Service Providers in Recovery & Harm Reduction: The challenges and rewards

service provider

Supporting people who use drugs requires a recognition of the multiple pathways of recovery that are possible. A harm reduction approach is a central ingredient in helping people define their own recovery. Service providers with lived experience are often the most well-equipped to develop the therapeutic relationship necessary to use this approach, yet may have been drawn to this work through an abstinence-based recovery journey. This session explores how staff in recovery utilize lived experience to support substance users in harm reduction spaces. It addresses the challenges staff encounter in the field and how organizations can support them. Presenters will lead a discussion with attendees about how lived experience impacts their work as service providers.


12:45-1:00 PM | Virtual training room opens
1:00-1:10 PM   | Welcome & introductions
1:10-1:25  PM  | Presenter backgrounds, lived experience, and impact of social locations
1:25-1:50 PM   |  Create common language by defining terminology
1:50-2:05 PM   | Benefits & strengths of staff with lived experience
2:05-2:15 PM   | Break
2:15-2:30 PM   |  Challenges experienced by staff with lived experience
2:30-2:40 PM  |  Organizational support through challenges
2:40-3:00 PM  | Discussion & community sharing
3:00-3:15 PM  | Final thoughts, Q&A

Learning objectives
When attendees return to the workplace, they will be able to:

  • Describe the benefits staff in recovery bring to harm reduction work
  • Identify three potential challenges staff in recovery may encounter in harm reduction work
  • Recognize the support needs of staff in recovery working as harm reduction service providers

Target Audience: Social service providers and helping professionals with direct client contact, including case managers, peer specialists, and clinical supervisors, as well as agency administrators and policy-makers.
Social Work Practice Level: This course is appropriate for beginner and intermediate BSW/ MSW learners.
Course Delivery Format: Live webinar
Interactivity: This course will offer 15 minutes of Q&A time, as well as real-time polling, and group discussion prompts. 
Social Work Continuing Education Credit: 2 CE Credits*
Fees: $20 general registration; additional $5 for registration with social work CE credit. 

Registration includes access to the live event and recording, PDF of slides, and relevant training tip sheets/resources.

Session Facilitators:

Joe Quinn, CPS
MAT Care Manager
Pathways to Housing PA

Joe Quinn, CPS (he/him), joined Pathways to Housing PA in 2017 as a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS). For four years, he worked with the agency's initial non-fidelity Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team focused specifically on individuals with a primary diagnosis of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). As the first organization to utilize a scattered-site Housing First model for the OUD population, Joe made significant contributions to Pathways' development of best practices for serving these individuals, leading to the development of two more OUD-focused teams in 2020 and 2021. In 2021, Joe joined the Center of Excellence at Pathways to Housing PA as a Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) Care Manager, where he now assists participants agency-wide with accessing MAT and MOUD services. Joe also has six years of experience as a CPS at an outpatient facility.


Rob Wetherington, MA 
Director of Community Inclusion & Advocacy
Pathways to Housing PA

Rob Wetherington, MA (he/him), joined Pathways to Housing PA in 2012 to develop art programming to foster connections between staff and participants. Having spent more than fifteen years in homeless services both as an employee and volunteer, Rob’s emphasis has been to help people re-imagine their lives through the arts, peer support, and clinical services. Rob has helped to build the Community Inclusion and Advocacy Department at Pathways, which acts as a conduit to community resources and strives to support participants living in the community like everyone else. Partnering with the clinical teams, the department assesses activities participants want to explore and bridges participants to the community. Rob earned a BFA in Art Education from Old Dominion University and an MA in Urban Studies at Eastern University.


Andrew Spiers, LSW
Director of Training & Technical Assistance
Housing First University

Andrew Spiers, MSS, LSW (he/him), is the Director of Training and Technical Assistance for Pathways to Housing PA’s Housing First University. Andrew joined Pathways in early 2018 and served as an Assistant Team Leader and Team Leader before launching Housing First University in October 2019. Andrew holds a Master of Social Service from Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, where he concentrated in Community Practice, Policy, & Advocacy. He has taught Human Services and Sociology courses as an adjunct professor at Harcum College and conducted trainings and workshops all over the country on Housing First, harm reduction, and affirming care for LGBTQ+ communities.