Hear about it in the park, read about it in the papers – Inyo County officially recognizes Recovery Month and joins in its national observance with a grand event, personal testimonials and informational articles. On Sept. 3, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors proclaimed September as Recovery Month, Director of Inyo County Health and Human Services Jean Turner said. Recovery Month should heighten public awareness and discussion of “the prevalence of mental and substance-use disorders” and HHS’ many recovery and wellness, she added.
One venue for that discussion is the third annual Communities United for Recovery, to be held from 5:30-8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27 at the front of Bishop City Park. People in recovery and their families and friends; people who are merely interested; and healthcare professionals are all invited to this gathering, which is open to all types of recovery and mental health issues, HHS Prevention Specialist April Eagan said.
This year’s theme, Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness, springs from “the many ways people can prevent behavioral health issues, seek treatment and sustain recovery as part of a commitment to living a mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy life. There are many paths to wellness, and each person embarks on his or her own unique path,” Eagan said.
Communities United for Recovery will be a “celebration of people leading successful lives in recovery” as well as of related entities, such as HHS, Inyo County Probation, Inyo County Drug Court and the local recovery community, Eagan added.
The event will include a barbecue dinner and the music of Stan Summers Band. However, most importantly, people will be sharing their personal stories of recovery from the microphone and stories will also be posted on trees and picnic tables, Eagan said. Anyone who wants to speak or help at the Sept. 27 event, can contact her at (760) 873-4159.
For those who may want to tell their recovery stories but are concerned about anonymity, professionals and people in recovery can share their insights and stories in the newspaper. Stories can be submitted anonymously, until Friday, Sept. 20, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org  or delivered in writing in envelopes marked “Attention: April,” at any of the following HHS locations in Bishop, at 162 Grove St., 163 May St., 568 W. Line St., and 920 N. Main St.; in Independence, at 155 E. Market St.; and in Lone Pine at 380 N. Mt. Whitney. All offices are open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Eagan said.
Having one’s story heard, being accepted by others as a person in recovery, is therapeutic, Eagan explained. “It is critical that people experiencing mental and/or substance use disorders receive the support they need from the community. The reality is that behavioral health is essential to health; prevention works; treatment is effective; and people recover,” Eagan explained.
Mental illness is addressed during Recovery Month because, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, certain people with mental illness are at an increased risk of abusing drugs. The Alliance also said that more than one-third of all alcohol abusers and more than one-half of all drug abusers also suffer from mental illness. Furthermore, the relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is complex and it is vital that people are aware of their options for treatment and recovery.
2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health statistics, which were released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, show that 45.6 million adults had a mental illness – only 31.6 million people accessed mental health services. In the same year, 20.6 million people were classified with substance dependence or abuse issues – less than four million people, aged 12 years or older, received treatment.
Of HHS’ expectations for the Sept. 27 Communities United for Recovery event, Turner said, for people who have not yet gotten into recovery, this event “reminds them again that many people before them have taken this brave step. For those who live with someone needing to be in recovery, I hope this provides them both hope and opportunity. For those who are judgmental about people struggling with addictions, I hope this again challenges their thinking and beliefs.
“For those who work to support the recovery of others, either in their personal or professional lives, I hope this reminds them of why they do so.”
Nationwide, Recovery Month is observed with the expectation of raising public awareness, celebrating and supporting people in long-term recovery and acknowledging the work of prevention, treatment and recovery support services, Eagan said.