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In this episode Zach is joined by Patty McCarthy, the CEO of Faces & Voice of Recovery, a nonprofit organization working to ensure recovery community organizations can sustain and adapt peer recovery support services through and beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic. Patty and Zach talk about the effects of COVID-19 on the recovery community and how Faces & Voices have helped people gain access to recovery. Following his discussion with Patty, Zach is joined by Dr. David Susman, a licensed psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. They talked about the negative effects of stigma on addiction and how we can work to reduce it in the future.

 

Welcome to Recovery Radio by Landmark Recovery with your host Zach Crouch. In this program we’ll discuss the root causes and treatments of alcohol and substance addiction, speak with experts in related fields and help navigate the road to recovery. Now here’s the host of Recovery Radio Zach Crouch.

 

Zach: I’m Zach Crouch and you’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcast and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts. We have guest Patty McCarthy joining us on the show today. Patty is the CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a non-profit organization working to ensure recovery community organizations can sustain and adapt peer recovery support services through and beyond the current Covid 19 pandemic with tools and resources in response to emergencies and risks.

 

She was previously deputy director of Sanchez bringing recovery supports to scale, technical assistance center strategy initiative. Patty has designed and facilitated training on topics such as ethics and boundaries, recovery-oriented systems of care, peer volunteer management and peer recovery coaching. Miss McCarthy’s professional experience covers the spectrum of prevention, treatment and recovery. She’s worked as a substance abuse prevention specialist with the Vermont Department of Health and as a child and family clinician with the community based mental health center. She holds a master’s degree in community counseling and a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Patty, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show.

 

Patty: Hello Zach. It’s great to be here today.

 

Zach: Did you hear the intro by the way? Did that did that all come through patty?

 

Patty: Yes, that was wonderful.

 

Zach: Okay, I was just I was hoping that my internet did just drop again.

 

Patty: No, it was great. I just didn’t know if you wanted me to pick up from there or if you were going to lead off with some questions.

 

Zach: It’s great to have you on the program. I appreciate you coming on. Can you share a bit about your background? You’ve got an impressive resume. How did you get involved in this field, in recovery uh substance abuse or mental health for that matter?

 

Patty: Well, that’s a great question. Thank you Zach. It’s great to be here. I can tell you a little bit more about myself and how I got here as the CEO of Faces and Voices but I think it’s important to always remember my story, it kind of fuels the work that I do. It keeps me passionate about work. I started into this work as a person in long-term recovery. What that means to me is that I haven’t used alcohol or drugs in over 30 years.

 

Zach: That is awesome.

 

Patty: Yes and I share that because I think I want others to know that if it wasn’t for my recovery I wouldn’t be the mother, the grandmother, the voter, the taxpayer, the citizens that I am today. I get involved with things that I never had before, participating in being an active member of my community.

 

Zach: Patty, as I say to all of my friends in recovery as I am as well. You know what? It’s a crapshoot without the recovery in my life.

 

Patty: Exactly but I mean I know that when I started in this in this work I wanted to be able to find real purpose and meaning by getting involved with advocacy and national organization like Faces and Voices of Recovery is beyond my own personal recovery program something meaningful around recovery rights and social justice issues and things that we can do to change the narrative out there about people with substance use disorders.

 

Zach: What is I mean your involvement in this in this organization especially at the top now as the CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery taught you about kind of where we are as a culture right now especially just in the united states in terms of dealing with things like the stigma surrounding addiction and substance use problems?

 

Patty: Well, I know you know using my own personal lived experience. I had experienced stigma, things that would prevent me from doing things that other people could do like getting a job or going back to school and getting financial aid and things like that. Really trying to change the narrative that stigma is more than just using inappropriate language or people feeling less than which is what stigma is in any disease model but with the stigma it is more than it’s discriminatory practices. It is things that play out in our policies whether it be access to treatment services or criminal justice policies and things that are built off of things that are harmful to people in recovery.

 

Zach: I want to touch on that for a second because that’s been a topic of late that we’ve talked about on our show which is the criminalization piece and incarceration in particular. Is as a person that is front and center with this organization now what can we begin to do or are we doing differently to change the narrative about people who get involved with a drug and alcohol lifestyle, illegal activities because it is now and get locked up and are incarcerated but they really aren’t getting rehabilitated in jails and prisons. What can we do differently?

 

Patty: Well we need to start with the policy makers in whether they be state government or legislatures or even the federal government and really educate them about addiction as a healthcare issue not a criminal justice issue. When we really frame it as there are plenty of people that got into the criminal justice system because they were struggling with their own substance use, trying to may or may not have tried to get help but when there’s barriers to getting things that they need for recovery oftentimes they end up in the criminal justice system but there are things like recovery courts also known as drug court. I’d like to call them recovery courts.

 

Zach: I like that.

 

Patty: Yes, I mean it shifts it from the drug court language is that the drug is the problem. Well, the solution is the court and so therefore the goal is that we help people find recovery. When they get involved with a drug court they’re often provided opportunities to get into treatment or get recovery coaching or things that are going to help them stabilize their life such as a house, a roof over their head, a job, building peer relationships, going to peer support groups, things like that.

 

We really need to continue to have those stories told about what works and what’s working well and to celebrate all the people who have been successful in staying, when we don’t incarcerate people but we give them the appropriate treatment we will have opportunities to see them thrive in the community in a way that we have never seen before. Obviously that our perspective is the war on drugs was a complete failure.

 

It has not only perpetuated the disenfranchising minority populations who need support services and treatment at a greater rate than we see in other populations. It’s a significant issue so I think the more we could do is to find people who have been successful, let them tell their stories, talk to policy makers and speak up for those that don’t have a voice in this.

 

Zach: Is there a certain, I mean who are the doubting Thomas’s? I mean you and I are in this field and we see the success stories left and right. If you had to just say who out there still doesn’t believe in in treatment and who needs to be sort of educated on that this does work. Is it policy makers? Is it the folks who are running, I mean who are those people?

 

Patty: I mean decision makers at every level. You get the insurers, insurance companies. They’re making decisions on what people, how many days people can go to treatment, what types of services are covered. There are also policymakers at the state government offices where its Medicaid office or the Department of Justice replaces the health departments that they could really if they create policies that are recovery friendly so they’re eliminating barriers that we know have existed for many years.

 

They work with people in recovery as part of that process that they engage them at the table in these decision making then they will certainly the likelihood of them being able to create a recovery oriented system of care is greater and we need to think of this as long term. This isn’t a one and done.

 

Somebody goes to treatment and they’re better or that they never need any recovery support services. That’s completely opposite of what we’re trying to do is to actually create a more long-term continuum of care for people. That includes recovery support in the community, housing, recovery housing, recovery coaching and an infrastructure that will support people for the long term.

 

Zach: Tell use more Patty about your organization, about Faces and Voices of Recovery and how have they helped people have access to recovery during this pandemic?

 

Patty: Well Faces and Voices focuses on a number of things but really putting a face and a voice on recovery and telling stories. We’ve been having focus groups and meetings weekly with our network of member organizations to learn about what’s working and what’s not. We’ve also been doing a lot around the stigma during this time. I mean Covid 19 as well as the addiction epidemic is like the perfect storm. We’re seeing more people due to isolation needs more support services.

 

If they normally would have gone to a place where they might meet with peers for a meeting that’s closed. How are they making that connection now? Faces and Voices, we have a national network of 140 some organizations that we represent and we work for or we work to support. We represent them in Congress and on legislative issues and try to get them the funding that they need.

 

These are not clinical services. They’re grassroots recovery community organizations. Most of what we’ve been doing is kind of is assessing their needs, finding out what’s working for them and what they need and how they’re doing that boots on the ground recovery support services for people that no matter what stage of recovery they’re in whether it’s the people who are currently using drugs or people who are on their path to recovery. We’re supporting them in that work right now

 

Zach: Is Faces and Voices of Recovery affiliated with PAR, People Advocating Recovery?

 

Patty: Yes, absolutely. PAR is one of our member organizations with ARCO. They’ve been around, they’re actually one of the founding member, charter members of ARCO. Doing great work there. They just opened a recovery community center in Louisville. That is what I’m talking about. That’s an exact example of what is all our network around the country that these organizations are opening what we call recovery community centers. It’s a place where people can come in and they could get access to a peer recovery coach, somebody who’s been trained and certified to provide recovery support, non-clinical services.

 

They go in and they might get involved with a training program or a volunteer program where they might want help with finding a job or a place to live. They might work on their recovery plan, all kinds of things that they’re doing there but those are the places that have been impacted because they had to close during the pandemic and slowly reopening but they had to shift to virtual support, online.

 

Zach: I know the PAR each year had a rally for recovery and they unfortunately had to cancel. I heard it was a virtual walk that they did. The turnout was good but it has to your point earlier, it has been tough. For people who are even in the process of going to just simple 12-step meetings because a lot of those folks are not meeting in person now. They’re all over the Zoom calls. If there’s any way to do it do it? Like Zoom calls is the only way go do it but we are I think as a community ready for things to start getting back to some semblance of normality but that’s probably going to be a little while.

 

I did have a question for you. I was curious to know if people want to receive help through Faces and Voices of Recovery or one of the affiliate organizations like PAR are affiliated with you. What are the first steps that they need to take to receive help? Do they just show up? Are there any costs involved, anything like that?

 

Patty: Well the network of RCOs around the country that we support, there is no cost to come in and meet with somebody who works there to find out what they can do to help them. Oftentimes they’ll fill out some paperwork. They’ll meet with somebody to talk about what their needs and they’ll get matched up with an appropriate peer, a recovery coach, a recovery support specialist who will sit down with them and talk about what they want.

 

This is very person driven that they get to decide what works for them. If they say I went to treatment before. I know what I need to do. I just need some support. I need to get back in track, get involved with, have a peer group of people in recovery. The person there and the center that will help them navigate that and get reconnected.

 

Right now during the pandemic we’re seeing an incredible increase and uptick in referrals and people wanting services because a lot of the treatment facilities had closed or they weren’t sure they wanted to be in those settings they’re reaching out to the recovery community center. All they need to do is find out where they are. See if there’s one in your area and give them a call or see when they’re open and drop in. We have a list of them on our website.

 

Zach: What is that website?

 

Patty: Www.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org and it’s all spelled out. On that website there’s a page for ARCO which is Association of Recovery Community Organizations. We actually have a map, an interactive map where you can go to your state. You can find out where there’s an organization and even if they’re not real close to you should give them a call anyway because they may have outreach into those areas. We’re growing. We’re trying to help these organizations around the country become part of our network because we know there are a lot more out there that are doing similar work but they’re just not yet involved with the Faces and Voices.

 

Zach: From your perspective what would have been, you mentioned some of them but the biggest impacts that you’ve seen on the recovery community during this pandemic?

 

Patty: You mentioned one of them in terms of PAR and People Advocating for Recovery in Kentucky and they’re located in Louisville.

 

Zach: Mike Barry.

 

Patty: Mike Barry but what we’ve learned from surveying all of these organizations is one of the biggest challenges is their funding issues because in September being National Recovery Month which we Faces and Voices kind of took over leading that this year in a transition but a lot of organizations hold fundraising events and rallies and things that they counted on before for sustaining their work. This year they’ve had to cancel a lot of those and not only that some of the contracts that they receive to deliver services whether it be a partnership with an emergency department.

 

They’re doing post-overdose reversal and recovery coaching with people or things, contracts with drug courts or housing programs, treatment centers. A lot of those may have been impacted due to this. The ability to be able to carry out what they were contracted to do might have been jeopardized but also if those funding sources were drying up because they just didn’t have that revenue. I think that’s one of the biggest impacts but aside from that I think that the impact is that there are thousands of peers that work at these organizations.

 

They had to shift their work themselves. There’s an amount of self-care that needs to take place and happen for the recovery community to support one another especially when people are losing their jobs or they’re now shifting to teaching their children at home or all these things economic hardships during this time. I think that this is a community of people that really step up and support one another and they’re really resilient. It’s amazing what the recovery community can do, boots on the ground in all these communities, saving lives but still doing the self-care that they need to hold themselves together as well as delivering the services at their organization.

 

Zach: I think just the work that you’re continuing to do even during this pandemic gosh, it’s so needed right now because I think I’ve talked about this with peers and colleagues of mine. I’m curious to hear your thoughts but would you say right now is it’s a hard time to begin the process of recovery if you’re newly into it.

 

Patty: Yes, absolutely. I would 100% agree with that because what I did was I would go to a meeting every day. I knew where they were. I would go work my college schedule or my work schedule around when I wanted to go and who I was going to see there and what I was going to do. We didn’t have smartphones this time back then. That was 30 something years ago but I also knew that was, I’m really grateful for that because it’s that one-on-one personal connection that I think we all, whether we’re in recovery or not that we thrive on.

 

People need people. Addiction thrives on isolation. Addiction is just growing in this pandemic because people are more isolated. The biggest thing for us is we know the opposite of addiction is connection. That we need to reach out to people that you don’t take for granted that somebody’s going to be fine. If it’s somebody who’s a year in recovery, two years in recovery that you see that has been doing really well let’s not forget that everybody is vulnerable and we don’t know unless we reach out to them to see what’s going on in their life. Because a lot of us are too I guess proud to say yes, I’m struggling right now. If you hadn’t called I wouldn’t have been able to pull myself out of that and connect with somebody today.

 

Zach: You’re a person who’s in line, that’s a long time, 30 years. Even now during this time what have you done to stay connected to your recovery support?

 

Patty: A lot of Zoom meetings, a lot of phone calls to friends and colleagues. I mean I know people all over the world in recovery and I think that we are all experiencing things differently. I recently moved back to be closer to my family because I thought Covid was a good way to say oh boy, is this where I want to be in my life? Is what I want to do? What’s most important to me right now?

 

I think that we need to be close to our families but the nice thing is that in this world of technology it’s a virtual world. There are really good meetings and I can say I grew up kind of on a 12-step background but I know that there are a whole lot of new variety of types of meetings refuge recovery, all recovery meetings, smart, celebrate recovery. There’s all kinds of meetings that are now taking place on online. There always has been. I mean there’s a fantastic intherooms.com which has a wide variety of meetings and I think that we all just need to explore that a little bit more.

 

I’d encourage folks to reach out to Faces and Voices. Send us an email on our website. We could certainly tell you what’s happening in your region because if you want to connect with the people that you’re going to see at these meetings then you want to try to stay local but I’ve heard stories of people who are going morning, noon and night now with people around the world.

 

Zach: Absolutely, it’s so cool. There really is an opportunity within this seemingly kind of depressing really landscape right now in terms of the recovery. I’ve had a friend of mine, he’s probably 25 years sobriety and he has been on several meetings in Ireland. Just Zooms into the meeting. He’s talking to people across the across the world in Ireland on a Zoom call which is just I mean that blows my mind away.

 

Patty: Yesterday we had a panel discussion. It was called the Global Recovery Movement and it was for a conference in New York State but we held it virtually. My colleagues from Faces and Voices of Recovery in the United Kingdom and folks from Sydney Recovery in Australia and another peer organization in Guam, a US territory. There is a global recovery movement that is built on this advocacy and putting a face on recovery and telling stories and building recovery support services all based on the work that Faces and Voices started 20 years ago. We’ve been around.

 

Next year will be our 20-year anniversary but I mentioned a few different countries but there’s also Faces and Voices of Recovery Canada, South Africa, Brazil, really all over the world. Just like about, I mean 12 steps, it’s a movement that’s everywhere. You can go pretty much every country. There’s also this another way to get involved with recovery. I like to explain it like when I first got in recovery I went to meet 12 step meetings and I had a sponsor who helped me work the 12 steps and helped change my life the way that I worked out but that person wasn’t there to be help me with my legal issues or help me with my rebuilding my family or helping me get a job. That wasn’t their role.

 

I had to reach out beyond that and really build that peer network and know where the resources were. At the same time I found out about this movement and I said if my story can help another person I want to be involved with it because this is so much bigger than just me and my local retirement community. I want to make change so that future generations won’t have to go through what we’ve been through.

 

I was listening a little bit to your podcast before this one and I thought the children are really the biggest winners in the recovery process. They get to have their parents back and that is just such a blessing of recovery.

 

Zach: Absolutely. Patty, it has been a pleasure to have you on the show today to talk about this. Thank you.

 

Patty: You’re welcome. I’m happy to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

 

Zach: You’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.

 

We have guest Dr. David Susman joining us on the show today. Dr. Susman is a licensed psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. He is the director of the Jesse G. Harris Jr. Psychological Services Center and training director of the University of Kentucky Internship Consortium Program. He worked for over 24 years at Eastern State Hospital, a public psychiatric hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Susman has been active in advocacy initiatives at the state and federal levels. He writes a popular mental health and advocacy blog which features effective mental health resources and inspiring true stories of hope from people who share their mental health challenges and successes.

 

Dr. Susman, it’s a pleasure to have you on today. I hope that I’m getting your last name right by the way.

 

David: Yes, absolutely. It’s Susman. You got it right.

 

Zach: Perfect. I know that my last name can get butchered up and down. Anyhow, I try to be sensitive to people’s last names being that Crouch is my last name. Anyway, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get involved in the mental health field in general?

 

David: Well Zach, first let me thank you for having me on today. It’s a pleasure to be able to talk with you. I got interested in psychology I guess when I was in college and was a psychology major. I was an undergraduate and then decided to go on and get a little bit further training. Actually I got a master’s degree and then I took a break from school for almost two years and I worked in a community mental health center in a real rural area.

 

That really I guess firmed up my desire to continue working in the field and so then I returned to school. That’s actually what brought me to the University of Kentucky and I finished my PhD at UK and then ended up establishing a home here in Lexington, Kentucky and have been here working ever since. I worked in our state psychiatric hospital for a little over 24 years and during that time I was also part-time on the faculty at the university.

 

Then about four and a half years ago I was able to actually return to the university full-time. Now I’m in a faculty position as one of the clinical psychology faculty. I’m involved in a lot of training and supervision with our clinical psychology graduate students. That’s sort of the quick version of my story I guess.

 

Zach: Awesome. You mentioned that you had some experience working in rural communities. What and how did that sort of impact your vision of what mental health looks like. How’s that population different in some ways than what we treat in the urban areas?

 

David: That’s a really great question. I actually grew up in this very southwestern end of Virginia. I actually grew up in Appalachia. I consider myself a proud Appalachian. My hometown was 4500 people, very small. I returned to that area and worked for a little bit when I was going through school. The rural communities have a lot of needs because they have less access to services and treatment. Sometimes I think they struggle with getting access to good care for mental health and substance issues.

 

I think that’s changing a little bit now with more telehealth as far as people getting a little bit more access to care but the rural communities really do have some challenges that we don’t. We sometimes take things for granted when we’re living in cities or suburban areas but the rural areas really do struggle still I think.

 

Zach: I’m also curious because you are a professor and one of the questions I’m really interested in is how do you prepare your students to be able to step into the sort of real world as clinicians and as people who are you know doing the work of psychologists because in the classroom setting and in colleges in general it can create sort of a vacuum bubble experience for a lot of people.

 

David: We really take it very seriously to prepare our students to succeed in their careers and our program follows what’s called a clinical science model which means that we’re trying to train them to be clinicians but also we have some that are also wanting to have more academic research careers. We really try to look at each student individually and look at their own kind of career goals and help them begin to achieve those.

 

We think it’s important for all our students to get a lot of applied clinical training so that they can really have a lot of good experience under their belt while they’re still in school and really know what it’s like to provide therapy or provide psychological assessment or to really understand what it’s like to provide treatment to folks. Then we then find that they’re able to go on and work in a lot of different settings and are very successful.

 

Zach: You and I, we’ve been in this field for some time now. From your perspective what is the stigma that you’ve encountered related to mental health and illness for that matter in addiction?

 

David: I’ve actually encountered that a lot. Stigma, the original use of the term was it was sort of like a physical mark that was sometimes cut or burned into criminals or slaves or people who were seen as sort of morally sort of deficient people and so historically that’s kind of where the term started but we know that stigma really when it applies to someone who’s dealing with mental health or addiction concerns it’s just a lot of negative attitudes and beliefs that people may have about someone who’s struggling with mental health challenges.

 

Because of that I think it creates really what we should probably more accurately call just prejudice and discrimination because we see a lot of negative attitudes and beliefs directed toward people who are struggling. Then we see some actual real overt discrimination in how they’re treated.

 

Zach: I’m curious. As part of your program at your university the Jesse G. Harris Psychological Service Center at UK in terms of your training. Some of that training about educating your psychologist that you turn out in that program to educate the public or is that part of what you guys do to there?

 

David: We do a lot of community uh outreach and education. UK is one of the so-called land-grant universities. Part of our mission is to really serve the Commonwealth of Kentucky. One way we do that through our psychological services center which is kind of our clinic where a lot of our students get a lot of their training is that’s a, it’s a very low cost kind of sliding fee scale services. We’re able to provide access to treatment for people who may be struggling financially or who may have other barriers to care.

 

We kind of take that really seriously as part of our mission to try to reach out to the community and try to help open up some of the doors that people may find closed in other places.

 

Zach: Is it different in I guess significantly different really in terms of the negative effects of stigma in the rural populations more so than the urban populations? What are some of the negative effects that you’ve encountered?

 

David: There have been some actually pretty interesting research studies where they’ve looked at thousands of people who are dealing with mental health challenges and they’ve actually surveyed them and some of their family members and caregivers. They’ve asked them what are some of these negative effects that you’ve experienced. One example was a pretty large scale study that was done a couple years ago in England and they found and this was kind of across sort of a mixed urban and rural sample but they found that almost 90% of the people felt like they had have some negative impact in their lives from discrimination related to their mental illness.

 

They reported all kinds of things so like they had difficulty with employment. They had trouble with relationships. They felt somewhat excluded in community activities. They had difficulty talking about their mental illness. They had trouble communicating with health care professionals. They had trouble accessing education. This is really as you can see very widespread, very broad kinds of negative impacts that people experience. Almost universally, I mean you know almost nine out of ten are saying that they’ve had some of these kinds of experiences.

 

Zach: I think you answered my question but it was going to be a question I was going to ask you about the rural population and the cultures. You mentioned you’re from Appalachia and Appalachia is very unique I think in that they have their own culture. There is a very unique culture about that area of the country. My question to you being from that area is that my impression is that they’re often cut off from in some ways the rest of the world.

 

I mean you get TV and stuff like that but as we’re talking specifically about awareness around stigma and how it affects people and mental health and addiction in general. Would you say that that’s pretty accurate with regard to rural populations and specifically Appalachia?

 

David: I think historically yes definitely and to some degree that continues because if you think about it first of all they’re kind of geographically isolated. It’s only been in recent years they’ve been getting kind of better highways in those areas but we also know that many folks in the area still don’t have broadband internet services. Many of them don’t live within an hour from a large medical center or in a large healthcare facility.

 

There is a lot of that kind of isolation. A lot of those communities are very um small knit, close-knit communities. I know the county I grew up in was largely dependent on farming and coal mining for the economy. Certainly they have struggled to kind of make inroads to get better connected with sort of the larger world of services but I do think things have improved. Certainly the roads are better, internet access is better, healthcare access is improving and so I think the rural area certainly has seen some improvements.

 

Zach: I guess obviously we have a new administration about to come in here soon. How has the current administration helped or hindered for that matter any of the reduction of stigma as it relates to this topic?

 

David: I’ve sort of been a student of this for quite a number of years and I look at it on both the state level and the federal level. I think we have wins and we have losses. As an example um we with the Affordable Care Act when that went into uh into play it did open up healthcare insurance access for a lot of people who didn’t have it before. In terms of you know mental healthcare that was that was a positive thing. When Medicaid was expanded in Kentucky that opened the door for more people to have healthcare and so that was again a positive thing.

 

We have other struggles like the funding, the per capita funding for mental health services here in Kentucky has been relatively flat for almost 20 years or more. There’s not been a huge sort of increases in funding to provide expansion of services and so that makes things really difficult because the population keeps growing and the need keeps growing but when you don’t have the funding to come along to meet that need that makes it challenging.

 

A lot of programs have faced difficult choices where they’ve had to cut back services or they’ve had to lay off staff or where they’ve had to do other things to kind of deal with either a flat budget or in some years they’ve even had decreases in their budget depending on the economy. There’s been some wins but also some losses I think over the years uh based on what we’ve been dealing with.

 

Zach: What do you think though? I mean in terms of people who are not really privy and educated on the topic of addiction and especially how the brain processes substance when a person is truly addicted. How do they advocate for change and reducing stigma when they really are going to get a lot of sort of vitriolic responses from people maybe even in their families which isn’t helpful but if you really do want to put a dent in the stigma that is surrounding this particular topic how would you say people go about doing that?

 

David: Zach, that’s the million dollar question. I mean I wish we had a quick and easy fix to sort of reduce or eliminate a lot of the stigma but since it is a systemic problem the solution is also systemic. It means that we have to keep working to help everybody be able to start changing these beliefs and these attitudes and these values that they’ve held for a long time.

 

I always feel like educate education is kind of the key. You start with education and I always try to just start with some very simple ideas like to help people understand not to use negative labels when they’re talking about someone with mental illness or addiction. Even simple little things so like someone might say well he’s schizophrenic. Well, it’s better if you say he has schizophrenia because that’s sort of putting the person first. You’re not saying that they’re just that illness. You’re saying they’re a person who might have the illness.

 

You can change how you talk about illnesses and addiction. You can talk about being more careful in your language. I think another thing too is just to help people not be afraid of people because we’ve had some of these stereotypes from the movies that if you have a mental illness you must be violent or you’re going to be some sort of serial killer or something. We know that that’s not true and that in fact most people are probably more likely to be a victim of violence. We have to fight some of those stereotypes as well.

 

Zach: Great stuff. Well Dr. Susman, it has been a great discussion today. I really do appreciate you taking the time to come on and share your experience, strength and hope with our audience.

 

David: Well thank you Zach. I’m very happy to get to talk with you and certainly would welcome the chance to talk again sometime.

 

Zach: Awesome. Listen if you know someone’s struggling and they’re struggling with an addiction and you’re searching for answers. Visit us at landmarkrecovery.com to learn more about substance abuse programs that are both saving lives and empowering families. Until next week I’m Zach Crouch with Landmark Recovery Radio wishing you well.

 

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