September is National Recovery Month, an occasion to focus on the needs of the millions of people living with substance use disorders (SUDs), and celebrate those who have taken steps or recovered from harmful impacts of substance use.
The CDC estimated that overdose deaths increased by 30% in 2020, with 93,000 deaths being the highest recorded yearly total. While the stress and isolation of the pandemic have created challenges for people living with SUDs, the growth of telehealth platforms and virtual spaces have helped people access support in new ways. During this time when normal routines have been disrupted, it has also allowed many people to see what matters most and make a change.
SUDs affect people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, regions and socioeconomic levels. Likewise, the path to recovery is not one-size-fits-all and takes different forms. Recovery is defined as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.
The Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition is a diverse network of more than 25 organizations composed of service and criminal justice providers, and people with lived experience working to improve mental health and substance use outcomes for Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson counties. This National Recovery Month, the Coalition is dedicated to sharing stories of recovery, and supporting community members to connect to resources to assist them along their recovery journeys.
To see a list of activities, visit helphappenshere.org/nationalrecoverymonth. Below are a few of the programs happening this month.
Learn about NarcanRegion Ten hosts monthly free virtual REVIVE overdose reversal training that teaches participants how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose. Free Narcan is available. The next training will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Free Narcan and in-home HIV test kits will be available with the Blue Ridge Health District from 3 to 4 p.m. Sept. 20 at 1138 Rose Hill Drive in Charlottesville.
Support groupsOn Our Own is a peer support recovery center in Charlottesville that offers virtual SMART Recovery meetings at noon Tuesdays and at 6 p.m. Thursdays. This secular, science-based program is designed to help individuals abstain from addictive behaviors; it is especially helpful for people involved in medication-assisted therapy. Visit onourowncville.org/groups for more information.
Diversity in Recovery, a group of LGBTQ+, BIPOC and allies, works together to create safe spaces for recovery in the Piedmont region of Virginia. It offers virtual Open Discussion Sunday support meetings at 1 p.m. Sundays and Step Study meetings at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. Visit diversityinrecovery.org/meetings for more information.
Harm reductionThe Virginia Festival of the Book and the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition will be hosting a free virtual two-part series called “Undoing Drugs: Conversations about Harm Reduction” on Sept. 30 for International Recovery Day. The first event, a Conversation with Maia Szalavitz, will start at noon and will discuss the story of harm reduction and its potential to tame the opioid crisis, mitigate future drug problems and quell other pandemics in conversation with Lawson Koeppel, co-founder of the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition. To register, visit vabook.org/schedule.
The second event will be “A Conversation with Local Harm Reduction Champions and Providers” and will start at 4 p.m. This includes a panel discussion with Coalition partners moderated by Erin Tucker, executive director of On Our Own, a peer recovery center that provides support, understanding and resources to adults in our community as they pursue their own unique paths to recovery. To register, go to facebook.com/communitymentalhealthandwellnesscoalition and see our upcoming events.
Rebecca Kendall is the director of the Community Mental Health & Wellness Coalition.