Addiction help comes from those who fought it

Kim Mulford/Courier Post
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

VOORHEES - Kim Govak didn't realize it for decades, but her education in mental health, addiction, and recovery began at age 16. 

That's when she witnessed the shooting death of a close friend. The traumatic event led to depression and self-medication with alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. 

"I was sad all the time. I was depressed all the time," Govak said. But mental illness and addiction wasn't the end of her story. After roughly a dozen treatment attempts, and after digging down to the root of her trauma, the 49-year-old Williamstown resident is now 11 years into her recovery. 

Today, she is a certified recovery support practitioner for the Center For Family Services. She is part of a network of peers trained by the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, a program supported by funding from the NJ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. 

"Somebody was there for me when I felt my worst, when I was at my lowest, when I was caught up in self-loathing," said Govak, a program coordinator at the Living Proof Recovery Center in Voorhees. "I want to be there for that next person who's going to feel that same way and teach them, so they can be there for that next person."

The use of peer support has been growing in New Jersey, with new state contracts and job opportunities popping up throughout the state, noted Chrissy Schayer, director of Consumer Connections, the nonprofit's training program for people in recovery from mental illness and co-occuring addiction. Nearly 100 certified peers are working throughout the state in hospitals, community treatment centers, and supportive housing programs.

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