Recovery at the Table (A Moment of Celebration)


Marina Putilova

There were many policy and service agendas that came out of the 2001 Recovery Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota--the formal launch of the new recovery advocacy movement in the U.S., but none more central than increasing recovery representation at the tables where decisions are made affecting the lives of addicted and recovering individuals and their families. We embraced the mantra of the disabilities movement "Nothing about us without us!" in calling for recovery representation at all levels of the field--from the highest national and state policy venues to the governing boards, staff, and volunteers of local service organizations. It was a grand vision we had in 2001, and recent weeks have reminded me just how far we have come in achieving that vision.

First was a photo sent to me of three men, Michael Botticelli, Tom Hill, and Tom Coderre, who live openly as persons in long-term addiction recovery and who serve in national policy advisory positions. Michael Botticelli is Director of White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) where he has led historic reforms in national drug policy, including elevating recovery as a new organizing paradigm for policy and service delivery. He earlier served as Deputy Director and Acting Director of ONDCP and before that served as Director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Tom Hill, after earlier positions with Faces and Voices of Recovery and Altarum Institute, was appointed to serve as a Senior Advisor for Addiction and Recovery for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Acting Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). Tom Coderre serves as a Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff at SAMHSA. He formerly served as the Chief of Staff to the Senate President in Rhode Island and as National Field Director of Faces & Voices of Recovery. Michael, Tom, and Tom are among a growing legion of professionals in long-term recovery who serve in key national policy development and policy advisory positions. Recovery representation is similarly increasing at state, regional, and local levels.

Second was a photo sent to me of Justin Luke Riley of Young People in Recovery (YPR) participating in a forum with a listening President Barack Obama. YPR leaders have rapidly gained access to some of the most important decision-making venues within the addictions field. (See HERE, HERE, and HERE). Those of us at the 2001 Recovery Summit shared our hopes of a new generation of recovery advocates that would bring youthful zeal and creativity into the recovery advocacy movement, but none of us could have predicted the speed with which this vision would be fulfilled.

Third was the recent news of passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in the wake of a national mobilization of recovery advocates supporting this landmark legislation. It is not an overstatement to suggest that this legislation would not have been written and passed without the preceding cultural and political mobilization of people in recovery and others personally affected by addiction. CARA was signed by President Barack Obama on July 22, 2016 as he challenged Congress to provide increased funding to realize CARA's potential healing influence on individuals, families, and communities.

The vision in 2001 was to bring the lived experience of recovery and the voices of the affected into policy development and the design, delivery, and evaluation of prevention, harm reduction, addiction treatment, and recovery support services. What is now transpiring is more than we could have dreamed in 2001. And that is cause for celebration and renewal of the commitment to create a sustainable recovery advocacy movement in the United States.