Voices of Hope (VOH) was born directly from the lived experience of its co-founders and lived experience continues to be key today, as nearly all VOH’s 100 person staff are people in recovery. Since the beginning, VOH has focused on being responsive to the needs of the recovery community. Further, VOH is firmly rooted in research and evidence-based support as two of the co-founders are academic experts in the field. VOH understands the holistic needs of people in recovery and their friends and families and what a Recovery Ready Community should entail to support those needs. 

In 2014, as the opioid epidemic ravaged on, there was an urgent need to change public perception surrounding substance use disorder and overdose. At a time when there were massive gaps in access to naloxone/Narcan and overdose response training  VOH began training and, with the help of a number of physicians, distributing prescriptions for Narcan. That year Voices of Hope also hosted the first international overdose awareness day event in Kentucky. Reducing overdose and stigma are key elements of a Recovery Ready Community. 

 In 2016, responding to a need for quality information about treatment services, VOH, in collaboration with Lexington/Fayette Urban County Government, launched an online treatment locator: GetHelpLex.org. We maintained this website, which filled an important need for our community, until the launch of findhelpnowky.org.  Knowledge of and access to treatment resources are critical in a Recovery Ready Community.

 In 2017, the Co-Founders, Dr. Alex Elswick, Shelley Elswick traveled to Connecticut and Rhode Island to tour Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, and Anchor Recovery. Inspired by what we witnessed when person-first, inclusive, recovery support services are delivered, we came back to Kentucky to replicate the evidence-based models. 

In 2018, VOH became a Recovery Community Organization and opened Kentucky’s first Recovery Community Center located in downtown Lexington. It was funded by the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE). We developed a Community Advisory Board, comprised of stakeholders who understand what recovery looks like “on-the ground” to ensure that we are informed not only by evidence-based practices, but also by lived experience. We launched a telephone recovery support program that supports all paths of recovery, is free and convenient, and makes support accessible. To date we have served 2,330 people with telephone support. Our staff peer support specialists serve as recovery coaches to help participants build recovery capital. To date we have served 2,946 people with this program. Community-based resources have been shown to positively affect substance use disorder (SUD) impact and SUD recovery. It helps by orienting stakeholders towards the problem and creating continuity among support services.

In 2019, we embedded our first coach at a partner site, Baptist Health-Lexington and continue that relationship today. Later that year, our opportunities to expand services across the state increased via two contracts with the University of Kentucky. The HEALing Communities Study has an aim to reduce overdose deaths in 16 vulnerable counties by 40% by increasing the use of medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) through linkage to providers and retention once in treatment. This is done, in part, by peers who integrate healthcare, the criminal justice system, employment, housing, education, and both formal and informal recovery supports. We onboarded and employed 25 coaches to provide services across 8 counties in multiple sectors such as syringe service programs, detention centers, opioid treatment programs (OTPs), shelters, and residential treatment providers. The Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN) supports research on quality addiction treatment for opioid use disorder nationwide. We provide telephonic recovery coaching to women released from incarceration across the state. 

In 2020, we partnered with Hazelden Betty Ford to provide recovery support services to health care and justice communities. During that year, challenges included a move to remote services due to COVID-19 and then to hybrid services. Our size, organizational structure, informed leadership, and independence allowed adaptability and innovation so that we continued to save and enrich lives during this time. We also used this unusual period to further our commitment to our core value of diversity and inclusion by securing the services of a nationally recognized diversity, equity, and inclusion coach.

In 2021, we addressed the lack of recovery support services available to the most vulnerable in our communities by creating mobile harm reduction programs in both Lexington and Louisville. In addition, we purchased a building for a second location in an underserved and under resourced area that allows us to better serve all people.

“I don’t have the words to explain. But I pick up the phone when you call and you help with wanting nothing in return. VOH is a guide for my journey through my recovery.” Ian