R.O.S.S. making waves in Cullman with boots-on-the-ground approach to recovery

Members of the R.O.S.S. team include, left to right, Reggie Flowers, Tammy Williams, Shane Tidwell, Amanda Townsend, Tamra Pierce and Carole Waddell. (Contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Recovery Organization of Support Specialists (R.O.S.S.) is changing the standard approach to the multifaceted issue of drug and alcohol dependency in 39 counties across Alabama. R.O.S.S., the first completely peer-run program in the state funded by the Alabama Department of Mental Health, seeks to advocate, empower and collaborate with individuals seeking recovery.

It operates a 24-hour support hotline, recovery-based community centers and several mentorship programs with a twist- all advocates and peer specialists have “walked the walk” of recovery and sobriety.

R.O.S.S. Outreach Supervisor Shane Tidwell said, “We are the people we serve.” The organization requires all of its advocates and peer support specialists to have maintained at least two years of sobriety.

In 2021 in the Birmingham area alone, the organization took 11,400 calls and served more than 26,000 people.

R.O.S.S. peer support specialists bridge the gap between treatment options and those who need and want help by meeting their clients where they’re at. Tidwell said the fentanyl epidemic is a driving factor in R.O.S.S.’ boots-on-the-ground approach. “Understanding that right now, it doesn’t matter if they’re someone with a substance use disorder or someone who just experiments, a lot of them are dying. Even first-time users. What seems to be a normal experimental drug use turns out to be fentanyl.”

Tidwell said there are multiple factors contributing to the increasing rate of addiction and overdoses in Alabama, sharing, “Substance use disorder is not cut and dry. It’s like cancer, you know, there’s stages. Some may be on the high end of the spectrum of use, some may be on the low end.”

R.O.S.S. is aiming to shift the stigma of those seeking recovery. “If we can get the public to understand it as a true medical issue, then we can do something better than what we’re doing,” said Tidwell. “That’s one of our main jobs is to educate the community. I’m not here to change your mind, I’m here to give facts.”

If you or someone you love needs help, contact R.O.S.S. at 844-307-1760 or 205-848-2112. Learn more at https://ross4u.org.

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