Banner Image
The SAARA Advocate
January 2020
From Our Executive Director Article Image
Dear SAARA Friends & Family,
I wanted to send you a personal note to let you know that I am leaving my position at SAARA on February 21, 2020. I will be starting my new position as Executive Director of NAMI Virginia on February 24, 2020.
I sincerely appreciate having had the opportunity to work with you. My time at SAARA has been a valuable experience in my professional life. I have seen the lives of individuals living with substance use disorder transformed through this amazing organization.
My deepest thanks is extended to the SAARA board of directors, affiliates, members, and partners for allowing me the privilege to serve SAARA. I also send heartfelt thanks to SAARA’s contributors whose generosity continues to strengthen our momentum in growth and progress.
During this time of transition, SAARA’s selection committee is engaged in the search for the next leader to continue SAARA’s forward progress. Please do not hesitate to reach out to SAARA with any questions.
Together we make a difference!
Kathy Harkey, MA-MPP, BSP, BSMDS
Executive Director 

SAARA is hard at work in support of substance use disorder legislation and services. SAARA is actively supporting 2020 legislation for expungement. Week after week, we hear about people living in recovery who are struggling to find employment and housing due to drug related felony convictions. We do not believe that people living in recovery should be punished for life due to a drug related felony. Lifelong punishment is very real in Virginia if a drug related felony hinders one from supporting his or her family and becoming a contributing member of society. 
SAARA is also supporting legislation for social services benefits such as TANF and food stamps for people with drug related felonies. SAARA understands that social service benefits are a valuable resource for many individuals on the recovery journey. These benefits are designed to help people in times of need. Individuals with drug related felonies should not be denied these supportive services. 
Peer Recovery Specialist Medicaid reimbursement rates are currently $26 per hour in Virginia, or $6.50 per 15 minute increment. SAARA believes this rate needs to be increased and is currently working with collaborative partners in Virginia to have the rate raised. 
Rest assured, SAARA is on top of the issues that affect individuals and families affected by substance use disorder. We serve Virginians daily with the purpose of creating positive change. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you are interested in advocacy or have questions about policy initiatives.
Click HERE, for more information on SAARA's Advocacy Efforts. 

Article Image
 Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Advocacy Day 2020
Each year Mental Health (MH) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Advocates from across Virginia converge at the Virginia General Assembly to voice their support for policies and funding that benefit people living with MH and SUD. Make your voice heard! Join others affected by MH and SUD as we urge legislators to support policies that promote recovery.
Together we make a difference!
February 5, 2020
Check in begins at 7:30 AM

Meeting Point
University of Richmond
626 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219

For additional information,
contact Sophie Fontaine or
(804) 285-8264.

SAARA of Danville President, Rhonda Aherron
Article Image
"I've lived in Danville, Virginia all of my life. My husband, Gary and I have three children and four grandchildren. I've worked as Marketing Manager at Womack Electric Supply for the last 21 years. My passion truly lines up with SAARA'S Vision! There are a lot of positive things happening in our city. The addition of a SAARA Affiliate will only add to it!"
SAARA of Danville Vice-President, Helen McKenzie
Article Image
"I found myself at the age of forty-five facing a huge prison sentence, that a spiral of destructive behaviors had led me too. I was introduced to a twelve step recovery program the first time in my life. Once I began to hear my life story, I began to understand that recovery is an inside job. Today with over 10 years clean, I am an advocate for all people seeking a better way of life.
In the last 10 years, I have not only stayed sober. I returned to school to get my Bachelors in Business, and have been on my job 9-plus years. My employer is retiring and I am going to take over the company. I have had my rights restored as a convicted felon and serve as an officer of the election during voting season. I volunteer at the county jail and the mental health hospital through a service called H&I. I visit with inmates and patients to share hope for change and show them that recovery is possible. Recovery has given me confidence that I never thought I would have and a life I did not believe was possible, I get involved any way I can. When it was presented to me to start a SAARA affiliate in Danville, I was all in!"

Where We've Been
The Governor's Budget Hearing
(Pictured; Jason Cox, Robyn Hantelman, Carrie Parnell, Kathy Harkey, Kelsi Sober, & Jeff McGhee)
A few members of the SAARA and Alive RVA team attended the Governor's Budget Hearing. They advocated for continued funds and services for those impacted by Substance Use Disorder. They also requested support of 2020 house bills on expungement.
Are you interested in advocating? Visit the SAARA website to learn more about SAARA's involvement in State Legislation and how you can get involved! To review the bills SAARA of Virginia supports in the 2020 general assembly session, click HERE.

Advocacy Training
Congratulations to the participants who completed the SAARA of Virginia Advocacy Training. SAARA of the Peninsula affiliate leaders and members joined in on the launch of SAARA's first Advocacy Training held in Hampton, VA. SAARA’s Advocacy Training is an 8-hour program that provides advocacy skills and knowledge to empower individuals affected by substance use disorder. Are you interested in attending SAARA's next Advocacy Training? Click HERE to register.

Family Reunification
Chesterfield Probation and Parole hosted a family reunification event with a guest speaker who shared his powerful story and experiences in becoming a returning citizen. SAARA of Virginia, Alive RVA and several other community partners were present to offer families information on available resources for their loved ones re-entering society. 

SAARA's Resource Library
SAARA's Resource Library is currently under construction. Resources are being updated and the page is being redesigned to make finding useful information easier. If you have a resource you would like included in the SAARA Resource Library, please contact Kelsi Sober at 

SAARA's Blog
Recently published, the SAARA Blog features the lastest research and news surrounding Substance Use Disorder. 

Affiliates Corner
SAARA of Northern Virginia continues to promote Substance Use Disorder and Recovery awareness in the community.
SAARA of Bay Counties has connected with several churches in the community who would like to join the affiliate in their efforts to spread awareness on Substance Use Disorder and Recovery.
SAARA of the Peninsula members will be participating in the upcoming SAARA Advocacy Training led by current Executive Director, Kathy Harkey. 
SAARA of Central Virginia affiliate meetings are held every second Tuesday of the month at 6:00 PM at the North Campus, 1700 Front Street, Richmond, VA 23222.
SAARA of Charlottesville President, Sherri Cotten would like to share her Facebook Blog and YouTube Channel so individuals can see what a mother's journey through addiction and recovery looks like.
SAARA of Greater Roanoke Valley held an affiliate meeting on January 22, 2020 at 5:00 PM in the Blue Ridge Behavioral Health Community Room.
SAARA of Washington County is seeking to expand affiliate board membership. If you are interested in joining, please email
SAARA of Southside Hampton Roads is expanding their advocacy efforts and reaching more people.
SAARA of Danville meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of every month at 6:00 PM, at 1322 Piney Forest Road, Danville, VA 24540. 
Would you like to start an affiliate in your region? Email us at
Want to join a SAARA Affiliate? Contact Kelsi Sober at (804) 762-4445 or email

Voices of Recovery Training
Do you want to become a SAARA Voices of Recovery presenter? If so, this training is for you!
Learn to tell your story to create positive change in your community. This training teaches how to effectively tell your story in 3 powerful segments, Before Addiction, Addiction Years, and Life in Recovery. SAARA's Voices of Recovery train the presenter training provides participants with tools and skills to present their story and spread addiction awareness in the community. This training and all materials are provided free of charge.
Join Us
March 6th, 2020
12:00 PM - 4:00 PM
SAARA Center Conference Room
2000 Mecklenburg Street
Richmond, VA 23223
Click HERE to register. 

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. Training's are held at the SAARA Center, 2000 Mecklenburg Street, Richmond VA 23223. 
The next Lay Rescuer Training will be held on March 12th from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM.
To register for trainings click HERE and select your preferred training date. 

SAARA Recovery Groups
Many Peer-to-Peer recovery groups meet daily at the SAARA Center. There are 10 total recovery based groups which include: All Recovery, Letting Go, Life Skills, Women’s Recovery, Men’s Recovery, Early Recovery, MARS Recovery, Addictive Thinking, Resource Time, and Marijuana Recovery.
Visit the SAARA website to learn more about our daily groups and review our schedule. 

Recovery is Possible!
"Addiction is not the entirety of me. I am me; I am not just my addiction. There is a lot of other stuff to love." - Ryan Sachse

Volunteer of the Month
"The SAARA Center is a great place to come for recovery. I love the staff and peers. We are like family. I enjoy helping out at the SAARA Center. Volunteering helps me in my recovery to stay clean and sober. Go SAARA of Virginia!"
-Cory Walker

In the News

Pharmacy Drop Box
SAARA supports drop boxes in every pharmacy. Learn how you can help advocate for safe drug disposal by clicking HERE.

Statewide Educational Opportunities & Events
2020 Mental Health Advocacy Day
February 5th
7:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Virginia General Assembly Building
900 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
For more information or to register, click HERE
Oxford Houses of Virginia
2020 State Convention
February 7th - 9th
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Doubletree by Hilton
1021 Koger Center Blvd
Richmond, VA 23235
Peer Recovery Specialist Training
PRS Training in Warsaw
February 3rd - 12th
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Warsaw Bay Transit
111 Commerce Parkway
Conference Room
Warsaw, VA 22572
Cost: FREE
For more information, contact Barry Travis at (804) 210-1619. 
PRS Training in Lynchburg
February 10th
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Roads to Recovery
2600 Memorial Ave Suite 107
Lynchburg, VA 24501
Cost: Unknown - Contact Trainer
For more information, contact Mark Bogia at or (434) 455-0053.
PRS Training in Roanoke
February 17th
8:45 AM - 5:00 PM
Location TBD
Cost: Unknown - Contact Trainer
For more information, contact Maureen Murphy-Ryan (540) 655-3213. 
PRS Training in Midlothian
April 4th - June 6th (Saturdays)
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Bon Secour St. Francis Cancer Center
13710 St. Francis Blvd
Midlothian, VA 23114
Cost: $330
For more information, contact Jim Kochany at or (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
Director of Children & Youth Programs
The Director of Children and Youth Programs is responsible for managing NAMI Virginia’s programs for parents and caregivers who have children and youth with mental health needs, as well as youth and young adults with mental health or co-occurring needs. More specifically, this person will utilize the array of NAMI programs and the infrastructure of NAMI’s local affiliates to support the growth and development of the Virginia Family Network (VFN), a statewide grassroots family network executed on behalf of the state by NAMI Virginia. In addition, this person will oversee and support the Youth and Young Adult Programs Coordinator in the development and growth of Youth MOVE (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) Virginia, a similar statewide grassroots network for youth and young adults with mental health or co-occurring needs. If you are interested, please email a resume, cover letter, and three professional references to
ARTS Supervisor
DMAS is seeking talented individuals who can align their experience with the mission of the agency and its’ core values- service, collaboration, trust, problem solving and adaptability. DMAS has a unique opportunity that will be responsible for supervising a staff of professionals that provide expertise, consultation and policy interpretation for all Medicaid and FAMIS covered substance use disorder treatment and co-occurring mental health services. The successful candidate will have a comprehensive knowledge of behavioral health and related needs of Medicaid and FAMIS enrolled children and adults, and health and human services systems in Virginia, with emphasis on substance use disorders and evidence-based treatment. Comprehensive knowledge of Medicaid funded behavioral health services and the service delivery system, including aspects of managed care. To apply, visit  
Probation Peer Facilitators
Mental Health America of Virginia is seeking to contract with Peer Recovery Specialists (PRS) to facilitate recovery groups for adults under state probation supervision. A total of 4 facilitators are needed: 2 to work in Wytheville/Galax area, 2 to work in Winchester/Front Royal area. Portsmouth. For more information, click HERE. To apply, send resume and a statement of interest to Eddie Wiggins at
Operations Manager
The Operations Manager is an integral part of the administrative functioning of the Executive Office. This position entails a significant amount of responsibility, and as such, requires strong experience and an overall sense of stewardship from its incumbent. This position effectively combines a number of traditional jobs including those of bookkeeper, human resources manager, administrative assistant, office manager, receptionist, facilities manager, and senior management team participant. Strong interpersonal and communications are a must; trustworthiness and integrity are essential. For more information, click HERE. To apply, email cover letter, resume, and a minimum of three references to
Click HERE to view employment opportunities at Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA).

Alive RVA has received over, 4,173 unique calls since its inception. We continue to see great success with each caller! For more information visit the Alive RVA 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.

Tell Your Story
Make your voice heard by sharing your recovery story and putting a face on Substance Use Disorder.
Would you like to share you story? Click HERE to download SAARA's Tell Your Story word document. Once completed, please email to Kelsi Sober at

SAARA is seeking volunteers for peer groups, family groups, and health fairs. If you are interested in volunteering email or call 804-762-4445. 

Support SAARA
Your donations allow us to continue our advocacy work and offer daily Peer Recovery opportunities at the SAARA Center. There are several ways you can support SAARA. Click HERE, to learn how you can contribute. 

Would you like to forward this email to a friend? Click here.
Remove my name from all future mass email communications:

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