Thrive Peer Recovery Services brings a personal touch to addiction and mental health treatment

SOLON, Ohio — Eight years ago, businessman Brian Bailys, who was recovering from drug addiction, suffered a major relapse and ended up in hospital.

“I crashed and burned,” is how he describes it.

During his treatment, he met someone who had been through the same things as him and who offered him a glimmer of hope for recovery.

“It’s a peer who made me smile; he’s a peer who gave me my confidence back,” said Chagrin Falls resident Bailys.

He was the lucky one. Of the seven people he was in treatment with, six relapsed again within 90 days. He knows at least two who are dead.

“There has to be a better way,” he realized.

From her own experience and research, Bailys realized that peer support was the missing piece of the recovery puzzle.

In 2018, he founded Thrive Peer Recovery Services, which has seen tremendous growth and success in reaching people struggling with addiction.

The company started with six employees who had contact with 272 customers in the first year.

Today, it has 150 employees who worked with nearly 4,000 clients last year, providing service in 66 counties across Ohio.

Thrive is poised to provide even more mental health help and will launch a statewide call center this month.

The difference at Thrive is that it uses “people in recovery helping people in recovery,” Bailys explained. “They’ve been through hell and back and they know what it’s like.”

This allows the peer helper to build trust with a client “almost instantly,” Bailys said.

These peer helpers work throughout the community, including in 24 hospitals and emergency rooms, as well as in courts, prisons and other places where a person might be ready to consider recovering from violence.

Rondye Brown is one such peer helper. He grew up in a family marred by drug addiction and fell into a lifestyle that led him to prison, institutions, and attempted suicide.

As he hit rock bottom, “I was tired of being tired,” Brown offers in a promotional video. “Thrive saved my life.”

And now he and others are giving back.

In the video, Nicole Knight said “I was the living dead” before she began her own recovery.

She has been drug-free for five and a half years and has worked for Thrive for nearly four years, reaching out to customers everywhere from the county jail to the local McDonald’s.

Thrive helps anyone, anywhere, Knight said.

Give a hand

The need is great.

The Centers for Disease Control ranks Ohio fifth among states for its addiction rate. In 2021, the state set a record with 4,083 overdose deaths.

Nearly 20% of Ohioans report heavy drinking and 2.3 million suffer from mental illness.

Bridgette Lewis, co-founder of Thrive with Bailys, said she chose the name because she wanted their clients to have a better life.

What makes a good peer counsellor?

“Passion for mission,” Bailys said. “Someone who is empathetic, hardworking. This is a difficult work.”

Being “understanding, compassionate and open-minded” is also important, Knight said.

Peer counselors must be clean and sober for one year. They follow 40 hours of state-qualified training, supplemented by continuing education.

Intake specialist Margaret Schramm said Thrive individualizes the client’s treatment plan rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We believe in all avenues of recovery,” Bailys added.

Even if a client relapses, they know they can call and get help, Schramm said.

The message gets through. About three-quarters of clients contacted enroll in some form of treatment, Bailys said.

Thrive has seen many people rebuild their lives. Five of their peer advisers were once clients. Bailys’ son Brandon, who has had his own struggle with mental health issues, is Thrive’s clinical director.

Thrive offers a mental health issues hotline in Cuyahoga, Clark, Green, and Madison counties. It also provides support to survivors of human trafficking and assistance to those released from incarceration.

This year, Thrive was awarded a two-year, $800,000 state contract to operate a hotline that will address mental health issues for children and young adults 20 and under and their families.

In addition to the human side, promoting recovery can save a lot of money. A Texas study found that peer counseling saved $3.4 million in health care costs, a 72% reduction over 12 months.

Bailys said he wanted to take his business nationally and become the benchmark for peer support.

Thrive built its success on one major element, Bailys said.

“At the end of the day, it’s the people,” he said. “We have an incredible team.”

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