Toward a New Recovery Culture
The lack of funding from both public and private sectors for our nation’s most pervasive and destructive public health matter — addiction — is nothing short of an abomination and arguably today’s most public and private cultural and political failure. More people die from alcohol and other drug-related incidents than any other public health crisis our nation has embraced. Every single day, we have 397 people die from alcohol and other drug-related incidents. That is 144,905 people a year.
To put that into perspective, this is the equivalent of filling all the seats at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (the Denver Broncos stadium), all the seats at Coors Field (the Colorado Rockies Stadium), all the seats at the Pepsi Center (the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche stadium) and still needing room for 328 people.
These are not just numbers. I assure you that these are real lives. These needless deaths represent Americans from all walks of life. This is not an urban or rural issue, this is not a rich or poor issue or a democrat or republican issue; this is an issue violating the very fibers of what this country stands for.
As president and CEO of Young People in Recovery (YPR), I believe everyone deserves an opportunity to receive the recovery supports they need for a future. Whether they are in recovery or seeking it, through faith, fun, abstinence, exercise, medication or another path; we need to look beyond a person’s past and focus on their future. Recovery support could come in the form of giving someone an opportunity to be employed, or allowing them a chance to have secure housing, or believing that they can achieve their educational goals. This country is the land of opportunity, and we must give our communities the opportunity to recover. And that opportunity can be from a coach or teacher that believed in them, or a counselor, a judge, a boss, a parent or a mentor…
How do community providers play a part? I invite you to work with our chapters across the country by integrating the EPIC program into your services. This program specializes in peer recovery supports and builds a bridge from treatment to long-term recovery. You can also help to ensure that young people have a place at the table in your organization — consider inviting young people in recovery to contribute to meaningful leadership roles in advising on programs or events held in your community.
Of course the solution is not to solely support the pathways to recovery, but to wholly fund a suitable model that brings support to all aspects of the continuum. We need support for prevention, the many forms of treatment and all pathways to recovery. You can advocate for the full continuum in your own community by making sure your community is recovery ready. Is there a YPR chapter? Does the local high school and college community have recovery related resources? Is there prevention programming in elementary schools? Do first responders have access to Narcan? You can always connect with YPR to have up-to-date advocacy opportunities and more.
I am an advocate, for myself, for all those on their recovery journey and for my daughter Everly Hope Riley. Her mother Rachel and I want to raise her in a culture where she can speak openly about what may be impacting her heart and mind. Whether it be self-esteem, addiction, depression, anxiety or suicide, we want our daughter to know and to not be ashamed, to be able to talk to us as her parents, but also her teachers, coaches or counselors. That’s the country and culture we want for her.