Statewide and national addiction recovery advocates gathered in Noblesville on Friday to discuss best practices for influencing public policy and organizing effective local programs.
The conversations took place at an inaugural summit presented by the Indiana Recovery Network. Brandon George, vice president of Mental Health America of Indiana, helped organize the event.
He said the rapid expansion of the state’s recovery network in recent years necessitated an opportunity for advocates to collaborate and share what works.
“We have great programs in place, but we need to act together. We have to mobilize,” George said.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated Hoosiers’ mental health issues, leading to two straight years of record overdose deaths.
Alcohol problems also increased early and remained high.
Supporters have stressed the importance of expanding current programs to deal with a growing crisis.
“We need to go beyond just the story of recovery and use this lived experience to influence policies and programs in our communities across the state,” George said.
Tom Coderre, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about the federal government’s role in addressing the mental health crisis and opportunities for local groups.
Community organizations also spoke at the event. Representatives from Scott County recovery organizations discussed strategies to overcome stigma at the local level. Groups are working there to reopen a groundbreaking needle exchange that was recently shut down by county commissioners.
Shelly Weizman, a Georgetown University law professor specializing in addiction and public policy, led a session on working with state and local authorities on recovery efforts. The key, she said, was to couple success stories with targeted proposals.
“Pledge to understand how money works,” she said. “Because if you understand how money works, you are 10,000 times better placed to influence public policy.”
The event coincided with the announcement of a new Indiana Family and Social Services Administration project to measure the resources available for addiction treatment and recovery across the state.