Saving Lives with Peer Support

This video is part of the NIDA series At the Intersection: Stories of Research, Compassion, and HIV Services for People who Use Drugs.

Peer support specialists like Chetwyn “Arrow” Archer are people with lived experience of substance use who help others navigate harm reduction tools, substance use treatment, and other healthcare and social services. Arrow works with Dr. Hansel Tookes at the IDEA Exchange, a syringe services program in Miami. He has helped many IDEA participants and community members connect with lifesaving care and tools, such as the opioid overdose reversal medication, Narcan® (naloxone nasal spray).

Dr. Tookes was a 2021 recipient of NIDA’s HIV/AIDS Research Avenir Award for a project designed to leverage telehealth-enhanced services to engage people who inject drugs into HIV care. Interviews were filmed in September 2021 at the IDEA Exchange in Miami, Florida.

Portrait of Chetwyn “Arrow” Archer crossing his arms under the IDEA Exchange sign.

Video length: 3:41


[Hansel speaking] There was this skinny, hundred-pound, wiry man with a tattoo down his head and on each of his arms. And he used to do was beautiful, and you'd see the arrows connect.

[Arrow speaking] By them seeing me in the situation and the condition that I'm in right now gives them hope that they can better their lives.

[Male voiceover] Here on Seventh Avenue, right under the sun in Miami, is Florida's pioneering syringe service program, The IDEA Exchange, where tools like harm reduction, advocacy and compassion are being used to save lives.

At the intersection, stories of research, compassion and HIV services for people who use drugs.

Chetwyn “Arrow” Archer is a peer support specialist at the IDEA Exchange. Peers with lived experience often play a critical role in delivering harm reduction and recovery support.

[Arrow speaking] My name is Chetwyn Archer, a.k.a. “Arrow.” I had a very bad drug habit in, it kind of got really bad.

[Hansel speaking] And when he was ready to go into recovery in his late fifties, we were there, and he was one of the people that was diagnosed with HIV during that outbreak and was virally suppressed two weeks later.

[Arrow speaking] I’m alive. I was at death's door. A woman who I... was very close to me, passed away in my arms and I was ready to go with her. That was May 2nd, and she died in my arms under the bridge, and May 3rd, I shot nine bags looking to follow her. But Emmy Martinez, who works here was on her way to work and something told her to come see me and she found me, dead, revived me, resuscitated me, gave me Narcan, and brought me back.

[Male voiceover] Narcan is an emergency medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

[Hansel speaking] Arrow went into treatment; he left treatment and was still unhoused and was able to take his Suboxone and not go back to substance use.

[Male voiceover] Suboxone is a medication used to treat opioid use disorder.

[Hansel speaking] He went into residential treatment, and after his residential treatment, he became a volunteer. He volunteered at IDEA for about a year, doing patient panels with me as well and educating the medical students, and he's really invaluable.

[Arrow speaking] If this place wasn't here, I wouldn't be alive. Several hundred other people wouldn't be alive either. Because of this place, I was introduced to Narcan. I've revived people to this day, with Narcan. Brought them back from overdoses. So, because of Narcan, people are out there, right now, still living.

[Hansel speaking] I mean, he teaches people how to inject properly and not destroy their bodies, because he has all that experience.

[Arrow speaking] Oh, the most rewarding part of this journey basically is staying - being alive. Helping other people get clean. The most rewarding part of this journey... I would say it would be that I no longer have to wake up in the morning, sick. That I don't have to go to the bathroom in the street. That I can pet my little dog, ride my Harley.

[Hansel speaking] I'm so grateful that Arrow is in my life. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Mr. Archer.