Our first priority at the MARS Project is to educate patients about opiate addiction, how medications work, and recovery. Many do not realize or have been told not to believe that opiate addiction is a chronic brain disease and not a symptom of a lack of character or moral fiber.
Located in Bronx, New York, the Medication Assisted Recovery Support Project (MARS) is a collaborative endeavor of the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates (NAMA) and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The program offers recovery support services to patients in the outpatient methadone treatment program. These services are designed and delivered by recovering peers who have a unique understanding of the challenges and opportunities one encounters on the road to recovery. The services provided by MARS complement those provided in the treatment program, focusing on giving participants the tools they need to be more effective facilitators of their own recovery and affirming that they are, indeed, bona fide members of the recovery community, and not individuals who are, as a common myth has it, substituting one addiction for another.
As of December 31, 2010, the MARS project served 532 individuals for six months and, as a result of the program, many participants’ lives were improved. The program was able to:
- Nearly triple employment;
- Decrease homelessness by more than 20 percent; and
- Increase the rate of abstinence from drugs and alcohol by 26 percent.
MARS is proud to be the first program that serves persons in medication-assisted recovery to receive a Recovery Community Services Program grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA). These grants are made available to peer-led organizations that provide community-based recovery support services, such as recovery coaching, peer mentoring, housing and employment support. Through the MARS program, we teach those we serve that there are many pathways to recovery, and that all are worthy of celebration.
Walter Ginter is Project Director at the Medication Assisted Recovery Support (MARS) Project