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Charles Ingoglia, MSW

President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health

Voting is a Part of Recovery

October 26, 2020 | From the CEO | Comments
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Voting is one of the most important rights we have as Americans.

It is our chance to weigh in on issues that are important to us as individuals, as a community and as a nation. It is also an important part of our work as behavioral health organizations as we believe the goal of our services is to help people recover. In fact, we believe recovery is the expectation of what we do and not the exception.

Recovery, therefore, is about full engagement in society, and by us facilitating and encouraging our clients to vote we are expressing our support for their agency and engagement. That’s why the National Council has developed a Get Out the Vote initiative.

In New Jersey, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Inc. made sure people could register to vote at each of its locations. That required training employees at offices in four counties. The organization has registered nearly 200 people to vote and shared voter registration information with shelters, group homes and food banks throughout Essex and Morris counties.

In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) also focused on voter registration, hosting two voter registration drives by the end of September, with plans for more. Looking ahead the agency hopes to make voter registration part of its mission by making it part of its protocols when assisting clients with other services. In its voter registration drives, the agency helped voters by providing information on common but sometimes complicated questions like eligibility and mail-in ballots.

The Recovery Advocacy Project began Vote Recovery, an initiative intended to help the recovery community educate themselves and research the records of candidates.

And there are practical reasons to encourage voting as well.

For too many years mental health and addiction recovery funding has paled in comparison to the need. That hasn’t changed, and now the pandemic has accelerated mental illness and substance use.

The opioid epidemic is surging once again. Drug overdoses and overdose deaths are higher compared to last year. Mental illness also is on the rise, fueled by anxiety and isolation because of the awful pandemic. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association predicted a wave of mental illness and substance use disorders.

Health inequity also remains a grim reality, and too many people of color face insurmountable barriers to access to care.

Now we have no idea how people vote, that isn’t the important part of the equation. What is important is that people get involved and that we do what we can to help make that a reality because voting boosts civic engagement and allows all Americans to feel like they are a part of their community.

Behavioral health organizations care deeply about the health of their clients. By helping them exercise their right to vote, we also demonstrate how much we care about the health of our nation.