ARI End-Of-Year Highlights

In our 2023 recap, we want to acknowledge all of those we work with every day to help make the Addiction Research Institute possible. We thank everyone for believing in our mission to generate system change, along the addiction recovery continuum, through innovative research, education and training, advocacy, and partnerships. We conduct rigorous, transdisciplinary, and translational research that facilitates the transfer of new and innovative scientific strategies to support prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. Below we’ve gathered a roundup of various highlights from ARI programs.  

ARI Communications 

The ARI has had an exciting 2023 for communications and marketing! We brought on our first marketing and communications manager giving ARI its debut online presence. With that, we established a brand, creating logos, marketing materials, social media channels, a website, and more.  


Recovery Housing Sustainability 
Dr. Fiona Conway’s work is supported by a new grant from The FIRST Fund, managed by the Austin Community Foundation and in partnership with the CLEAN Cause Foundation to increase access to addiction recovery housing needed after long-term recovery care. Her team will bring together a consortium of experts across The University of Texas System to develop innovative recovery housing funding models and sustainable systems policies that will help keep more recovery housing businesses in operation, increasing the availability for those in need. 

Read the press article with more information on the Recovery Housing Sustainability project.

Dr. Conway’s team also includes 2 presentations presented in April 2023 at Baylor University and The University of Texas at Austin.  

  1. Conway, F.N. (2023, April). Technology-assisted interventions for substance use disorders. Seminar Series for the Psychology & Neuroscience Department, Baylor University, Waco, TX. 
  1. *Kennedy, P., Conway, F.N., (2023, April). Mobile Resonance Breathing for Substance Use Relapse Prevention. Waggoner Center Advance, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX. 

TxCOPE Policy and Community Impact 

Advocacy remains a cornerstone of our mission. During the past year, ARI testified and led discussions with legislators during the 88th Texas Legislature to help improve overdose prevention across the State. We also facilitated conversations with community members and researchers on best practices for engaging in policy advocacy.  

Our efforts have garnered attention from the media, with several features highlighting TxCOPE’s work in helping to prevent overdoses, creating a database to help track overdoses, filling gaps in state data, and finding fentanyl hotspots. This recognition not only amplifies our message but also underscores the impact our work.   

TxCOPE Engagement 

Our engagement team over at TxCOPE worked with Travis County Judge Andy Brown, to bring TxCOPE on as a partner in their efforts with overdose prevention organizations to track overdoses in Travis County. We have brought on over 30 enrolled organizations all across Texas. To tell our providers’ stories, we began a campaign to showcase enrolled organizations’ successes in fighting the opioid epidemic. Our first press release and story came from the team at Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas, where CEO Monica Hernandez-Sanchez explained how the leadership she exudes comes from inspiring those she works with. Our second story showcased Kevin Fox, Program Manager at North Texas Behavorial Health Authority in their work on the ground in Dallas.  

Our team will continue to work on building a strong enrollment process, adding more organizations, and responding to our community’s needs.  

Recovery-Oriented System of Care–Training and Technical Assistance for Texas Health and Human Services 

In 2023, the Addiction Research Institute at the University of Texas Austin provided training and technical assistance services, research, curriculum development, recovery services management, and integration of program support for Texas HHSC-funded Recovery Support Services (RSS), Youth Recovery Communities (YRC), and other HHSC funded Peer/Recovery contractors, including: 

1. Workforce Development Training  

Texas Behavioral Health Peer and Clinical Staff Trainings: 

  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) to 86 individuals in Dallas, Houston, Pharr, and Austin. 
  • Online Suicide Prevention Training to 26 individuals who were unable to attend in-person ASIST trainings. 
  • Substance Use and Mental Health Peer Co-Occurring Training to 66 Recovery Support and Mental Peer Specialists. 
  • Medication Assisted Recovery Support training to 64 Peer Recovery Support Specialists. 
  • Certified Medication Advocate training to 60 Behavioral Health Professionals. 


  • Two-day training conference in partnership with Achara Consulting for staff and leadership of HHSC-funded Recovery Support Services programs for 121 staff and leadership from 32 Recovery Support Services programs. Conference topics included the goals of substance use peer support, peer support specialists, service engagement strategies, staff self-care, and building professional learning opportunities. 
  • Two-day training conference in partnership with Achara Consulting for staff and leadership of HHSC-funded Youth Recovery Communities (YRCs) for 29 individuals from 9 Youth Recovery Community programs. Conference topics included the goals of youth peer support, the role of youth peer mentors, service engagement strategies, staff self-care and building professional learning opportunities. 
2. Coordination of 2023 Big Texas Rally for Recovery (BTRR) 
  • Development and execution of an application process in collaboration with community stakeholders for BTRR affiliation and sponsorships for local recovery rallies. 10 organizations received BTRR affiliation and sponsorship for their local community rallies. 
  • Compilation of Impact Report from BTRR local affiliate rallies. 
3. Texas Peer Recovery Support Curriculum Development
  • Finalized and released the revision of the Texas Peer Specialist Supervisor curriculum and the Core Peer Specialist curriculum.
  • Provided Training to Trainers to all Certified Texas Peet Support Training Entities authorized to train the revised Texas Peer Specialist Supervisor curriculum and Core Peer Specialist curriculum.
  • Met with HHSC Peer Support and Recovery staff and Texas Certification Board Leadership to discuss strengthening Texas Peer Specialist training structures and developed a white paper with identified challenges and recommendations.
4. Technical Assistance to Texas Recovery Support Services (RSS), Youth Recovery Communities (YRC) Programs, Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) Communities and Rural Mental Health Learning Community
  • Individualized, in-depth technical assistance consultation on programmatic topics to:
  • 56 Recovery Support Services (RSS) and 11 Youth Recovery Communities (YRC) programs
    • 17 local Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) Communities.
    • 6 rural Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHAs) and Local Behavioral Health Authorities (LBHAs) who are part of the Texas All Access program.
5. YRC Process Evaluation and Data Collection Instrument Reports

Completed the following:

  • Process Evaluation Report for HHSC-funded Youth Recovery Community (YRC) programs.
  • Report of Recommended Data Collection Tools to support measurement of ongoing Youth Recovery Community (YRC) program and administrative tasks, including participant screening, wellness planning and individual progress towards goals and objectives, and tracking of numbers and types of services and individuals served.
6. Data Collection, Quality Review, Training, Technical Assistance and Reporting
  • Conducted ongoing data reviews and provided feedback to RSS and YRC providers and HHSC staff regarding updates and corrections needed to improve data quality.
7. OSAR Data Collection and Technical Assistance
  • Facilitate monthly Community of Practice meetings for OSAR staff to share knowledge and build connections across states, communities, and regions.
8. Additional Activities
  • Spanish translations of Recovery Support Services CMBHS Forms and distributed them to HSSC-Funded recovery Support Services providers.
  • Conferred with members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Peer Workforce on the accessibility of the peer certification training for DHH peer support specialists.
  • A series of training, technical assistance, and mentorship activities provided by Faces and Voices of Recovery to support the development of infrastructure for peer recovery support services in Texas.  251 individuals attended training workshops and events. 2 organizations received individualized technical assistance and 8 organizations received mentorship.

South Southwest ATTC

Highlights for the South Southwest ATTC:

  • Academic Consortium of Higher Education – Partnership with seven regional universities and colleges that offer addiction counseling education and courses at primarily minority-serving institutions to build the workforce by enriching course offerings with evidence-based and promising practices, mentoring and supporting students entering the addiction treatment and recovery workforce, and engaging community providers through continuing education training, technical assistance, and special projects. Consortium members include the University of Central Arkansas, Northwestern State University, Langston University, New Mexico Highlands University, San Antonio College, Houston Community College, University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, and the University of North Texas Dallas. Collectively, these partners train and prepare over 1500 students annually for the addiction and wider behavioral health field.
  • Collaborated on training and technical assistance efforts on the implementation of Contingency Management by substance use treatment providers funded by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Louisiana Department of Behavioral Health.
  • Developed a Toolkit to support the start-up of Opioid Treatment Provider programs and provided training and technical assistance to Region 6 on the Toolkit.
  • Offered training on culturally congruent, evidence-based, and promising practices to the addiction treatment and recovery workforce in partnership with subject matter experts and state and community partners.
  • Partnered with the National Frontier and Rural Telehealth Education Center (NFARtec) to provide Region 6 addiction professionals with 6-week in-depth Enhanced Professional Learning events. Participants develop their skills in the evidence-based provision of counseling, peer support services, and supervision via video conferencing.
  • Conducted a series of information-gathering sessions with family members of individuals with substance use challenges in Region 6 to prepare for the implementation of supplemental training and support resources for family members. This process was conducted in partnership with the National Hispanic and Latino ATTC and the African American Behavioral Health Center of Excellence. Collectively, we are piloting an intentional process designed to ensure culturally responsive and community-based leadership in product development.
  • Participated in a multi-year collaborative effort with Regions 5, 6, and 7 ATTCs, SAMHSA Regional Administrators, and regional Peer Recovery Support (PRS) and Community Health Worker (CHW) workforce representatives to explore the alignment of the PRS and CHW workforces with the goals of meeting whole health needs of individuals and developing mechanisms for career advancement for both workforces. Technical assistance on evaluation of the Community Health Wellness Ambassador Model developed by this multi-region consortium as part of a community-level pilot project. Co-facilitation of multi-regional convening in 2023 on serving the needs of pregnant and parenting families with PRS, CHW, and Doula community workforces.
  • Provided technical assistance to strengthen and expand the Associate of Arts Degree in Addiction Counseling by Mesalands Community College in eleven New Mexico State Correctional facilities.
  • Co-facilitated with New Mexico Highlands University a two-day summit of higher education leaders, Tribal and New Mexico government leaders, and community leaders together to support the successful re-entry of returning citizens to their communities by offering a pathway to professional addiction counseling licensure and ultimately support successful reintegration.
  • Provided training and technical assistance in peer recovery and substance use recovery model program development, community recovery-oriented systems of care, and best practices in peer support to state and community organizations in Region 6.
  • Cohosted the monthly Region 6 Peer Services Advisory Committee (PSAC) meetings with the South Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, in which state peer leaders discuss significant issues facing the peer workforce, including uptake of certification and training, potential training needs, and types of services being offered by peers.
  • Collaborated with the University of North Texas to disseminate the recovery of model of care and recovery principles into the existing addiction treatment workforce in Texas through training and dissemination of the Recovery to Practice curriculum for addiction professionals and the facilitation of the Recovery to Practice online social media learning community with 1600 members.
  • Conducted ongoing regional coordination with the SAMHSA Region 6 Regional Administrators, the SSW Prevention TTC, the SSW Mental Health TTC, Region 6 Behavioral Health Single State Agency Leaders, and Tribal Leadership and Liaisons around emerging and ongoing training and technical assistance needs in our region. Current major areas of focus include workforce development, clinical and peer supervision, and implementation of evidence-based practices.

Region 6 State Opioid Response/Tribal Opioid Response Technical Assistance (Opioid Response Network)

1. Hosted 4 regional summits
  • Region 6 began hosting Regional Summits this year. Regional Summits offer the chance for the ORN Region 6 team to go into communities and offer a day or more of training and education around the prevention, treatment, and/or recovery of opioid and stimulant use.
  • Outcomes of the summits hosted included strengthened relationships with organizations in the community; enhanced knowledge; and a better awareness of tools and resources in mitigating substance use disorders in communities. 
  • The Region 6 team hosted four summits – two virtually with organizations in Galveston County and the Southwest Texas border and two in-person – one with communities in Northeast Oklahoma and another with counties in New Mexico. The topics ranged from fentanyl and adolescent SUD treatment to medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) in correctional facilities. The Region 6 team will continue to host Regional Summits in 2024 and look forward to connecting and collaborating with more communities across the region.
2. Continued responding to requests in the system
  • ORN’s work is driven by requests from organizations, local governments, individuals, etc. Over 100 requests have come into the Region 6 staff.
3. Built up our Indigenous Communities Response Team
  • This was the first year with our Indigenous Communities Response Team (ICRT), a dedicated team that works with Tribal Opioid Response grantees and Native communities to address opioid and stimulant use disorders. The Region 6 team has a dedicated ICRT staff person who oversees the Tribal South division of the ICRT that covers OK, AR, TX, KS, LA, NE, IA, and MO. The Tribal South team has attended conferences, assisted in the development of a national webinar series, and responded to requests throughout the year.
4. Conducted Outreach Across the Region
  • The Region 6 Team attended a variety of conferences, both virtual and in-person across the region to provide outreach and increased awareness of the Opioid Response Network.
  • 2023 marked the first year since the coronavirus pandemic that the entire ORN project was able to meet in person. Region 6 joined other regional ORN teams, as well as ORN leadership in Providence, RI in May 2023. This was the first chance that much of our Region 6 team was able to meet and connect with the national team in person.

    Peer Recovery Center of Excellence

    Highlights for the Peer Recovery Center of Excellence:

    • Updated and expanded the Comparative Analysis of State Requirements

    for Peer Support Specialist Training and Certification in the United States (2023) Report.

    • Hosted 14 sessions as part of the Skill Development Series for Peer Recovery Specialists. 8 were open to any PRSS in the country while 6 were hosted in partnership with the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic National Training and Technical Assistance Center and were open to PRSS working in CCBHCs.
    • Hosted 22 Communities of Practice for Peer Recovery Support Specialists and Supervisors. Topics included: Exploring and Understanding Foundational Principles and Values of Harm Reduction, Navigating Educational Stigma in Professional Settings, Supporting Staff Navigating Work-Related Grief and Loss, and our first ever Spanish-language community of practice focused on harm reduction.
    • Offered a six-month learning collaborative titled: Exploring the Role of Employers and Systems in Workforce Retention. The purpose of this learning collaborative was to support 5 different employer types in reviewing and updating their policies in order to better retain their PRSS staff. We were able to work with 14 employers from around the country.
    • Published the document The Role of The Peer Specialist to provide clarity on the specific roles and responsibilities of peer specialists. This document can also be used as a reference to guide conversation between entities with various understandings of the role.
    • Contributed to the development of the SAMHSA document: National Model Standards for Peer Support Certification. This was accomplished through sharing data, providing direct written feedback, and participating on the technical expert panel on this topic that SAMHSA hosted.
    • Participated in two technical expert panels and one regional meeting hosted by SAMHSA. The two technical expert panels were on Peer Support Certification and Peer Workforce Development. The regional meeting was for SAMHSA Region 5 where PRCoE staff shared feedback regarding ongoing SAMHSA work and participated in a presentation.