Apprentices at Parent Support Network of Rhode Island Training on Zoom

Apprentices at Parent Support Network of Rhode Island training on Zoom.

New Registered Apprenticeships Are Preparing Rhode Islanders to Provide Services to Address the Opioids Crisis

Rhode Island was hit hard by the national opioids crisis. The need for trained high-quality community based health workers rapidly outpaced the existing workforce.  Building Futures partnered with community organizations to register and sponsor new apprenticeship programs for Community Health Workers and Peer Recovery Specialists. Parent Support Network of Rhode Island (PSN) and the Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) took advantage of the technical assistance provided through Building Futures’ Apprenticeship RI initiative to develop Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Through Registered Apprenticeship, Rhode Island is gaining workers skilled in supporting individuals and communities in opioid prevention and recovery. This effort continues to be vitally needed, as early data indicates that substance use, overdoses, and opioid-related deaths are again on the rise during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

At RIPIN, 21 apprentices are on a path to completing their certifications as Community Health Workers in specialty programs that serve families and adults across the lifespan, from expecting parents, to early intervention, to helping older adults manage care and safely stay at home. Four individuals have already completed their apprenticeships.

“The Community Health Worker Apprenticeship program uniformly supports our staff in gaining their Community Health Worker certifications and in building the skills needed to meet families where they are at. All of our apprentices are here to serve the community. Registered Apprenticeship gives people the means to gain skills, training, and certifications to best serve the families we work with.” says Angela Evans-Ortiz, Human Resources Manager at RIPIN.

At the end of the 18-month Registered Apprenticeship, staff at RIPIN are certified Community Health Workers and already have a wealth of on-the-job experience to support their new careers. All RIPIN Community Health Worker Apprentices receive Building Futures’ Opioids Training and are training in Chronic Pain Management. This unique combination allows apprentices across programs offered at RIPIN to gain skills necessary to promote prevention of opioids and other substance dependence and assist individuals in accessing treatment and recovery services.

An apprentice at Parent Support Network conducting community outreach.

Parent Support Network of Rhode Island developed a dual certification Registered Apprenticeship to support their staff as well as staff from many other local community-based organizations. At the end of the apprenticeship, staff gain certifications as Peer Recovery Specialists and Community Health Workers. 30-35 apprentices are working throughout the diverse programs the Parent Support Network offers, including

  • Statewide street outreach targeting opioid hotspots to offer education, support, and Narcan in partnership with Miriam Hospital;
  • Ongoing mutual aid groups and one-on-one support for people in detox and recovery at their recovery community centers in Westerly and Middletown;
  • Support for pregnant women and parents of children with pre-natal substance abuse exposure as a partner with the Governor’s Overdose Task Force working group; and,
  • Direct community support to individuals struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges, among others at risk or involved with child welfare and the justice system.

“Our apprentices come from all walks of life and are working in communities across Rhode Island. The common denominator is their lived experience, commitment to long-term recovery, and a desire to serve others,” said Lisa Conlan Lewis, Executive Director at Parent Support Network of Rhode Island.

The apprenticeship program at PSN is a 2000-hour program, inclusive of on-the-job learning and classroom instruction. Apprentices at PSN gain additional specialty training related to their specific program from outreach to earning certification as a doula. Parent Support Network is getting ready to welcome a new cohort of apprentices in October 2020.

Learn About Our Opioids Crisis Training and Strategy