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University of Arizona's Project FUTRE aims to help families struggling with substance abuse

Project futre at the University of Arizona
Posted at 6:55 AM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 14:59:47-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — With the continued spread of the opioid epidemic, there's a program at University of Arizona Health Sciences that aims to support children and families who are impacted by substance use disorders.

It's called Project FUTRE, which stands for Families Uplifted Through Recovery Education, is a program that trains people in the community with lived experiences to help support the families. Allison Huff, one of the program's leaders said when families are struggling, each person on their team plays an important role.

"A family support specialist is a critical part of a inter-professional team, an integrated team where there is a psychiatrist, or a psychologist a counselor a case worker and then there’s a behavior health para professional," she said.

The program consists of two parts: level one certification training and level two apprenticeship. Level one trainees study for 6 months for about five to 10 hours a week with hands on practice. Level two trainees are placed in a year long, 40 hour a week apprenticeship program with one of the project's partner agencies, which includes COPE Community Services and Banner Whole Health Clinic.

Because the trainees have lived through their own or their family's struggles with substance abuse, they are able to provide a different kind of support for families. Huff said it's important to look at the family as a whole when it comes to substance abuse recovery.

“Not only is the family effected by the person with the substance disorder but the families also influence the recovery process," Huff said.

For level 2 trainee Kevin Phillips, this program was perfect for him.

“I went through a lot of this with my family and I wasn’t working at the time and I was like 'wow someone made a program just for me',” Phillips said.

He is completing his apprenticeship at COPE Community Services and he said the program set him up for success, creating lasting change with the families.

“Every day I'm putting into practice what I learned here, when I'm meeting with kids, families,” he said.

The program is in the middle of its third cohort now and has already graduated 21 para-professionals. Huff said this is also help filling the gap in the mental health field.

"The opioid epidemic has really become a grave situation here in pima county and what we’re filling a gap in the workforce,” Huff said.

The program's instructor Rita Romero said a training program and family support specialists like this aren't very common.

"Especially with the family support role, we’re still trying to develop what that looks like especially in Pima County, especially within the medicaid system," Romero said.

The applications are open for the next cohort that begins training in August. Romero said they'll be moving to a hybrid model, instead of being completely online like they were in the last year. Interested applicants can find the application here.