No one can argue that our Lakes Region community is suffering as Substance Use Disorder (SUD) wreaks havoc on us by changing and taking away our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Chances are, just about everybody either knows someone, is related to someone, or works with someone who has been affected by addiction. SUD is like cancer; it is a medical condition that does not discriminate. Nobody chooses to live with this disease. Just this past week, four community members lost their battle with addiction! This loss of life is heartbreaking, but it doesn't have to be such common news — we can do something to help reduce these tragedies.
Grassroots coalitions, such as Stand Up Laconia, have begun educating the community at large about the disease of SUD, working to spread awareness of the crisis, and making efforts to reduce the stigma associated with SUD. Programs such Horizons Counseling Center are helping those with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. Officer Eric Adams, the Prevention, Enforcement, and Treatment coordinator at the Laconia Police Department, works directly with individuals and their families that are suffering from a SUD. These successful efforts all deserve the accolades they receive and more.
Unfortunately, there remains a large gap in the services the Lakes Region offers to those battling addiction and trying to manage their recovery. Living a successful life of recovery requires more than just strong willpower and the desire to quit drinking or using other drugs. It's a great misconception to believe that individuals suffering from a SUD are making a choice to continue substance abuse. It is essential that people trying to live a life of recovery have access to local face-to-face support, including strong peer networks and assistance navigating around barriers to resources.
Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region (www.navigatingrecovery.org) is a collaborative, grassroots, non-profit organization; comprised of individuals in recovery, community members, and organizational leaders who are committed to opening this much needed recovery center in Laconia. We will act as the support network individuals and families suffering from a SUD greatly need and deserve. As a recovery community organization, we will work to reduce the demand for services from the Fire Department, Police Department, EMT's, court system, county corrections, and LRGH Emergency Department. We are committed to creating a supportive, recovery informed community for those affected by addiction.
Therefore, it greatly saddens me to share that we might be facing the same stigma that other recovery centers in other communities across New Hampshire have encountered when trying to open places to provide this desperately needed service. As an organization we have struggled to find a space to call home here in Laconia. We have come close to leasing office space, yet circumstances quickly changed resulting in the property no longer being available to us. I can't help but wonder if this is due to the stigma associated with SUD and the misunderstanding of what a recovery center in Laconia will look like? Although we anticipated some resistance when starting this process, it was still disheartening. However, we continue to also believe that our community will rally to support our cause because we all recognize that we must resolve to curb the crisis we are facing together, and urgently too! In the end, other communities in New Hampshire proceeded to shift the uncertainty to advocacy, and recovery centers have successfully opened across the state.
So, let me clarify what we are offering to provide in the Lakes Region. The recovery center we are opening will be a location (picture an inviting and comforting tranquil space):
— for the recovery community to organize and support one another,
— a resource center for individuals and family members,
— a center that recognizes, values, and supports multiple and various pathways to recovery,
— a safe place where recovery community meetings can be held,
— and a place where peer-to-peer recovery support services will be a priority.
We will offer art therapy, yoga, meditation, and health and wellness workshops. We will not be a residential rehab, detox, or treatment facility. Yet, we will help individuals who need those resources find the right place to go.
Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region believes all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We strive to end discrimination against people in recovery and those still suffering from the disease of addiction. We respect multiple pathways to recovery, embrace and promote recovery in individuals, families and communities, and appreciate the interconnectedness of these entities. We know recovery flourishes in supportive communities, and we know recovery gives back what addiction has taken away.
We simply ask that our community recognizes the values we stand for and the assistance we will be providing to our loved Lakes Region residents and their families suffering from a SUD; and, in turn champions our efforts with the same respect.
(Daisy Pierce, PhD is executive director of Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region. She lives in Gilford.)
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