End-of-year e-mails from advocacy organizations usually make a last-minute pitch for financial support before the calendar flips to a new year. The final e-mail of 2015 from Faces & Voices of Recovery struck a far more personal, and therefore significantly more meaningful, tone.
The message signed by executive director Patty McCarthy Metcalf discussed the tragic setback of the year's loss of director of operations Jerry Gillen to a heroin and methamphetamine overdose over the summer. Metcalf explained that the decision to share widely the information about the cause of Gillen's death, now that it had been recently confirmed by a medical examiner, did not come lightly. She wrote that “in the end, the importance of the work and our mission was the deciding factor.”
Then came the organization's key takeaway: “We must not allow the shame and stigma that has historically kept our friends and families shrouded in a cloak of secrecy to regain any traction,” Metcalf wrote.
Faces & Voices deserves much credit for being willing to share with the public the full picture about addiction, recovery, and their complexities. As its Dec. 31 e-mail states, “We MUST continue to promote widespread understanding that long-term recovery is a reality and a process that takes time and support.”
It is sadly ironic that in a profession that fully understands the gravity of the illness it treats, leaders often have a most difficult time coming to grips with the ultimate negative outcome—a topic we addressed in our Fall print issue cover story about how treatment centers react when a patient dies.
Faces & Voices is dedicating its 2016 work to Jerry Gillen, calling it “The Year of Recovery” and promising to introduce new faces and forge new partnerships along the way.