Board of Commissioners proclaims September as National Recovery Month
Recovery provides drug and alcohol addicts an opportunity for hope.
That’s the message the Board of Commissioners heard at its weekly meeting Thursday before proclaiming September as National Recovery Month.
Local recovery addiction contractors and staff from the county’s Mental Health and Addiction Services testified on Sept. 13 about how life-altering treatment can be to giving people a second chance.
Chair Jeff Cogen said the proclamation was an important acknowledgement for the board to make.
“There’s probably no more powerful feeling when associated with addiction than hopelessness, and what recovery is about is hope,” Cogen said. “It’s important for us to support folks who are struggling with addiction with hope and it’s also important for us to share broadly with the community the fact that there is hope, and that recovery does work and that treatment does work.”
Devarshi Bajpai, addictions services manager for the county’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division, said recovery is often “the invisible part of the addiction process.”
“Everybody sees the impact of active addiction where we see crime, disrupted families, people on the streets,” Bajpai said. “The part that we don’t see is that when people go through treatment, they get back into the community, they get jobs, they get houses, they get families. They blend into society.”
Multnomah County provides an array of addiction services including prevention, detoxification, residential treatment and outpatient treatment. About 6,000 adults, 180 young people and 67 families receive services in the county.
Dionne Preston, program director for The Miracles Club, told the board of the importance of peer mentoring at the Northeast Portland-based organization.
“We believe that addicts do get clean, they do have productive lives, but we want to add that special support of one addict helping another,” Preston said. “What happens when they leave treatment? How do they transition from treatment?”
Preston, who is a recovering addict, said she knows this approach works first-hand.
“I’m really proud to be in recovery,” Preston said. “I’m also proud that I can work with individuals and watch their lives change and share my experiences and my hopes.”
Corbett Monica, founder and executive director of Dual Diagnosis Anonymous of Oregon, Inc., a peer support group for people with serious mental illnesses and addiction, spoke about how recovery worked for him following his service in the Marines during the Vietnam War.
“The war had a profound impact on me, especially because I returned without my best friend who did not get the chance to see his newborn daughter,” Monica said. When he arrived in San Diego in September 1968, he faced backlash.
“We were greeted by a chorus of anger and hateful comments I did not understand much depression, grieving, loss, survivor’s guilt or PTSD,” said Monica, 65. “I only sought relief through a hopeless addiction. After receiving the last rites twice in a two-week period for heroin overdoses, I was involuntarily committed for treatment in a locked, psychiatric hospital for serious symptoms of mental illness and addiction – a condition known as dual diagnosis.”
Monica said he struggled with the idea of having a mental illness and began to use methamphetamines for relief. Twenty-six years ago at age 39, Monica had an epiphany and began to turn his life around.
“Recovery is holding fast with all our might to the heartfelt and burning desire to transcend our suffering and redirect those destructive energies into recovery and service,” Monica said. “This is what treatment and support teaches us. Recovery works.”
Commissioner Deborah Kafoury praised Preston and Monica for their work.
“I want to thank you both for coming forth and sharing your stories and to congratulate you, not only on your years of recovery, but also that you have taken this opportunity to help others as well,” Kafoury said. “Giving back to the community is really a strong value that we have in Multnomah County.”
Chair Cogen said it is important to emphasis the successes of addiction treatment “so that we can get the resources to serve more than 6,000 people. Because we know that as great as that work is, there are a lot more people who need the support.”
For more information:
Mental Health and Addiction Services website
Mental Health Crisis Line: 503-988-4888; 800-716-9769; 503-988-5866 TTY