Jeremy Yeary is a busy guy these days, and that’s the way he wants it.
During the week, you can find Yeary in Hazard working as a peer support specialist at the Rebound Center, a Kentucky River Community Care (KRCC) facility for individuals in recovery or seeking recovery from substance use issues. And when he isn’t doing that, he’s on the path to earning a college degree.
All this busy time, he says, is part of bigger goal.
“I’m in school working toward an associate degree in human services, with a goal of getting my bachelor’s in social work,” Yeary says. “I want to stick in the career field I’m in. I want to help people in recovery.”
Yeary’s career path wasn’t always so clear. A native of Tennessee, Yeary had worked jobs in construction and food service, but his story takes a sharp turn to the point that a career wasn’t part of the focus.
“I’m an addict, and I was in active addiction for 20 years,” he says. “So it was just cycling in and out of jobs right and left and never really had anything concrete or solid.”
Yeary eventually found himself on probation as the result of a criminal charge, and knew he wanted to make a change.
“The turning point that brought me to where I’m at now was completely beat down, broken, and lost,” he says. “I didn’t have friends, my family wouldn’t have anything to do with me, I burned every bridge I’d come across.”
Yeary requested long-term treatment as part of his probation, and was referred to Hickory Hill Recovery Center in Knott County, where he’d spend a year recovering before moving to a sober living facility in Hazard.
“Long-term treatment was great. It was something that I needed,” he says. “I had lost all hope in everything, I lost hope in myself. I had no will to live.”
Following treatment, Yeary set his sights on other goals, namely a job and enrolling in college to begin working toward a degree. Soon after, the Kentucky Access to Recovery program referred Yeary to Tesa Turner, a success coach with a newly formed program called Eastern Kentucky Addiction Recovery and Training, or eKART for short. An initiative of Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), Inc., eKART works with local drug courts and other agencies to bridge the gulf between recovery and productive participation in the workforce by providing individuals with valuable career, training, and supportive services, while actively cultivating second-chance job opportunities.
For Yeary, he was happy to meet with Turner, who could assist with the process of having his past record expunged. That process includes making initial contacts within the court system and submitting the necessary paperwork before a judge can review the record in question. Turner is currently assisting in that process, which can take up to 60 days, and is helping cover the costs associated with it, including a beginning fee and additional costs for each count expunged.
“For me, I’m a convicted felon from a drug charge, and although that was seven and a half years ago, that follows you for the rest of your life,” he says. “So getting that removed is something crucial I really wanted to do.”
Through eKART, Turner was also able to assist Yeary with a number of career and supportive services. She helped reimburse him for the cost of the books he needed for school, connect with potential job opportunities, and build his résumé.
"Jeremy is an exceptional young man and is making tremendous strides in building his career pathway,” Turner says. “He has a heart for people and I am so excited that he can now give back by serving as a peer support specialist while obtaining his human service degree. He is the perfect example of how a career pathway should work.”
Yeary’s position as a peer support specialist with KRCC allows him to assist people early in their recovery, participate in meetings and meditations, and give people time to be away from addiction, he says. It’s a rewarding job for both him and the participant.
“People you meet in these rooms may have had a rough go around and rough start, but once they come back to reality, they’re great people,” he says. “Helping others is an essential part of my every day recovery. It feeds my strength to stay in my recovery.”
“Being around things and in this career field, you have more support behind you,” he adds. “If you’re having a bad moment or a bad day, all I’ve got to do is pick up a phone and call my co-workers, and they’re right here for anything I need. They’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs.”
Yeary says his experience with eKART has been a positive one and continues to be, and it’s an experience he would recommend for others in similar circumstances.
“If they’re given an opportunity to work with Tesa or someone like that, I would say absolutely, go for it,” he says. “Every person that you’ve got behind you helps by picking you up and building you up, pushing you in the right direction.”
EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array of workforce development services and operates the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, which provide access to more than a dozen state and federal programs that offer employment and training assistance for jobseekers and employers all under one roof. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.org and http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.