September is National Recovery Month, a time to increase awareness and understanding of substance use disorders and celebrate people who are recovering from addiction.
Recovery Month helps us to recognize the tremendous challenge substance abuse represents in our communities today — particularly the growing opioid abuse epidemic we are facing. It also allows us to spread the positive message that people can and do recover from addiction — as long as we work together to help individuals find the services and support they need to succeed.
Illinois has been referenced in the national conversation about the opioid epidemic too often. Between 2008 and 2014, deaths from opioid overdoses in Illinois nearly tripled, and the proportion of drug overdose deaths attributable to opioids jumped from 31 percent to 68 percent. One has only to listen to the news to hear about yet another arrest or tragic death related to opioids. To its credit, our state has enacted groundbreaking policy to address the opioid crisis, the Heroin Crisis Act. This law will increase access to overdose reversal drugs; improve monitoring of prescription opiates and overdose reporting; direct users to treatment instead of jail; and mandate a public awareness campaign on opioid abuse.
However, after decades of underfunded services, the resources available to those in need of addiction treatment are not sufficient to accommodate everyone. A shortage of addictions treatment providers and addictions-trained physicians, along with a lack of inpatient treatment sites, have created a significant gap in meeting the needs of all those struggling with opioid addiction.
In an effort to close the gap created by the years of underfunding, Centerstone and other treatment providers throughout the nation are implementing innovative treatment methods to create greater opportunities for client connection and success. Some examples of that innovation include integrating substance abuse treatment with primary care, providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to create a more comprehensive medical model, and establishing a recovery-oriented system of care.
It is time for all of us — medical providers, law enforcement officials, political leaders, and community members — to join forces to stop the deadly progression of addiction. It’s easy to look the other way as if this rising issue does not directly affect us all, but substance abuse is becoming more prevalent than any other health condition in our state. Police, EMTs, hospitals, health departments and treatment providers are being overrun with cases. Sadly, so are coroners. By bringing awareness to the issue and the available resources for those who are struggling, we are opening the doors to successful recovery, restored families and positive outcomes.
Those struggling with substance abuse disorders must be educated on the resources available to them and, most importantly, they must make the decision to get clean. By working together to spread awareness and educate our communities, we can stem the rising number of people affected, and ultimately, save lives.
Centerstone is committed to providing the support needed to assist those seeking recovery from substance abuse issues. Visit centerstone.org for more information.
John Markley is chief executive officer of Centerstone, a nonprofit organization that has provided mental health, substance abuse, developmental disability and integrated health services to Illinois residents for more than 50 years.