Recovery Movement Grows as More Voices Speak Out

Greater awareness of the public health impact of addiction and expanded access to care is fueling the growth of the recovery movement.

People in recovery are increasingly making their voices heard. Whether they have achieved prominence like Friends actor Matthew Perry and former National Football League quarterback Ray Lucas or are people living their lives in privacy, they demonstrate that recovery is not easy, but it is possible.

Behind these voices is a growing recovery movement, led by organizations like Washington, D.C.-based Faces and Voices of Recovery. The movement aims to smash the negative attitudes that surround recovery and ensure that people in recovery have a say in policies that affect their lives. In January 2015, Patty McCarthy Metcalf, M.S., became executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery to help the organization advance its goals of raising awareness about recovery, promoting policies that support recovery, and mobilizing the recovery community.

“There are 23 million Americans in recovery,” says Metcalf, who has been in recovery since 1989. “That is a large constituency of people who vote, pay taxes, and should have a voice.”

Changes in Public Awareness and Policy

The ongoing public health crisis surrounding opioid misuse and policies that have improved access to treatment have helped thrust recovery into the spotlight, Metcalf said. She explains that misuse of opioid painkillers has become a major public health issue for teens and that parents have become strong supporters of better policies to address the problem.

“By becoming strong advocates, parents have made the public aware that this is a public health issue,” she says.

The enactment of the Affordable Care Act, as well as mental health parity laws, have expanded access to addiction care to many individuals with substance use disorders who previously lacked care, says Metcalf.

Recognition of addiction as a public health issue has also led to calls for a more evidence-based approach to care. Metcalf explained that most people are familiar with an acute care model of addiction treatment in which people enter an inpatient program for a short time. However, addiction is a chronic condition in which individuals need long-term care. As such, Faces and Voices of Recovery provides resources to community-based peer support services that can serve people after their initial treatment.

“Peer support of recovery has a large role in helping people outside of that short-term window of treatment,” she says.

Amplifying the Voices of Recovery

Metcalf and her organization also work to ensure the public and policymakers hear the voices of people who are in recovery. The organization’s Recovery Voices Count campaign helps organize people in recovery and keep them up to date on policy issues related to recovery. The organization also offers training for people in recovery who would like to share their stories of negative attitudes and discrimination.

Real-life stories from people who have faced barriers to housing, employment, and education and who have gone on to live healthy lives helps policy makers understand the magnitude of the barriers, Metcalf said.

“They are everyday people who have stories to tell about what works and what does not,” she said. “It is the only way to make the system more recovery-oriented.”

This article was originally published to highlight the September 2015 theme of Recovery. September is National Recovery Month. Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

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Bridget M. Kuehn
Last Updated: 07/31/2019