Straight Up Care: recovery support through lived experience

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 7:19 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - With record overdoses and increasing demand for behavioral health services, the mental health and addiction crisis is at an all-time high.

A South Dakota doctor went looking for how to address that head on and the answer she found comes from what could be considered an unlikely place, but also one that makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Melissa Dittberner considers herself to be in long-term recovery, something she says gives her a unique perspective.

“People who have essentially ‘been there and done that’ can really be a wonderful mentor moving forward,” said Dittberner.

She decided to dig deeper into that and create a platform for people to use their “lived experiences” to help others.

“Peer supports are essentially people who are in recovery who are ready to help other people and willing to get trained about what that looks like,” explained Dittberner.

That is where Straight Up Care was born. The telehealth and training platform offers resources needed for people who want to help others through their recovery journey.

“I really, truly believe that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but that its support,” said Dittberner.

Dr. Dittberner is now actively recruiting those peer supports.

“I’m a good candidate because I’ve lived it,” said Terry Liggins, a peer support. “I am unashamed in my history.”

From a rough upbringing to incarceration, Liggins says he’s encountered a lot of life lessons.

Through challenges and hurdles, he’s had experience navigating the struggles life can throw at us, and that’s why he says it was a no-brainer to sign up with Straight Up Care.

“It’s not an us-them issue,” said Liggins. “Incarceration, addiction, mental health, it’s not an us vs. them issue. It’s all of us, and so this is just a way that we can do community and if you are qualified, able, and got a story, I would strongly encourage you to take a look at getting trained as a peer support.”

Dr. Dittberner says it’s people like Terry, the ones who have challenging lived experiences, who are perfect candidates to help others get back on their feet.

“Some people could think that because they’re in recovery, maybe they’re less than for some reason or another. But being able to say ‘you are absolutely the person who can help these other people,’” said Dittberner.

The Straight Up Care app goes live next week, Dr. Dittberner hopes to have 100 peer supports at launch.

More information can be found at