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Recovery movement takes hold

August 16, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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National Recovery Month evolves from celebration to rallying call

The addiction recovery movement is comparatively young in the world of healthcare, with its signature monthlong event now in its 22nd year. Yet as the September National Recovery Month commemorations approach, leaders from around the country continue to exhibit a growing sophistication as they begin to flex greater political muscle through their events.

“So many of the events are now incorporating voter registration,” says Pat Taylor, executive director of the national group Faces and Voices of Recovery. “This has become a recruitment event for ongoing recovery advocacy.”

While the federally sponsored Recovery Month ( continues to have a broad mission of educating the public that treatment helps individuals recover and live productive lives, many of the September events across the country have taken on a decidedly local focus in calling attention to timely policy issues affecting people in recovery.

“We’re seeing a more sophisticated engagement of the broader community of elected officials and decision-makers,” Taylor says.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has now officially incorporated mental health recovery into the Recovery Month agenda as well. In another indication of this integrated approach, the federal agency is in the middle of a two-week comment period (ending Aug. 26) for a working definition of “recovery from mental and substance use disorders” that also includes 10 guiding principles supporting recovery (such as “recovery is person-driven” and “recovery occurs via many pathways”).

The inclusion of mental health into the National Recovery Month agenda necessitated a name change from the previous designation of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

Faces and Voices of Recovery’s national hub event in its Rally for Recovery! series will take place on Sept. 24 in Philadelphia. Taylor says she expects about 15,000 people will attend, and the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is scheduled to be there.

Taylor adds that more elected officials are showing an interest in attending events around the country. At last year’s Recovery Month celebration in Richmond, Va., candidates for office used the opportunity to stump for support among this newly identified group of voters, she says.

Taylor believes Recovery Month will continue to have importance in the coming years, although the presence of mental health and other factors will mean that it is likely to take on different forms over time. “This is a very young movement; people are looking for ways to come together,” she says.


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