An agent for continuous improvement and innovation and a proponent of trauma-informed care, Peggy Terhune, PhD, president and CEO of Albemarle, North Carolina-based Monarch, is the 2020 NCAD Champion Award recipient.
Each year, the NCAD Champion Awards recognize exceptional and extraordinary performance and leadership achieved by clinical and executive behavioral healthcare personnel within the addiction recovery field. In her 25 years as Monarch’s top executive and 40 years overall in the field, Terhune has been an advocate for individuals with substance use disorders, as well as their loved ones.
Impacted by experiences of family members struggling with substance use disorder, Terhune says it has been imperative for all staff at Monarch to be trauma-informed.
“We have over 50 therapists, and I realized pretty quickly that if they had never experienced anything that was significantly trauma-related, they wouldn’t understand without the trauma-informed training what trauma I had gone through,” she says. “It was a horrendous experience. That was part of why we brought trauma-informed training to our agency—so our staff would understand not only the disease aspect, but also the trauma aspect.”
Terhune’s compassion is matched by her motivation to drive innovation within the organization. Monarch was among the first organizations in North Carolina to implement the Dartmouth individual placement services model, an evidence-based employment support program for individuals in treatment.
Terhune oversaw the development of a program in which peer support staff join local EMS personnel who are responding to calls in which an individual has overdosed.
“Once the person is brought back from the overdose, they offer the option for the person to immediately get into medication-assisted treatment,” Terhune says. “The ambulance will bring someone directly to our site to meet with a psychiatrist and our team to talk about if they are interested in stopping using substances.”
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Terhune led an initiative to continue treatment for patients through remote sessions conducted in Monarch’s parking lot through the use of tablets. The company has provided necessary devices to low-income patients to ensure they could continue receiving care.
Terhune continues to research addiction treatment options for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who cannot benefit from traditional therapy sessions, and—when a global pandemic isn’t limiting in-person events—she is a regular at industry conferences, where she networks with peers from across the country for more ideas she can bring back to Monarch.
“Someone else is doing something different,” Terhune says. “Why are they doing it? What are they seeing? How is it working? How can we adapt that to North Carolina, because every state has different rules and funding mechanisms and policies. We are constantly on the lookout.”
In addition to her work driving organizational change, Terhune has been a legislative advocate as well. Among her current top priorities is leading lobbying efforts to increase state funding that would support wage raises for direct care staff and eliminate the need for those caregivers to work second jobs.
“That hasn’t happened yet, but we are still advocating and pushing on a regular and constant basis to get people compensated because, quite honestly, those folks who have been there and have lived experience are phenomenal working with someone who has a substance use disorder,” she says.