NEW YORK — Five months into his job at a 24-hour walk-in behavioral health center here on Staten Island, Tarik Arafat has a new assignment. In three weeks, he’ll be on call for a nearby hospital to counsel people who have just been revived from an opioid overdose.
In recovery from drug addiction himself, Arafat, 25, said he understands why someone in a brightly lit emergency room who uses drugs would be more comfortable talking to him than to a medical professional. “My job is to open myself up and be like a toolbox for them,” he said.
Arafat’s mission, and that of other so-called recovery coaches, is not to convince overdose survivors to get into treatment, but to offer them advice on how to get started once they’ve decided they’re ready to quit. If they’re not interested in that moment, he’ll follow up with phone calls to see how they’re doing after they leave the hospital. He’ll also advise them on how to use drugs more safely, if that’s what they choose to do.