Dona Dmitrovic has participated in numerous advocacy activities for addiction treatment and recovery since the late 1990s, but believes the diversity of participants that was evident at the Oct. 4 UNITE to Face Addiction rally in Washington, D.C., may serve as a catalyst in ways not seen before.
Dmitrovic, director of consumer affairs for substance use disorders at managed care company Optum, says what stood out beyond talk of any specific trend or policy issue at this weekend's events was the commitment of new participants from all walks of life. “A friend of mine from Oklahoma was there—there were 40 people on that bus, and they rode 28 hours to get there,” says Dmitrovic. “There were recovery advocates, treatment providers, professionals. Children were there.”
The Sunday rally on the National Mall was the signature event in a weekend of activities that culminated a multi-million-dollar fundraising effort spearheaded by nonprofit Facing Addiction, Inc. Advocacy activity on Capital Hill today, organized by the National Council for Behavioral Health, represents the first of what is hoped to be sustained follow-up activity from the first-of-its-kind weekend event.
Dmitrovic says this was not Optum's first foray into national advocacy events in the field (it served as a sponsoring organization for UNITE). The managed care organization participated in Recovery Month events in 2014, and has been involved in other recovery advocacy activities.
Regarding the latest event, “We really saw it as an opportunity to raise awareness and share the message,” Dmitrovic says.
She offers an example of one of the ways in which the message is being processed in the community. “One of my husband's friends who was there texted us after the event and said, 'I'm going to start identifying myself as a person in long-term recovery,'” she says. “Before, he was just a 12-Stepper.”
If you attended or viewed this weekend's events, what are your thoughts on their impact, and the activities to which they might lead?