Statewide and national addiction recovery advocates gathered in Noblesville Friday to discuss best practices for influencing public policy and organizing effective local programs.
The conversations took place at an inaugural summit presented by the Indiana Recovery Network. Brandon George, the vice president of Mental Health America of Indiana, helped organize the event.
He said the rapid expansion of the state’s recovery network in recent years required an opportunity for advocates to collaborate and share what’s worked.
“We’ve got some great programs in place, but we have to move as one. We have to mobilize,” George said.
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated Hoosiers’ mental health issues, leading to two straight years of record overdose deaths.
Alcohol issues also spiked at the beginning and have remained elevated.
Advocates stressed the importance of expanding current programs to meet a growing crisis.
“We have to move beyond just telling stories of recovery and use that lived experience to influence policy and programming in our communities around the state,” George said.
Tom Coderre, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about the federal government’s role addressing the mental health crisis and opportunities for local groups.
Community-level organizations also spoke at the event. Representatives from Scott County’s recovery organizations discussed strategies for overcoming stigma on a local level. Groups there are working to re-open a groundbreaking needle exchange that was recently shut down by county commissioners.
Shelly Weizman, a Georgetown University law professor who specializes in addiction and public policy, led a session on work with state and local officials on recovery efforts. The key, according to her, was pairing success stories with targeted proposals.
“Commit yourselves to understanding how the money works,” she said. “Because if you understand how the money works, then you are in 10,000 times a better position to influence public policy.”
The event coincided with the announcement of a new project from Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration to measure available addiction treatment and recovery resources throughout the state.