Stabilizing those experiencing homelessness, trauma, mental illness and substance use is no small task, but the answer may start with the most basic of human needs: Connection.
Current data reminds us that more people than ever need support. Although national trends show people experiencing homelessness is decreasing over the last decade, the last two years show a slight increase in the individuals subgroup, reversing that trend for the past two years of data available.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in Americans have a mental health condition, and 1 in 25 have a serious mental illness (SMI) such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or recurrent major depression. Nearly 8 million Americans have co-occurring disorders, mental health and addiction, of which nearly 60 percent are receiving no treatment at all.
When we look at opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin, “misuse claims more lives than motor vehicle crashes,” according to SAMHSA.
But there is good news: We all have the capacity to positively impact the lives of those in recovery, if we choose.
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Creating Connections Around the Country
After listening closely to the community in central Indiana for the last 18 months, where my wife and I recently relocated from Seattle, we were told that there are limited supports in place for long-term recovery, that it’s difficult to find groups that truly welcome all pathways to recovery, and services and programs that address both mental health and substance use are hard to find.
However, as the public gains more awareness around health, social, and economic challenges related to substance use disorder and mental health, peer recovery programs are proving more critical than ever. Recovery-oriented systems of care have gained momentum as they leverage a wider breadth and depth of community resources, while lifting our existing health care systems and structures.
An example of this model is the Recovery Café, which started in Seattle 15 years ago and has recently added its 20th cafe. It’s a peer-based program, characterized by connection, and rooted in the empowerment of individuals in recovery to move from surviving to thriving. It serves those recovering from trauma, mental illness, substance use and homelessness, and invites healing through the experience of being deeply known and deeply loved. It is membership-based and asks individuals to:
1. Be drug/alcohol free for 24 hours
2. Attend a weekly recovery circle
3. Be a contributing member of the café through volunteering
The model’s power and success is generated by its holistic and inclusive approach to recovery, with an emphasis on connection to self, others, identities and resources.
Radical Hospitality: We are a community of belonging where everyone is met, valued and loved wherever they are on their journey.
Membership Based: Members make commitments, share responsibilities, enjoy benefits of membership and experience a sense of ownership.
Loving Accountability: There is accountability that comes from being both deeply known and loved that transforms us.
Everyone Contributes: People do not just receive services; everyone is expected to contribute to the Café’s operation and to the healing of others.
Raising Up Leaders: Everyone is expected to develop their gifts, to lead at the point of their gifts and to follow at the point of another’s gifts.
Mutually Liberating Relationships: We form relationships that cross socio-economic, racial, religious, gender, and other barriers that exist in our larger culture.
We’re planning to open two Recovery Cafés in Indiana (Indianapolis and Lafayette) with the support of Indiana Department of Mental Health and Addiction, the Recovery Café Network, and family members and friends.
What Donors Can Do:
This is one of the nation’s leading issues that needs immediate solutions and waiting for someone else to fix it is not an option. The more individuals connect as people and reject the labels, classes, stereotypes and misperceptions about one another, the more healing and love is available for everyone. Connection, one individual to another, has the power to transform lives.
Connect: Be part of the support system for those tackling addiction by becoming a volunteer.
Take Action: Support recovery-oriented systems of care or bring a Recovery Café to your community.
Original contribution by Kevin Espirito and Beth Kreitl, Co-founders of We Bloom.
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