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Young people will discuss the elements critical to their recovery

October 27, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A SAMHSA-sponsored dialogue will help nurture young leaders in communities

About 50 young adults ages 18 to 25 will get together in December for a dialogue on the factors that have been most instrumental in their recovery from substance addiction. The Dec. 13 event's sponsor, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), hopes the discussion will help identify a framework for how best to establish recovery-oriented systems of care for young people in communities.

The Young People's Networking Dialogue on Recovery, to be held in Baltimore, constitutes a new event for SAMHSA. The federal agency has enlisted the assistance of the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) as a coordinator; that organization largely focuses on improving communication about proper use of medications, but it has worked with SAMHSA on numerous projects in the past.

"This is SAMHSA's first organized meeting on this particular aspect of recovery," says Ray Bullman, NCPIE's executive vice president. Bullman says his organization will prepare a summary report after the dialogue, and that document could set the stage for recommended actions within SAMHSA and beyond.

SAMHSA has set out multiple objectives for the meeting, including establishing a forum for young people to discuss their recovery experiences; identifying the concepts and services that young people believe have been critical to their recovery; and giving participants examples of ways they can contribute in their communities as peer mentors and advocates.

In that regard, those who applied to participate were asked to provide information "from the heart" as to why they wanted to be there, says Bullman. "We wanted to see that these individuals not only have ┬Ělived the life,' as it were, but were also committed to peer support and advocacy," he says.

And the applications certainly identified those types of individuals, Bullman says. "Most people in their own way were already reaching out beyond themselves."

Word of the event opportunity got out through the contacts of several organizations that have served as advisers to the project, including groups such as Faces and Voices of Recovery.

The December event also will feature a panel of health professionals and substance use disorder experts who will discuss topics such as how to engage community organizations in supporting the elements of recovery in young people.

Bullman says it is also possible that some family members of young people in recovery will join their dialogue, though he adds that organizers will avoid generating any distractions that would be brought on if there were any direct family relationships present in the room.