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A new grant will help combat addiction in the Roanoke Valley

Roanoke was among 10 metro areas with the cleanest air in the country according to the new report from the American Lung Association.
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The more than $1.4 million dollar grant will be paid out over four years.

Opioid addiction continues to take lives across the country and here in Virginia. A new grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will provide resources in the Roanoke Valley to meet the need for help.

For Niles Comer, addiction hits close to home.

“I mean, I’m in recovery. And two of my brothers died from addiction and my father died from alcoholism. So, it’s personal.” 

He’s the director of the Roanoke Valley Collective Response. He says that addiction rates have only gone up since the beginning of the pandemic. And for every person who deals with the issue, there are several others around them – most often loved ones – that are also impacted.

Comer says peer recovery specialists – people who have gone through addiction themselves – are vital to helping others.

“Data is showing that there is a very profound efficiency of using people who are in recovery from addiction to work with people who are in that beginning phases of recovery," he explains. "Kind of like veterans working with vets with PTSD. Nobody can understand combat except those who have been in it. So it’s kind of like nobody can understand addiction like those who have gone through it.” 

With the help of a more than $1.4 million dollar grant to be paid out over four years, Comer will be able to hire a coordinator and a handful of certified peer recovery specialists.

They’ll work with area first responders during overdose reversal calls.

The effort will boost those already underway by the Roanoke Valley Collective Response and other area organizations. Comer is hopeful the program could be a model for other communities in Virginia and across the country.

Nick Gilmore is a meteorologist, news producer and reporter/anchor for RADIO IQ.