is, it’s not that easy. Recovery looks different for different people, and the support systems needed to recover are not always accessible. Sometimes there are major gaps in the supports available to people seeking a pathway to recovery. Sometimes people have a difficult time finding any path at all.
Summit Recovery Hub RCO is working to bridge some of those gaps for our community.
“We really want this to be a collaborative backbone of support to help,” says China Darrington, Board President of Summit Recovery Hub. “No one can do the work for you, but we can make sure you’re not alone and that you have someone who knows a little something about helping someone navigate that process of change.”
Darrington has been involved in many levels of recovery support for about 15 years. She holds the position of Director of Advocacy & Public Policy at Thrive Peer Recovery Services. She is also Director of XIX Recovery Support Services. Darrington’s day job takes her all around the state and nation, where she works to advance and advocate for recovery support on a larger scale. But she has missed working with a focus on Summit County.
“I initially wanted to lift up and amplify and augment what is already going well,” Darrington says. “There are great providers doing amazing work, but right now, the way the funding is, they are often attached to a treatment provider, or a faith-based organization or even a hospital system.”
This means that people seeking recovery have to do so as patients, consumers or parishioners of the institution offering services. Conversely, Summit Recovery Hub aligns with the nationally recognized ARCO (Association of Recovery Community Organizations) best practices.
A Recovery Community Organization (RCO) is a peer-led non-profit organization governed by self-identified members of the local recovery community. RCOs work to provide various advocacy, outreach and non-clinical support resources to people in different stages of recovery from substance abuse and mental health disorders. RCOs also work to raise recovery awareness in the community and collaborate with other organizations and institutions to support the recovery community as a whole.
In 2022, Summit Recovery Hub became an RCO and began its mission to promote “sustained recovery by providing connection, pro-social community activity, support and advocacy to those affected by substance use and mental health disorders.”
“We are non-profit, recovery-led (80 percent of our board members are in recovery) and independent,” Darrington explains, “which means we’re not tethered to a parent institution, and for that reason we can serve any individual seeking recovery at any stage of their journey in Summit County.”
Summit Recovery Hub’s board members and advisory council are all recovery leaders, working in various segments of the recovery process, including housing, peer recovery support, reentry, workforce development, care management, faith-based recovery and more. Aside from Darrington, Summit Recovery Hub’s leadership includes: Board Vice-President, Perry Clark, who is also the President and Founder of Truly Reaching You; Board Secretary, Mark Salchak who has been involved in the IBH Addiction Recovery REACH (Recovery, Education, Accountability, Community, and Hope) Program for eight years; Board Member, Dawn Boykin, who is a Case Manager at CHC Addiction Services; and Board Treasurer, Lisa Zauchau, who is an Accounting Consultant.
Summit Recovery Hub hopes to make recovery more attainable to more individuals at all stages of recovery. While Summit County is rich with recovery service providers, most of these are hospitals, treatment services, or crisis intervention. When someone is in a state of crisis, they have several options: They can check in to crisis emergency services, head to an emergency department that is usually more focused on physical emergencies and will often have wait times of up to 24 hours for behavioral health, or call 911 for law enforcement or EMS response.
“Our county still has wait lists for people trying to address their issues earlier on, when they just need a little bit of support and guidance,” says Darrington. “The wait time to get that first intake appointment is three weeks to three months.”
These long wait times for support and treatment services can mean all the difference for someone who isn’t yet at the point of crisis.
For substance abuse disorders, early intervention before substance use progresses into a serious condition can be incredibly effective. Chapter 4 of Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health states, “The goals of early intervention are to reduce the harms associated with substance misuse, to reduce risk behaviors before they lead to injury, to improve health and social function, and to prevent progression to a disorder and subsequent need for specialty substances use disorder services.”
For people in the early stages of mental health disorders, waiting to receive treatment can make recovery more difficult, and delays in treatment can even lead to substance use.
“We’re trying not to wait until someone is at the severe level of need for their mental health or substance use issue, but [at] a safe place to have a safe conversation with a safe person before it gets to the crisis or emergency level,” Darrington says. “We need to have more options for people before it gets that bad. We have to build out the full continuum of care. Make more on and off ramps on the freeway, if you will.”
Wait times for initial support are not the only gap in the recovery systems in Summit County. Lack of insurance or gaps in insurance coverage can put people in a difficult position, as mental and behavioral health treatment can be expensive. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that among individuals who made efforts to receive treatment for substance abuse disorders but did not receive it, 30.6 percent did not have healthcare coverage or could not afford treatment.
“Although insurance is supposed to cover behavioral health needs like substance use and mental health at the same level of coverage as physical health, there is very little enforcement of that law, so insurance regularly creates gaps in coverage,” says Darrington.
 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed tables. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2016.