What is the Pathways Program?

  • The Pathways program is one of the key initiatives of Recovery Allies of West Michigan.  Its primary purpose is to expose individuals, families, and communities within and outside of the recovery community to the Multiple Pathways concept of recovery.  
  • The components of the Pathways Program are:
    • Digital Information Dissemination- social media, newsletters, and information on the website linking individuals to educational, treatment, and support resources.
    • Support Groups- starting/supporting mutual aid support groups that are alternatives to 12-step support groups.  
    • Individual Support- assisting those working on recovery in connecting with treatment and support.
    • Community Events- attending community events to educate the public on substance use disorders and recovery.

Who is the Pathways Program for?

  • Pathways is for EVERYONE.  It is a community based program that uses the following principles to positively impact recovery:
    • Substance use disorders have many faces.
    • Substance use disorders do not discriminate against age, race, gender, religion, etc.
    • Substance use disorders are a community disease, as they impact the individual, their family, and the community.
    • Recovery is possible and does happen.
    • Substance use disorders are complex diseases that require a variety of interventions that may be different for each person, family, and/or community.

Where is the Pathways Program?

  • Pathways is a community-based program.  Recovery Coaches evaluate the needs of the community in conjunction with individuals in the community, local agencies, court systems, and etc.  The evaluation leads to identification of people and places who need one or more of our services.
  • Pathways is funded through contracts with Prepaid Inpatient Health Plan (PIHP) and individual Community Mental Health (CMH) organizations.  
    • Pathways provides the full service array in the area served by Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health.  This includes the following counties: Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren.
    • Pathways provides community education and recovery coach training in Kent County.

Why do we need the Pathways Program?  

  • Substance use disorders affect millions of Americans, both directly and indirectly.  We have a culture which easily offers prescriptions and pharmaceuticals for the slightest ailments, encourages and glamorizes underage drinking and smoking marijuana and glamorizes “harder” substances in all forms of media, especially television, film and music.  Then when an issue arises from prescribed or recreational use our culture does one or more of the following:
    • Falls silent and does not offer support or guidance on what to do.
    • Identifies substance use disorders as a choice, using the moral model.  
    • Strongly encourages individuals into AA or NA.  

Pathways provides education in order to combat the above cultural responses.  Pathways utilizes research/evidence-based information to provide the following responses:  

  • As a society we have an obligation to treat diseases and provide assistance to those who need it.  Even without an obligation, it benefits our communities to treat addiction, as it will lead to having additional productive members of society.
  • Substance use disorders are biological/psychological/sociological diseases.  They are listed in the DSM-5 and the ICD-10, which are diagnostic manuals used to identify a multitude of mental and physical health disorders.  This means that it is not a choice. There are choices to make in order to enter recovery; however, the disease itself is not a choice. It is very similar to Diabetes or Asthma.
  • The core of 12 Step organizations is that an individual accept and admit powerlessness over the substance(s) and that a power greater than oneself is the pathway to recovery.  The 12-steps are based on abstinence from all substances and have a significant spiritual component. This does not meet everyone’s needs and has some components of being a moral model.  Research does show that having a support system with other individuals in recovery improves the success rates, so we need to ensure that there are a variety of support groups in order to meet the diverse needs of those suffering from the disease of addiction.  In other words, 12-step support groups are great for many people, but others need a different type of support.
  • Pathways assists in educating people on substances and substance use disorders, engaging with individuals who use substances, and offering support to those who are suffering from substance use disorders.  This country continues to have significant issues with substance use leading to higher incarceration rates, negative impact on employment, and death, among other things. This program is combating substance use in an effort to positively impact these issues.
  • Due to funding restrictions, historical bias, and the nature of support programs, there are limited numbers of mutual aid support groups that are alternatives to 12-steps.  In addition, there is not an agency or program that purposefully creates additional support groups in communities that need/desire them. There are small groups of individuals that may attempt to form additional support groups, but without the resources and knowledge of alternatives these often fail.  Pathways can fill this service gap.

How can I start Pathways in my community?

  • Recovery Allies of West Michigan is working with the Lakeshore Regional Entity the PIHP for Allegan, Kent, Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Oceana, and Ottawa counties to secure funding to expand in those areas.
  • Communities that are interested in the services can also pay for specific services (i.e. training, consulting on mutual aid support groups) separately from the PIHP or CMH.
  • Communities can assist Recovery Allies in securing further funding by advocating with their regional PIHP, CMH, and/or legislators regarding the service and the importance of it.
  • Individuals or organizations can make donations to Recovery Allies to allow us to provide additional services not covered in our rates.  Donations allow for us to participate in and host community education events.
  • For further information on contracting for services email us at