Success StoryKentucky Extension Reporting System

Recovering Your Finances – Promoting Stronger Communities Through Cooperative Extension’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery Efforts

Author: Kelly May

Planning Unit: Family and Consumer Sciences

Major Program: Substance Use Prevention and Recovery General

Outcome: Intermediate Outcome

The University of Kentucky Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Extension program is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on building assets of individuals and families to address the perennial problems faced across the lifespan. CEDIK is a statewide program dedicated to building capacity around community and economic development issues. FCS and CEDIK have joined together to combat the issue of substance use disorder recovery relapse.


The opioid epidemic scourging the United States is a public health crisis. This crisis has hit Kentucky especially hard, particularly in Appalachian counties. While this epidemic is especially hard for individuals suffering from this disease as well as their families, local communities are also suffering. The opioid epidemic is a significant quality of life issue. 


This project will result in a more employable workforce, a stronger rural economy, and an improved quality of life for all residents. Individuals in recovery are particularly susceptible to relapse during early stages of recovery. This increased risk is due, in part, to financial stress that people in recovery from substance use disorder often encounter. To our knowledge, the inclusion of financial education and soft skills development is often not included (or only marginally) in recovery efforts. Through comprehensive financial education training we can expand the capacity of recovery centers and other partners in the community that work with individuals in recovery thereby reducing the likelihood of relapse.


UK Extension secured a USDA Rural Community Development Initiative grant that spanned a two-year period to address this critical need. The comprehensive goal is to create stronger communities by addressing the behavioral health and substance use disorders in four rural Kentucky communities. Long-term goal 1 is to develop and implement an effective educational intervention that will improve the financial efficacy of individuals in substance use disorder recovery, especially those individuals in early recovery. The short-term goal is to build the capacity of drug rehabilitation facilities and other partners in low-income communities to provide financial education and soft-skills training to patients.


This educational project has completed the two-year grant span. Extension staff built upon the project’s beginning foundation of a needs-based assessment, creating a core curriculum covering eight units of recovery-specific financial content. This new multi-session financial education and soft skills curriculum for individuals in recovery is titled “Recovering Your Finances.” Each unit includes: a facilitator guide for the presenter, a publication for the attendee to keep, various activity worksheets to reinforce learning, an evaluation, and marketing tools.


The full curriculum was piloted with seven women from a recovery shelter, Isaiah House, in Mercer County over a 10-week period. The pilot received positive reviews from both the participants and their sponsors. An after-program assessment to gauge the effectiveness of the pilot found that pilot participants believe finances are definitely a consideration during the recovery process. They believe the curriculum focused on rebuilding skills. Several participants made changes to their personal finances throughout the pilot, including opening bank accounts, establishing bills, reviewing credit reports, and disputing incorrect items on credit reports. “I’ve only heard good things,” said Kevin Horn, CSW, Vice President of Programs for Isaiah House in Mercer County. “I’m thankful for your services and desire to help those struggling with substance use disorder!”


The curriculum was revised and improved based on the pilot results, as well as on peer reviewer commentary and input. It went through editing and graphic design. This grant project culminated as we rolled out the curriculum in a train-the-trainer workshop for individuals working with the recovery community in the four selected rural counties (Knox, Leslie, Bourbon, and Boyd) in August 2020. The training was for individuals in those counties who work with the substance use community, primarily treatment or recovery center staff, healthcare staff, and substance use treatment professionals, as well as FCS Extension agents. The Kentucky Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors approved four hours of continuing education credits to these professionals trained. Three instructors presented to 27 attendees online over a two-day span.


The voluntary evaluation instrument from the August train-the-trainer workshop assessed perceived pre/post capacity to deliver the curriculum to substance use recovery audiences. Of the 27 attendees, 14 completed the post-training online evaluation. Results showed 64% currently deliver financial literacy programming to addiction/recovery audiences. Of those who did not, all but one plan to do so in the future. Respondents said they plan to use the curriculum in a face-to-face/online group, 71.4% planned to use the full curriculum and 57.1% planned to use the units as stand-alone modules. Others will use it as a reference guide, share with colleagues, or use individually.


Respondents all indicated the training was relevant. All agreed or strongly agreed with statements such as the following: The training will help me perform my job more effectively; I increased my understanding of financial education concepts; I understand how the embedded activities reinforce learning; and I recognize curriculum elements that are specific to substance use/recovery audiences.

When asked why they signed up for the training, one respondent remarked, “Financial literacy/financial education presents as a huge need for the population we serve. This is something that is a vital element in supporting ongoing recovery and quality of life.” Another expressed a desire to “be able to provide a pathway for persons to learn the basics and importance of budgeting/priorities/credit knowledge etc. We hope to equip our people to be able to address their financial recovery.”


The Recovering Your Finances Team has conducted a longitudinal follow-up evaluation (six months) of this first training, along with qualitative interviews. The results are in the process of being extrapolated.


The Recovering Your Finances project was further expanded with funding from a SAMHSA Rural Opioid Technical Assistance (ROTA) grant, which ensured the curriculum and train-the-trainer materials could be provided to Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agents across Kentucky. The second and third train-the-trainer workshops trained Kentucky FCS Extension agents statewide. Led by four instructors, the October 2020 training had 58 attendees, and the January 2021 training had 24 attendees. To date, a total of 109 professionals have received training on how to use the Recovering Your Finances curriculum. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on training requirements, all train-the-trainer workshops were conducted in an interactive, online format.


The curriculum is beginning to be implemented at the local level. The first reported local-level use of the curriculum took place in Calloway County, KY, between November 2020 and January 2021 with 8 participants that completed the entire program, although some sessions had up to 12 attendees.


The first reported program evaluation feedback was obtained from Calloway County. In the Recovering Your Finances curriculum, participants have the opportunity to provide feedback through an evaluation at the end of each unit. Over the 8-session series, there was an average response rate of 8 participants per session. Of the respondents, 64% indicated they increased understanding of how to prepare a personal budget; 80% indicated they learned to identify factors that affect the cost of credit; 100% better know how to improve a credit score over time; 100% are now better able to prioritize debts; and 75% had increased confidence in avoiding fees when utilizing a bank account. Results indicate respondents were receptive to behavior change: 100% plan to consider wants and needs before spending; 100% plan to actively work to reduce their debt; 100% plan to review their Form W-4 for accuracy; and 100% plan to set a SMART goal and start saving toward that goal.


Additional counties are currently hosting the workshop series locally. At least four other county FCS agents have completely or partially presented the program as of June 2021. This is a notable number of programs started given the face-to-face program restrictions placed on Extension and other professionals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Early evaluation assessments indicate that the curriculum has been successful so far in educating participants on financial concepts and that the train-the-trainer workshops are successful in building capability for professionals to present the curriculum at the local level. Through this initiative, FCS Extension staff is working toward improving the efficacy of substance use recovery programs and improving the financial education of participants.

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