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Celebrate MLK Day with Community Service for Recovery and Resiliency

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Date: January 18, 2023
Category: Recovery

Earlier this week, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.’s birthday which has become a “day of service to your community,” and in that spirit, we would like to share an urgent call to action.

In Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, he states, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” His “four little children” have now long been adults and we have yet to realize his dream. Too many of our nation’s youth and their family members – particularly those from marginalized and under-resourced communities – lack opportunities to pursue recovery and build resiliency.

SAMHSA’s recently-released findings from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that Black, Hispanic, Latino, and Asian adults were less likely to receive mental health services than White and Multiracial adults. A recent study in JAMA Pediatrics of over 200,000 children revealed that pediatric emergency department (ED) visits have increased by eight percent annually in comparison to 1.5 percent for all medical causes. A separate study identified that pediatric ED pharmacological restraint use has increased by 370 percent, with Black patients being at most risk for these potentially deadly and traumatizing interventions. Still another just-released study in the journal Pediatrics, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, found similar results that Black patients experienced far greater likelihood of pharmacological restraint use than others.

SAMHSA recognizes that restraint and seclusion use is a measure of services and systems failure, and is committed to reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the use of these recovery-inhibiting practices. There are proven alternatives to restraint use, and we must work to implement trauma-informed care – particularly with youth and families from marginalized and under-resourced communities.

We also know that recovery is real, and we will continue working to expand services and supports so that all individuals, families and communities can have equal opportunity to pursue recovery. NSDUH showed that 72.2 percent (or 20.9 million) of adults who ever felt they had a substance use problem considered themselves to be in recovery along with 66.5 percent (or 38.8 million) of adults who felt they had a mental health issue. That’s a lot of people, but we still need to do better. We need to continue working to increase access to affordable and appropriate prevention, treatment, and recovery services and supports in communities across the country.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” In conjunction with this week’s recognition of Dr. King’s birthday and given that this urgent message remains just as relevant today as it was then, we would like to issue a “Call to Action!”:

  1. Engage in outreach in your community with local hospitals, emergency rooms, public health departments, and others to promote alternatives to the use of restraint and seclusion use.
  2. Help educate your community about the need for comprehensive and trauma-informed behavioral healthcare. Hold community education opportunities, focusing on recovery support approaches such as family respite, parent support providers, family education, alternatives to the use of restraints, and safe community housing.
  3. Engage with recovery organizations in your state and local areas to promote trauma-informed recovery based care – including in emergency and crisis care.
  4. Learn about the value and use of Naloxone as a life-saving approach and encourage harm reduction strategies.
  5. Recognize that for many under-resourced and marginalized communities, the opportunity for resilience and recovery from mental health and substance use conditions is too often a dream and far from a reality.

This week and every week thereafter, let’s remember Dr. King’s words: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” We can each make a difference!!