on recovery support services for opioid use disorder
The Collaborative Hub for Emerging Adult Recovery Research (CHEARR) partners with communities impacted by the opioid epidemic to advance research on recovery support services for young adults (ages 16-25). We specifically focus on clinical continuing care models of recovery supports for young adults who take or who have taken medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
Clinical continuing care is an umbrella term for a wide range of recovery supports that can be offered in the same clinical setting where substance use treatment is offered. These services include mutual aid groups (AA/NA), formal counseling, recovery management checkups, peer recovery supports, and other services aimed at supporting ongoing recovery after an initial treatment episode. Although these types of recovery supports are available in many communities, very little high-quality research has been conducted on how effective they are, for whom they work best, and how to best deliver them.
Young adults have been particularly impacted by the opioid epidemic. Many young adults struggling with opioid use can benefit from medications for opioid use disorder, including methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and naltrexone (Vivitrol). However, even young people who benefit from these medications may need additional support in their recovery. Some roadblocks to maintaining recovery may be specific to this age group. Given the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic, the time is now to focus our resources on understanding how to best support young adults in reaching long-term recovery from opioid use disorder.
Nothing About Us Without Us
Partnering with communities impacted by the opioid crisis is the cornerstone of CHEARR. An integral part of CHEARR is our two community boards which have a voice in every aspect of this project. The Young Adults in Recovery Community Board includes young adults who have lived experience taking medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder. The Peer Recovery Support Specialists Community Board includes certified peer recovery specialists and recovery coaches who have expertise working with young adults in recovery. We aim to gather a diversity of voices around the table towards the common goal of improving research on this crucial topic. We ascribe to “Nothing About Us Without Us” by ensuring that everything developed by CHEARR is done in direct partnership with the communities that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic.
Through our partnership between impacted community members, investigators, and practitioners, we aim to:
Identify priority areas for research under the broad umbrella of recovery supports for young adults in recovery from opioid use disorder, with a particular focus on clinical continuing care models and young adults who take medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder
Develop and disseminate resources to support high quality research on recovery supports for young adults
Train early career researchers to conduct rigorous research in the field of recovery supports, in partnership with impacted communities
Provide seed funding for innovative projects that will rapidly advance the science in this field
Our work will be led by two Community Boards, made up of young adults in recovery and peer recovery specialists.
Through webinars and workshops, we offer trainings for researchers and practitioners.
We offer two-year Postdoctoral Fellowships that help launch research careers focused on young adults in recovery and/or recovery supports.
Student Internship Program
We offer internships for students interested in learning more about research on recovery supports.
We will be funding several pilot studies focused on recovery supports for emerging adults.
Kristyn Zajac is a licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She conducts clinical trials on behavioral interventions to improve treatment outcomes for youth with substance use and co-occurring problems. Her recent work focuses on the efficacy of peer recovery specialists in supporting young adults to meet their substance use treatment goals.
Maryann Davis is a Professor of Psychiatry (Psychology), Director of the Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center, and Director of the Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research at the UMass Chan Medical School. She is a research psychologist focused on transition-age youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Phil Valentine, RCP, RCPF is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) serving this lead recovery community organization since 1999. An accomplished author, trainer, and presenter, Phil is recognized as spearheading the recovery coach movement and developing the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy. In 2015, Phil completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, a journey of 2,189 miles, carrying the message of recovery the entire way and recently released his book, Continue: Right Click on the Appalachian Trail.
Eden is a former intern for the JEAP initiative who recently received a Bachelor's in Science from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Because of Eden's lived experiences with substance abuse and the justice system as a child, she is passionate about working with emerging adults with adverse experiences to identify what recovery capital means to them. Eden enjoys working with a multitude of diverse backgrounds to develop strategies that will aid in sustainable recovery support services. Eden's career goal is to work with individuals on both the macro and micro levels to promote, achieve, and sustain equity while striving to end stigma.
Trisha Lausier received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Connecticut. She has been a Clinical Research Assistant at UConn Health for the past 17 years, working on clinical trials involving people with substance use disorder. She has experience recruiting and engaging research participants. Trisha has an interest in emerging adults in recovery and understanding how they can best be supported through resources in their communities.
Dr. Lourah Kelly completed her postdoctoral research at UConn School of Medicine and is now an Assistant Professor at UMass Chan Medical School in the Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center. As a psychologist and researcher, she is passionate about understanding what recovery supports work best for emerging adults with co-occurring opioid use and mental health problems, particularly suicide risk.
Angela Hagaman, Operation’s Director for East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) Addiction Science Center (ASC), provides leadership and support for the Center’s interdisciplinary research agenda and collaborates on a number of regional prevention and treatment initiatives. She has lived experience with familial substance use disorder (SUD) and grew up on a tobacco farm in Central Appalachia. In December of 2021, Angela received her Doctorate of Public Health (DrPH) at ETSU. Her dissertation, titled Peer Recovery Support Specialists: Role Clarification and Fit Within the Recovery Eco-Systems of Central Appalachia, will serve as a foundation for future research.
Ashli researches services for teens and emerging adults, particularly those with substance use problems and legal system involvement. She also focuses on effective ways to get evidence-based practices into the “real world,” especially through improving training and support for providers. While she does not have direct lived experience, she has indirect lived experience with substance use problems throughout multiple generations of her extended family that began with opiate addiction from laudanum prescribed postpartum to her great-grandmother.
Sylvia White holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Connecticut and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health at UConn Health. Her commitment to advancing recovery research is deeply rooted in her lived experience with a parent who struggled with opioid use disorder from his early adulthood. Additionally, during her undergraduate years, she volunteered for an addictive medicine outreach group. The profound impact of her lived experience has influenced her passion for the field personally, academically, and professionally.
Aayaat is an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut completing her degree in Cognitive Science in May 2024. Her goal for the CHEARR internship is to learn more about community-engaged research with communities affected by opioid use. One of her hands-on learning activities is to create helpful tip sheets geared towards young adults. In the future, she hopes to pursue dual degrees in medicine and public health.
Elizabeth Narwold is a student at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in the 2026 graduating class. She is committed to providing comprehensive and compassionate care for patients with substance use disorder. She hopes to work with CHEARR to advance the field of substance use research. Specifically, she plans to research patient-centered definitions of success in treatment.
Jessica (Jess) Flori received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Central Florida and is a T32 Post-Doctoral Fellow at UConn Health under the mentorship of Dr. Kristyn Zajac. Jess is passionate about understanding how substance use interventions work and how substance use behaviors are maintained. With her work, her goal is to improve substance use treatment for all individuals, especially those at risk for experiencing less positive outcomes.
Our work is guided by two national community boards that identify research priorities related to recovery support services for young adults who take or who have taken medications for opioid use disorder. In addition to identifying research priorities, our Community Boards partner with CHEARR researchers to select candidates for research training opportunities, give input on which research studies should receive funding, design research assessments (e.g., surveys) of treatment outcomes that are relevant to young adults, and participate in sharing research findings with the broader community.
The boards are:
Young Adults in Recovery Community Board
Peer Recovery Support Specialist Community Board
This board is made up of young adults (ages 18-28) who are in recovery and have lived experience receiving treatment involving medications for opioid use disorder.
This board is made up of certified peer recovery specialists and recovery coaches who have experience working with young adults.
To learn more and apply to either community board, please click the link below.
The Collaborative Hub for Emerging Adult Recovery Research (CHEARR) at the UConn Health School of Medicine offers a postdoctoral fellowship for those interested in a career conducting research on recovery support services for emerging adults with substance use disorders. The fellow works directly under the mentorship of Dr. Kristyn Zajac, with opportunities for external mentorship from researchers at Chestnut Health Systems and the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School. Fellowships are 1-2 years depending on training needs.
This position is currently filled – stay tuned for future opportunities coming soon!
The development of this website was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under award number R24DA057632. This funding is part of the NIH's Helping to End Addiction Long-term® (HEAL) Initiative. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.