At a time when drug use is causing devastating consequences for our communities, we need to do everything we can – as advocates, community members, family and friends, to support those impacted by addiction. A key message of this movement: Recovery is possible. In fact, over 23 million Americans are currently in long-term recovery from addiction.
People in recovery and their allies gathered on the National Mall on the evening of October 4th to UNITE to Face Addiction. Tens of thousands of advocates from across the country and around the world joined the rally to draw attention to this public health crisis and to remind the world that people do recover from addiction. Those of us attending on behalf of Community Catalyst’s Substance Use Disorders team were proud to be among them!
The rally kicked off with a fun lineup of musical super stars—Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, and The Fray, just to name a few! During their sets, the musicians shared stories of how addiction has touched their lives. In between musical acts, political figures from all branches of government addressed the crowd to voice their support for people living with substance use disorders and those in recovery.
Current and former senators and leaders from various federal agencies, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Food and Drug Administration, and Health Resources and Services Administration, acknowledge the importance of addressing this national epidemic. Surgeon General Murthy used the rally as an opportunity to announce for the first time his plan to release a groundbreaking new report on substance use and health in 2016.
Throughout the evening, dozens of speakers shared powerful personal stories, all met with cheers and encouragement from the crowd. Rally organizers called upon attendees to honor lives lost to substance misuse and to chart a path forward, emphasizing the prevention of substance use disorders, affordable options for addiction treatment and recovery supports, and access to the opioid reversal medication Naloxone. Advocates also urged members of Congress to improve addiction policy to expand the resources available to individuals with substance use disorders, their families, and their communities.
Community Catalyst has been a supporter of UNITE to Face Addiction since last spring, when we joined a coalition of leading organizations serving the substance use disorders and recovery community on a working group of organizations helping to plan and promote the rally. The movement has grown from there. Facing Addiction Inc., the organization behind the event, is now an independent nonprofit organization that has mobilized a strong national grassroots presence.
Community Catalyst was proud to participate in the effort to elevate the conversation about substance misuse at the national level. We see this public dialogue on addiction and recovery as deeply connected to our mission and our work over the past five years in the area of substance use disorders. Increasingly, this work necessitates comprehensive approaches to address the opioid epidemic that has swept the United States over the past few years. From prevention efforts targeted at youth to ensuring consumers have access to adequate treatment and peer support, Community Catalyst is working with a network of consumer health advocates across the country to support states and communities seeking to prevent more overdose deaths and offer hope to those impacted by addiction.