Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsors National Recovery Month to raise awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate those in recovery. It’s the impetus for a lot of good in the addiction treatment community. At CleanSlate Centers, our employees did some great things to support National Recovery Month, and I couldn’t be any prouder to be part of this team.
But here’s the truth our patients face on the front lines of the addiction battle: There won’t be fewer people who die from opioid-related overdoses in October, November or December. There won’t be a drastic drop in friends, neighbors, family members who are impacted by this epidemic. The CDC says 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose – that means January 1 through December 31.Those sobering numbers underscore the fact that our patients aren’t suddenly “healed” or “recovered” after one month. Recovery is not a static state; it is the daily process by which a person manages the chronic disease of addiction.
Only 60 percent seek treatment
Last year’s Surgeon General report found that only 10 percent of people living with addiction receive specialized treatment. Four out of 10 do not seek treatment at all. These numbers are heartbreaking and unacceptable. They keep me awake at night. And they speak volumes about two major points of addiction treatment in America: the huge need for expanded access to treatment; and the bravery and strength it takes for individuals to seek help in the first place.
By the end of October, CleanSlate will be close to treating our 25,000th patient. Reaching this milestone is a testament to the clinical and administrative teams we have in place at 30 centers across America. It shows our dedication to expanding access to medication-based treatment (MAT) for the communities that so desperately need help addressing this epidemic.
As the numbers above show, however, millions of Americans still need help. And simply opening more centers is not enough.
Ending the stigma by working together
To continue making progress in this fight against the opioid epidmic, we must leverage the momentum gained by National Recovery Month to bring an end to the stigmas that for far too long have poisoned people’s ability to get the help they need. The work SAMHSA does is invaluable in helping to spread information and the personal stories that chip away at the severe stigmas that surround this terrible disease. Embracing this type of openness is one of the most important steps we can all take toward making a lasting impact on the trajectory of this epidemic.
Recovery Month is a valuable, important vehicle for starting a conversation about addiction, and I greatly appreciate all that SAMHSA does to raise awareness and improve the lives of those struggling with substance use. But stigmas can’t end in a month. Our nation’s access problems won’t be solved in a month. Recovery is a daily challenge – not one from which we can simply move on after September 30.