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Valparaiso community recovery care coordinator making an impact

Valparaiso Now Facebook page

Valparaiso's efforts to connect residents with substance use disorder to treatment are starting to have an impact. Last year, the city created a community recovery care coordinator position, funded primarily by opioid settlement money.

Coordinator Kristi Chervenak says she's had 50 client interactions and 400 calls from September to May. "A majority of them were Valpo residents, homeless individuals," Chervenak told the city council last week. "If it's somebody that I can't directly serve, then I work with the county social worker and other staff in my office to get them the help that they need."

Chervenak gave the example of one individual who was homeless and had recently experienced two overdoses when she began working with him. She was able to help him get multiple rounds of treatment. Now, he's employed and lives in a halfway house.

"He has a vehicle, and he is registered at a local community college," Chervenak added. "Both this individual and his family will readily admit that without our support, he wouldn't be here today with us."

In addition to connecting residents to treatment facilities and halfway houses, Chervenak also serves as an insurance navigator and provides training on the overdose reversal medication Narcan. But she said some gaps in resources remain.

"Transportation is the biggest gap that we have right now, so that's something that we're continually working on," Chervenak said.

Council member Peter Anderson thanked Chervenak for her efforts, noting that everyone in the community has been touched by addiction in some way. "In its most simplest form, she can figure out the whole complicated mess that it takes to get someone help," Anderson said. "That's what her role is, and I just love it."

Looking ahead, Chervenak said a "summer of recovery" event is planned for June 27 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Northwest Health Amphitheater.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.