September is once again Recovery Month, when advocates for substance abuse and addiction recovery around the United States celebrate their achievements with their communities. While many communities celebrate in similar fashion – via recovery walks or attending professional baseball games where recovery advocates are honored for their work – each community is encouraged to put its own personal touch on its events, under the guidance of national organizations and government agencies. In Washington, it is an annual opportunity to bring the advocacy community together to highlight the need for policies that encourage and support recovery.
To help local organizations plan, promote and educate the community during Recovery Month, as well as throughout the year, 75,000 hard copies of the 2011 toolkit were distributed to health care, education, business and faith-based organizations, as well as coalitions and government agencies. Through the website, www.RecoveryMonth.Gov, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides invaluable resources for communities around the country that wish to join in the celebration.
“Faces & Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) is looking forward to 2011’s Recovery Month observances that will bring together hundreds of thousands of people across the country – people in recovery, family members, friends and allies – at events large and small, building our recovery advocacy movement,” said Pat Taylor, the executive director of FAVOR. “We will be educating the public and policymakers about the reality of recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and are excited about this year’s September 24th Rally for Recovery! at the 2011 hub in Philadelphia.” The Pennsylvania Recovery Organization – Achieving Community Together (PRO-ACT) will host the event, and more than 12,000 participants are expected, including Office of National Drug Control Policy Director, Gil Kerlikowske, SAMHSA/CSAT Director, Dr. Westley Clark, TV anchor, Laurie Dhue, and contestants for the first-ever Recovery Idol, along with the region’s growing recovery community.
Few people realize that planning for Recovery Month is an ongoing process, with a full-time staff, led by Ivette Torres at SAMHSA, dedicated to its success. SAMHSA also invites its Recovery Month Planning Partners from all parts of the country to Washington three times a year in order to develop ideas and themes. Even as Recovery month 2011 is taking place, the planning partners were meeting on September 7 and 8 this year to plan for 2012 and beyond. The “hub” event in 2012 will take place for the first time in Detroit.
Recovery Month 2011 seeks to build on the success of previous years. In 2010, according to SAMHSA, there were 1,072 Recovery Month events (a seven-percent increase, or 71 more events, than the 1,001 events held in 2009) in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom, with a projected attendance of 3,888,160 individuals (an increase from 1,003,209 in 2009).
SAMHSA has expanded Recovery Month’s social media initiatives while growing its pre-existing and thriving social media channels and outreach. A Twitter account was launched on January 27, 2010, during the quarterly Recovery Month Planning Partner Meeting. The site garnered 1,038 Twitter followers throughout the year. The Recovery Month New Media E-Newsletter was also published on a monthly basis starting in January. SAMHSA conversed with 116 bloggers, which resulted in 25 blog posts that focused on Recovery Month. The Facebook page increased its visibility by 58.6 percent, adding 3,004 new “likes” for a total of 4,898 “likes” since the page’s launch in 2009. The Recovery Month YouTube channel garnered 9,501 new channel views, an increase of 668 percent over 2009, for a total of 10,923 channel views from its launch. Video views increased by 5,047 (or 580 percent) for a total of 5,917 video views, and subscribers increased to 594, a 1,485-percent increase from 40 subscribers in 2009.
In Washington, one of the highlights for recovery month each year is the Recovery Month luncheon. This is a chance for national leaders to join with people from around the country as they celebrate. Attended by Kerlikowske and SAMHSA Administrator Pam Hyde, the lunch this year was hosted by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD). The featured speaker was Judy Collins, an advocate of recovery for many decades. The author of two books, one of which focused on the loss of her son after his own struggles with addiction, Collins spoke of her experiences and the role recovery has played in her life.
At the luncheon, the 9th Annual Rhode Island Rally 4 Recovery was recognized by SAMHSA as the top rally in the nation in 2010. “The State of Rhode Island is honored to be part of the National Recovery Month movement, and we look forward to making this month the biggest and best ever,” said event organizer, Jimmy Gillen, who serves as executive director of the Anchor Recovery Community Center in Providence.
Also at the lunch was the reading of a presidential proclamation, which officially recognized September as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. In his proclamation, President Obama cited that, “Recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs takes strength, faith and commitment. Men and women in recovery showcase the power each of us holds to transform ourselves, our families and our communities. As people share their stories and celebrate the transformative power of recovery, they also help dispel myths and stigmas surrounding substance abuse and offer hope for lifestyles free from alcohol and other drugs.”
Obama calls on advocates to promote recovery and to support the growth of healthy, resilient individuals and families in the United States. He gave special mention to the abuse of prescription medication, reaching what he calls “epidemic levels”. The proclamation made reference to the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, which supports successful, long-term recoveries through research, education, increased access to treatment and community-based recovery support. The President called on the nation to promote second chances and recognize each individual’s ability to overcome adversity.
Recovery Month will be back in 2012, so please visit www.Recoverymonth.gov for updates.