In 2021, we again issued a call for nominations for three recovery award categories:
Recovery Advocate: An individual who has worked to change policy or public opinion about addiction and recovery
Recovery Caregiver: An individual who provides outstanding direct care to people with addiction/people seeking recovery (e.g., recovery supports, counselors, case managers, medical professionals, first responders, and more)
Recovery Pathway Supporter: An individual who has worked to broaden the range of recovery pathways available in the greater Pittsburgh area (e.g., someone who has worked to promote MAT, harm reduction, alternative peer support groups, etc.)
Here are the 2021 winners.
RECOVERY ADVOCATE: JANET ASTLE
Janet K. Astle, B.S. Pharm, Ed.D., R.Ph. is the Assistant Dean for Student Services for the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy. In her role at Duquesne, she has placed a special emphasis on substance use disorders and is helping to create a new generation of competent, compassionate health professionals.
Each January, she helps coordinate an Interprofessional Substance Use Disorder Awareness Program that is required for students enrolled in the pharmacy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant programs. In 2019, she received a grant from the AmerisourceBergen Foundation/Opioid Resource for the development of a Substance Use Disorder Certificate program for healthcare professionals and students that explores addiction as an illness, the role of stigma as a barrier to treatment, and the identification and referral for at-risk patients. Since its creation, over 700 health professionals have enrolled in the certificate program. A second Certificate Program that examines the treatment of substance use disorders and alternative approaches to pain management is launching September 2021.
Furthermore, she trains students to be advocates. Since 2012, she has led pharmacy students on a class trip to Washington, D.C to discuss policy issues with legislators. Recent visits have focused on the pharmacist’s role in addressing the opioid crisis, prescription drug take back programs, naloxone as rescue medication, and Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.
Her nomination said simply: “Janet’s dedication to serving students and the community is evident in everything that she does.”
RECOVERY CAREGIVER: KRISTA FLAHERTY
Krista Flaherty, LCSW, MSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and manager of the Allegheny Health Network Perinatal Hope Program. She provides care for pregnant people and new parents with substance use disorders, a population that faces an extraordinary degree of stigma.
Perinatal Hope provides patients with medications for opioid use disorder, in addition to OB-GYN care and support with social needs. Krista has sought out resources and funding to ensure Perinatal Hope patients have necessary baby items.
At Perinatal Hope, Krista leads a team that includes nurse practitioners, social workers, and other medical providers. She also collaborates with numerous entities outside her program to ensure that her patients receive appropriate healthcare and additional services. In just a few years, she has expanded the program beyond Allegheny County and now provides services at eight locations in southwest Pennsylvania.
Krista’s nomination describes her as a “strong advocate for women’s health” and a “voice of reason” who “continuously strives to keep women and their children connected.”
RECOVERY PATHWAY SUPPORTER: RACHEL SHUSTER
Rachel Shuster, BSN, RN, CARN, CAAP is a registered nurse in long-term recovery who supports recovery pathways as both an addiction professional and as an advocate who is committed to transparency and recovering out loud.
In her professional life, Rachel is a Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN) and a Certified Allied Addiction Practitioner (CAAP). She has worked for UPMC Center for Opioid Recovery, Silvermist Recovery, and Gateway Health Plan, where she currently serves as an Addiction Specialist. In all of these roles, Rachel has utilized her knowledge as an addictions nurse–as well as her lived experience–to advocate for her patients and provide education to healthcare professionals less experienced in substance use and recovery.
Rachel regularly shares her recovery story with the public, including professional conferences, speaking engagements at high schools and colleges, and media interviews. She always makes it clear that she supports all recovery pathways and recognizes the value of individualized recovery. As her recovery journey has evolved from abstinence and a 12-step program into a more holistic approach, she has continued to share her journey. In doing this, Rachel has been able to connect with others who have left 12-step recovery, assisting them in feeling seen, validated, and connected.
Rachel’s nomination applauds her ongoing work to “dispel myths, eliminate stigma, question biases, and fight discrimination.”