What is peer recovery? Why is it so important to someone living with a substance use condition? And what does it mean to be a peer recovery specialist? RIDOH spoke with Kayla Serrano about her dual role in outreach and workforce development.
Michela “Kayla” Serrano provides a welcoming presence from behind the main desk at PSNRI’s Warwick office. As PSNRI’s Workforce Development Coordinator, Kayla helps parents in recovery with the all-important task of connecting them to job skills training. She also provides support to those who enroll in PSNRI’s training to become dual certified as a Peer Recovery Specialist and Community Health Worker.
Kayla, a mother of two, has been working in peer recovery since 2021, a job that she says she landed due to a “a stroke of luck.” She has held jobs in the medical field but is also a survivor of domestic violence, has experienced homelessness, and grew up with a mother who has a mental health and a substance use condition.
Kayla took PSNRI’s 70-hour training to become dual certified as a Peer Recovery Specialist/Community Health Worker. It led to a job she has a passion for and one she thinks she was called to do – encouraging and supporting others. “I love seeing the look on someone’s face when they graduate from our dual certification program,” she says.
Kayla notes the importance of the PSNRI peer recovery specialists to have “lived” experience when providing outreach and support to people who are actively using drugs or other substances and are homeless. “It’s totally different to have walked in those shoes. To understand why some people feel better sleeping in a tent in the woods than in a shelter because of the things that go on sometimes. It helps with gaining trust.”
Kayla says she loves the PSNRI community and her work with the organization, especially “the feeling that I get when I know we have helped someone.” She adds, “We cannot fill every need but we can damn sure try!”
For more information on recovery resources in Rhode Island, visit PreventOverdoseRI.org