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The SAARA Advocate
April 2019
From Our Executive Director Article Image
Hello Wonderful SAARA Friends and Family!
Happy Spring! Last week, SAARA of Virginia sent out an action alert asking advocates to contact Governor Northam to veto HB2528. This bill could cause a person distributing or gifting a controlled substance to be charged with felony manslaughter when there is no intent to kill! SAARA of Virginia has partnered with the ACLU of Virginia and other advocacy organizations to see this legislation vetoed. If you have not contacted Governor Northam yet, please do so today. Time is running short as Governor Northam’s deadline to act on HB2528 is May 3, 2019. Your voice matters!
Drugs today, like heroine and methamphetamines, are easy to get and highly addictive. People use these drugs once or twice and become addicted. We aren’t in Kansas anymore my friend! Although heroine and other drugs that are popular today were available 20 or more years ago, they weren’t on every street corner like they are today. The popular drugs from days gone by were dangerous but it generally took more than using once or twice to become addicted!
Over prescribed opioids and pain medications has contributed to the drug crisis we now face. Add to that, easy access to the types of drugs that are popular now and the potency of these drugs and we are left with a great number of people, from all walks of life, living with addiction. When we add in alcohol dependency, the number of Virginians affected by addiction can seem staggering. SAARA and our supporters have our work cut out for us. We are up to the challenge and moving forward this spring season in our fight for positive legislation and against negative legislation; negative legislation like HB2528 that, if not vetoed, will further punish people with addiction for having a treatable medical condition!
A big part of helping people reach and maintain recovery is advocacy; showing there is hope, talking about addiction as a treatable medical condition, educating on recovery, and working to create positive change. You saw in SAARA’s March edition of the “Advocate” that we launched our ‘Crush Stigma’ campaign and ‘Voices of Recovery’ program and we relaunched the ‘Friends & Family’ program. These campaigns and programs reduce stigma, provide knowledge, offer support, and promote advocacy and recovery. SAARA is not slowing down. This month, you will see a new section in the newsletter called ‘Story Corner.’ What better way to show someone that they are not alone and that recovery is possible than by letting them read about someone who has been there.
April is Alcohol Awareness month. SAARA has developed several tools for you to use in your community to promote Alcohol Awareness and advocacy and to reduce stigma. These tools include a 45 to 60-minute community awareness PowerPoint presentation, an alcohol awareness fact sheet, and other handouts and resources. Please visit SAARA of Virginia’s Resource Library at to download your alcohol awareness community campaign kit. These tools can be used to promote alcohol awareness any month of the year. Alcohol Use Disorder is at the top of the list of addictions and addictive substances used in excess by Virginians!
To promote advocacy, recovery, and to learn about SUD issues that are important to you, SAARA has scheduled a Substance Use Disorder Advocacy Symposium to be held in Richmond on June 4th. To learn more about the symposium, see the events section below in this newsletter. If you want to register for the symposium, please hurry as half the seats for the event were reserved within 24 hours of the flyer being posted! If you cannot get a seat at the June 4th symposium, don’t worry, SAARA will include information from the symposium in the next newsletter and we plan to have more SUD Advocacy Symposiums in the future.  
In the fall, SAARA is partnering with Region IV for the 2019 Suicide Prevention & Substance Use Disorder conference. We are losing Virginians to suicide at an alarming rate because they become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and lose hope. There is hope! The loss of one life is one too many! We must get the word out that addiction is a treatable disorder.
As SAARA advocacy, programs and campaigns expand to meet needs in Virginia, so does our need for volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, call 804-762-4445 or email
I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming SAARA event…maybe the Advocacy Symposium in June or the Suicide Prevention and Substance Use Disorder Conference in the fall? Until then…
Together, we make a difference!
Kathy Harkey, MA-MPP, BSP, BMDS
Executive Director 

Where We've Been
Article ImageSpring into Recovery Gala
Kelsi Sober, SAARA's Communications and Development Specialist and Richard Howard, SAARA's Peer Recovery Specialist recently attended the Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare Spring into Recovery Gala in April. SAARA of Roanoke affiliate board member Maureen Murphy-Ryan and President, Liz Oliver played key roles in the making and success of the Gala. Numerous organizations participated in the Gala strengthening partnerships in the Roanoke area. 
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Virginia Affiliate of
the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Conference
Kathy Harkey and SAARA's Communications and Development Specialist, Kelsi Sober recently participated in the Virginia Affiliate of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (VAFCS) Conference. Kathy Harkey gave a presentation to educate the audience on Substance and Alcohol Use Disorders, advocacy, prevention, treatment, and recovery. 

Article ImageCrisis Intervention Team (CIT)
SAARA and Alive RVA Peer Recovery Specialist, Katherine McKenzie, presented the Voices of Recovery Program at the Henrico County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training. Katherine provided Henrico County police and emergency responders with information on addiction prevention and recovery. SAARA of Virginia's Voices of Recovery program introduces the audience to real people with lived experience of recovery from Substance and Alcohol Use Disorders. It is a 60-minute presentation that focuses on: Before Addiction, Addiction Years, and Life in Recovery. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is a community effort bringing together community members, first responders, and area stakeholders for the common goals of safety, understanding, and caring for the needs of those with Behavioral Health Disorders and their families. These community partners play a significant role in all aspects of Henrico County’s successful CIT program.
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Kathy Harkey, Hopewell City Mayor Jackie Shornak, and representatives from district 19 agencies recently served on a panel discussion at a Town Hall Meeting addressing opioids and prescription drug use in Hopewell.
Article ImageThe Victor Movie
Kelsi Sober, SAARA's Communications and Development Specialist and Richard Howard, SAARA's Peer Recovery Specialist were invited to attend the Henrico Theater for 'The Victor Movie', a film about a teenage boy and his struggle with Substance Use Disorder and finding his path to recovery. The movie is inspired by the true story of Victor Torres, the founder of New Life for Youth. Mr. Torres made a surprise appearance after the showing!
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Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board Opioid and Peer Recovery Symposium
SAARA had a high presence at the Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board Opioid and Peer Recovery Symposium. Members from all SAARA affiliates attended and led workshops to educate individuals on medication assisted recovery supports and collaborative peer supports. 

Substance Use Disorder & Addiction Advocacy Symposium
Join us to discuss
  • Barrier Crimes
  • Housing
  • Gaps in Services
  • Effective Advocacy
*Light Freshments will be served*
Tuesday, June 4th 2019
10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
SAARA of Virginia Conference Room
2000 Mecklenburg Street
Richmond, VA 23223
Spots are filling up fast! Click HERE to register.

Updates from SAARA Affiliates
SAARA of Northern Virginia recently participated in the Fairfax Adult Detention Center Resource Fair which gives inmates the opportunity to connect with community resources that are useful upon release. SAARA of Northern Virginia continues to help local and private sector agencies employ Peer Recovery Specialists through job posts on social media. 
SAARA of the Peninsula completed their first 6 week Peer Led Recovery Focused Group in the Newport News City Jail. Classes will begin again on April 29th for the next 6 week session. SAARA of the Peninsula continues to hold a monthly 'All Recovery' meeting at the Warwick SRO in downtown Newport News every 1st Wednesday of the month from 5:30 PM to 6:00 PM. 
SAARA of Central Virginia affiliate meetings are held the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 6:30 PM at the North Campus, 1700 Front Street, Richmond, VA 23222. Beginning this summer, speakers will be present at monthly meetings. SAARA of Central Virginia continues to be active in promoting Substance and Alcohol Use Disorder awareness and recovery. 
SAARA of Bay Counties has been very energetic in the month of April. Members of SAARA of Bay Counties led workshops to encourage Substance and Alcohol Use Disorder awareness in the community and reduce stigma. 
SAARA of Roanoke affiliates actively participated in the Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare Spring into Recovery Gala. At the event, SAARA of Roanoke had an exhibit table where they provided literature on Substance and Alcohol Use Disorders. 
Would you like to start an affiliate in your region? Reach out to

April Additions to Resource Library

REVIVE! Trainings
Opioid Overdose & Naloxone Education
Are you:
  • Currently using opioids such as heroin or prescription pain medications?
  • Abstinent from opioid use, but have used in the past?
  • A friend or family member of someone who currently uses opioids?
  • Working in a setting where opioid overdoses occur?
  • Interested in learning how to save life?
If so, then consider attending a REVIVE! training. Trainings are held at the SAARA Center 2000 Mecklenburg Street, Richmond VA 23223. 
The next Lay Rescuer Training will be held on May 9th from 10am - 12noon.
To register for trainings click here and select your preferred training date. 
How many lives have been saved from SAARA of Virginia's REVIVE Lay Rescuer Trainings? Click HERE to find out!

Peer Recovery Support Specialist Training
Congratulations to the graduates of SAARA's Spring Peer Recovery Support Specialist Training!
The next PRS Training at the SAARA Center will be held July 12th through July 19th. 
For more information visit our website or email

Alive RVA has received over 2,202 unique calls since its inception. We continue to see great success with each caller! For more information visit the AliveRVA website and Facebook
833-4PEERVA (833-473-3782)
8:00AM - Midnight, 7 Days a Week
Alive RVA is Supported 100% with a SAMHSA grant awarded to DBHDS #TI-17-014.

Story Corner
Stephanie started using drugs at a young age and quickly developed an addiction to opioids and Methamphetamine. Stephanie visited the SAARA Center in 2009, however did not stay for long because she admits she was not ready. Stephanie started attending the SAARA Center again in March 2018 and has been actively volunteering since. Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) has been a big part of her recovery. In late 2018, Stephanie began facilitating the Medically Assisted Recovery Support (MARS) Group at the SAARA Center. In facilitating MARS, Stephanie provides a safe, inclusive environment for others to share and learn more about MAT. 
While speaking with Stephanie about what was helpful in her recovery, Stephanie said, "The groups have been really helpful. I feel more comfortable sharing in SAARA groups than I do in 12-Step meetings. I love the SAARA Center because it is peer-based. I think being surrounded by others with lived experience has been the most beneficial for me. Everybody here has been so patient with me. They listen to me, instead of talking at me. They have never given up on me and continue to help guide me. Coming to the SAARA Center helped me successfully complete Richmond City Adult Drug Treatment Court. I also completed my Peer Recovery Support Specialist Training. SAARA helped me reach one year clean and I am so thankful for the support system I have here."

Support SAARA
Your donations allow us to continue our advocacy work and offer daily Peer Recovery opportunities at the SAARA Center.
Donations can be made payable to SAARA of Virginia and sent to 2000 Mecklenburg St. Richmond, VA 23223. Or, you can click HERE to donate online.
Don't want to mail a check or pay online? 
Consider becoming one of SAARA's Pledge Direct partners. Pledge Direct is a safe and easy way to send your gift to SAARA automatically each month. Your financial institution electronically transfers the amount you choose to SAARA from your checking account. Help us help those living with addiction reach recovery by enrolling in Pledge Direct. Simply click HERE for the enrollment form and mail it to SAARA of Virginia.

In the News

Statewide Educational Opportunities & Events
NAMI 'In our Voice' Program - Petersburg
April 30
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
For more information, call NAMI-CVA at (804) 285-1749
Spring 2019 SignUpNow Workshop - Richmond
May 2nd & 29th
For more information or to register, please visit
Addiction & The Brain: Innovative Approaches to Treatment
May 3rd
9:00 AM
Northstar Community Church
563 Southlake Blvd.
North Chesterfield, VA 23236
R.O.P.E (Reverse Overdose, Prevent & Educate) Program
May 15th
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Phoenix House
4 South Glebe Rd, 3rd Floor
Arlington, VA 22204
For more information, contact Ginny Atwood Lovitt at
2019 Annual Mental Health Recovery Conference: "The Evolution of Us"
May 20th & 21st
11:00 AM
For more information or to register click here
IPS Online Supervisor Skills Course
June 10th - August 17th
Click HERE for Course Description
Click HERE for Scholarship Contract Application
Registration open from April 26th to May 24th
For more information, contact Heather Peck at
Peer Recovery Specialist Training
PRS Training in Annandale
April 29, 30
May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Heritage Building
Training Room C, 1st Floor
7611 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003
For more information, contact Marjorie Yates at
PRS Training in Richmond
May 6th - 30th
2025 E Main Street
Richmond, VA 23223
Cost: $276
For more information, contact Craig Hedley at (804) 393-6914 or
PRS Training in Hampton
May 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26
June 1,2,8,9
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
For more information, contact Eddie Wiggins at (757) 637-8705 or
PRS Training in Roanoke
May 29th - June 1st
June 4th - 7th
429 Elm Ave
Roanoke, VA 24016
Application due 5/6/19
For more information or to obtain an application, contact Lisa Allagas at
PRS Training in Fredericksburg
June 3rd - 14th
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Bowman Center - Conference Room
3302 Bourbon Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22408
Application due by 5/23/19. 
Cost: $125
For more information, contact Joseph Stafford at
PRS Training Sponsored by NAMI-CVA
June 5th - July 31st
For more information, contact Jim Kochany at (804) 304-9797.

Do you have a training or community event you would like featured in our newsletter? Reach out to Kelsi Sober at

Job Opportunities
Peer Recovery Specialist - Chesapeake
Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare is seeking a Peer Specialist with lived Substance Use recovery experience. The Peer Recovery Specialist is an integral part of the Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare team and will be responsible for providing peer support services to individuals with substance use and/or mental health disorders in various settings, to include hospitals, courts, jails, and the community. Certification as a peer specialist in the state of Virginia is preferred but not required at time of hire. Great opportunity for the right candidate to complete hours toward certification! Please send resumes to Rebecca Choquette at
Probation Peer Support Coordinator (CPRS)
Mental Health America of Virginia is seeking to fill a 40 hour/week, 12 month position for a pilot project under contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections. Click HERE for full job details. Please send resume and statement of interest to by May 7, 2019. 
Peer Recovery Specialist - Winchester
This position requires an incumbent with lived experience of mental health treatment to work as a member of a community-based treatment team providing in-home services to clients with severe and persistent mental illness. Click HERE for a full job description. For more information, please contact Chris Fournier at
Click HERE to view employment opportunities at Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA).

Crush Stigma 

New Faces
SAARA welcomes Catie to the SAARA team. Catie volunteers at the SAARA Northern Virginia affiliate. She grew up in Fairfax Virginia and is currently a Sophmore majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences at Bridgewater College. Catie swam competitively for 15 years and represented her college swim team for 2 years. In her spare time, Catie loves watching hockey (Go Caps!), listening to music, and playing with her dogs. In the future, Catie hopes to obtain her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and work with children in underprivileged areas. 

Attention Kroger Shoppers!
SAARA of Virginia can receive donations when you shop at Kroger and use your loyalty card. To select SAARA of Virginia as your charity of choice please click HERE to create an online account. For further assistance linking your loyalty card, please visit customer service at your preferred Kroger location. SAARA appreciates your support of our mission. 

SAARA is seeking peer volunteers to be part of the Voices of Recovery Program and family member volunteers to lead a family support group. Volunteers are also needed to man SAARA exhibit tables at healthfairs. If you are interested, contact us at or call 804-762-4445. 

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Address postal inquiries to:
SAARA of Virginia Inc
2000 Mecklenburg St.
Richmond, VA 23223