Ivette A. Torres, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Associate Director for Consumer Affairs
National Recovery Month is an essential part of the substance use disorder field observance calendar each year. For the last 27 years it has provided venues for people in recovery and their families, the recovery community services providers, and the community in general to celebrate those in recovery from mental and substance use disorders, each September. It helps the broader community understand that addictions are a family disease that can be addressed by taking the first step to seek help for these conditions. It underscores the need for civic engagement, business partnerships and local and national outreach with the goal of addressing the disease of addiction in every community.”
NACoA has been an integral part of the planning process of Recovery Month each year. As a planning partner it contributes critical insights as to how to keep the observance true to its organizational goals with a focus on the individuals, children and families affected by the disease of addiction. In the spirit of engagement by all of the NACoA membership here are the top five ways in which each NACoA affiliate, national and international, can celebrate Recovery Month this September!
1) Plan a Recovery Month event
Events and activities are the best way to celebrate the observance each year. There are innumerable options for organizations and individuals to come together in a strong partnership to host an event or activity. One of the most popular event or activity is a Recovery Month Run/Walk where people in recovery, families who support them, organizations, elected or appointed officials, legislators, civic and business leaders and others can come together to plan an event.
Two of the most successful events of this type happen in Philadelphia, PA and in Hartford, CT where thousands of people come together. To start you can go to the Recovery Month Events section to get ideas. If you wish to speak to the organizers of the two events I mentioned go the Recovery Month events site and find the contact name and e-mail and set up a time to speak to them. I am certain that they can help you with questions about you can go about to organize an event like theirs. Please remember to post your event on the Recovery Month website to help advertise your event.
2) Host a Recovery Month Legislative Forum
A legislative forum will give your organization or community an opportunity to highlight the relevant issues in your community, or, state, that affect those with a mental or substance use disorder. You can gather in the State House or Legislative body auditorium and host a morning breakfast, or, afternoon forum with a reception to follow, or, host an all-day forum. The forum’s goal would be to acknowledge those in recovery and to invite legislators from key legislative committees to speak to the group about the state’s’ response to the challenges being faced by the state, or communities.
You can also invite the governor, and other civic and business leaders from the community to speak at the forum on a topic that is relevant to the celebration. These speakers will alternate with the “voices of recovery” that will speak at the event. The benefits of hosting a forum, is to show the visibility and strength of the recovery community and to provide a venue to those that support the availability of services for those in recovery and for those who are in need of recovery. This model has been most successfully deployed in Boston, MA each year. The Recovery Month website has the contact information for the event organizers who can assist in the planning process for your legislative forum.
3) Host a Recovery Month Open House
An open house is a great opportunity for an agency or organization to highlight the work that they do to the broader community during Recovery Month. You can even consider using the open house as a fundraising activity by inviting the entities that provide funding for the agency or organization. It is an ideal opportunity to showcase the outcomes achieved by the work performed by the organization.
The welcoming program can have testimonies from the clients served showcasing the individuals and families that have been assisted with the resources provided by each of the sources of funding. This “show and tell” opportunity can serve as a catalyst for the funding sources to further support the efforts of the agency. For agencies needing to improve community relations, it can serve as a tool for the targeted members to see the work of the agency and its impact up close and personally.
4) Secure a Gubernatorial or Mayoral Proclamation
This is a great way to bring your agency’s mission and work before the state’s mental and substance use disorder commission of directorate, many of whom are within the Executive Office of the Governor. It is also a great way to get mayors engaged in the Recovery Month efforts. The Recovery Month website has examples of proclamations that can be executed by the governors, mayors, county managers, or, commissioners. This is a great opportunity to have the governor or other official host a proclamation signing ceremony and invite the behavioral health field for a photo opportunity which can then garner press for the organizing agency. It is also one of the most prominent ways to kick-off the Recovery Month observance in your state, city or county. To have your proclamation posted on the Recovery Month website please email a copy of the signed proclamation as a high-resolution JPEG file (preferred) or as a scanned PDF file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5) Help to place Recovery Month PSAs and Road to Recovery Programs in local stations
Every year the Recovery Month planning partners work with SAMHSA to develop two TV and Radio public service announcements. These are available in both Spanish and English and there is an “open-ended” version that can be tailored to each user’s need. In addition, the agency can view and help to place the Road to Recovery TV and Radio Series in Cable TV’s public access channels and/or in the local community broadcast channels.
Join the thousands of communities and individuals across the country celebrating Recovery Month and honor the millions of Americans living their lives in recovery. Get involved in your community and help share their success stories with neighbors, friends, and colleagues to increase awareness and understanding about the diseases of mental and substance use disorders.
Ivette A. Torres is the Associate Director for Consumer Affairs at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.