Thursday, October 9, 2014

Shining a Light on the Stigma of Addiction

Many communities struggle to establish effective responses to drug and alcohol addiction. Last week I attended “The Many Faces of Addiction: Ending the Stigma” at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church. The summit brought together local organizations, advocacy groups, medical professionals, families and individuals in recovery from across New Jersey and New York. The afternoon began with a conversation between Governor Chris Christie and Pastor Joe Carter from New Hope Baptist Church. The discussion centered on addiction as a disease that can strike anyone without regard for race, religion, age or socioeconomic status. Governor Christie also commented that the war on drugs, through well-intentioned, has untimely failed, and that when we look at addiction from the standpoint of the criminal justice system, "it's not always about the criminal act, it's about the disease."

In 2013, 84% of NCS clients had a positive screen for substance abuse issues at intake and, in the same year, almost half of the cases resolved through NCS were drug related.  But that is only part of the story.  The shame and sense of hopelessness that effects not only the individual struggling with the disease, but his family and friends as well, is what often feeds the cycle of addiction and arrest and makes change so challenging.

I found it especially encouraging to hear political and community leaders coming together to focus on this critical issue. There is clearly more work to be done but this felt like a step in the right direction.

Change Minds.  Tell Your Story. #BeAFace.

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