The New Federal Leadership: Building Resiliency and Facilitating Recovery
While we are far from eliminating drug use, we have made enormous strides in the last several decades. There are three major fronts of progress which must be recognized:
First, is the new understanding of the power of resiliency to thwart addiction. We know now, thanks to prevention research, that by developing assets in individuals, families and communities, and by fostering relationships with caring adults, children can develop resiliency that acts as an antidote to substance abuse. Today building resiliency is the keystone of both prevention and treatment efforts in communities across the nation. It is a guiding principle and indeed, is recognized as the element which must pervade an entire continuum of care: To delay the onset of substance abuse, to prevent relapse, and to promote healthy recovering individuals and families.
Second, is the strong Federal commitment to facilitate recovery from addiction. Today recovery means far more than simply continuing abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It means a rejuvenation of health on every level: Physical, mental and spiritual. It means a return to responsible living as evidenced by a lack of involvement with the criminal justice system and a re-engagement in productive activities such as work and school. Most of all, recovery means finding a sense of place within the community, a sense of belonging and purpose, and a feeling of connection to one’s family, neighborhood and the people within it. The promise of recovery today means former substance abusers—and their families and friends—living fully among others; no longer sequestered by their disease, but thriving in spite of it.
These intangible qualities of "resilience" and "recovery," while difficult to measure are the unmistakable elements of true well-being. They are the foundation of "A Life in the Community for Everyone." Every SAMHSA dollar spent, every grant program, every technical assistance activity, every publication and conference is geared toward the fulfillment of this bold, yet simple, vision. But it was not always this way.
The third and critical stride forward was the transformation of Federal leadership in how it addressed substance abuse and co-occurring illness. SAMHSA realized that it could not, should not, be the deliverer of direct prevention and treatment services. Instead, the Agency committed itself to become the prime architect for the nation’s demand reduction infrastructure. Under new leadership, service providers received new support, prevention efforts thrived with increased funding, treatment capacity was targeted for expansion, communities were engaged as partners, and States were dealt with on an individual basis, according to their unique needs and data. Today, SAMHSA is fulfilling its proper Federal role while remaining grounded in the understanding that all substance abuse ultimately occurs at the local level: The entirety of SAMHSA's prevention and treatment efforts, including grants, programming, technical assistance and other efforts, is directed towards building resiliency and facilitating recovery at both the community and personal levels.
Commitment to the twin goals of building resiliency and facilitating recovery has been echoed in numerous speeches by the President and the First Lady. In the 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush announced to the American people his support for a new substance abuse treatment program known as "Access to Recovery (ATR)." This national initiative is today minimizing suffering, providing choice, and maximizing accountability by helping people with substance abuse problems to enter effective treatment quickly through a system of vouchers at the State and local level. The President’s public announcement of the ATR initiative, greeted by warm applause, elevated to an even higher level SAMHSA's key conviction: People with substance use and co-occurring mental disorders can and do recover!
Finally, we stand at a crossroads. The dream of building resiliency and recovery is real and achievable. The building blocks of a powerful demand reduction infrastructure are in place. But if we are to conquer substance abuse and its co-occurring illness, enduring passion and perseverance are required. These are the qualities of the human heart, not of the Government structure. SAMHSA infrastructure and guiding principles are only part of the solution. They must be grounded in a citizenry committed to a answering a call of action. Every American in every community must ask himself and decide, "What Can I Do To Help Achieve a Drug-Free America?"