Overcoming stigma around substance use disorder

WINDSOR, Vt. – Following Recovery Day 2023, Green Peak Alliance (GPA) is focusing attention on the role stigma plays in preventing people from seeking effective treatment for Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

Recovery Day, hosted by Recovery Vermont, is an annual, statewide legislative advocacy event designed to draw attention to the power of substance use recovery and advocate for funding to support recovery efforts. Recovery Day also honors people who are making the journey through recovery, and shines a spotlight on the organizations that are working to make recovery possible. This year’s event, held virtually on Zoom on February 15, featured remarks from Vermont Congresswoman Becca Balint, included a personal recovery story, and a keynote address from Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center’s (MAHHC) Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Rick Marasa, who spoke about the importance of on-call recovery coaches. In Windsor County, those coaches come from Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield, a planning partner for the local Recovery Day event. Turning Point Executive Director Michael Johnson, Assistant Director Astrid Bradish-Hoyt, and youth leader Ryleigh were also featured as speakers.

GPA members, including Turning Point of Springfield and MAHHC, are actively working to reduce stigma around SUD in East Central Vermont—both stigma from others and self-stigma that can make people feel unworthy to seek help. We Are Worthwhile is a public service campaign that encourages people who experience SUDs related to opioids, alcohol, cannabis, prescription medications, and other drugs to share their stories and connect with peers in recovery. The We Are Worthwhile campaign features local people who are in recovery, talking about how self-stigma got in their way, and how they overcame it to find support in a recovery community of peers. More information is available at www.weareworthwhile.org. Persons who wish to connect can call or text 802-234-1550 and will get a response within a day.

Meanwhile, Green Peak Alliance has also launched a campaign to encourage the use of stigma-free language when people talk about mental health issues and substance use disorder. The campaign, “Speaking Up About Stigma,” includes posters, social media posts, a video, and more components which show terms that avoid negative judgments, and instead highlight non-judgmental language that is person-centered and honors human dignity. More information and a project toolkit (containing social media posts and downloadable print materials that can be shared) can be found at www.greenpeakalliance.org/portfolio/stigma-free-language-toolkit/.

According to GPA Leading Member and Executive Director of The Collaborative Maryann Morris, these campaigns seek to open up space in the culture for people to start recovery. “Too often,” she says, “people think and talk about Substance Use Disorder as a character flaw for which people should be shamed and scorned, rather than the illness that it is. Changing how we talk about these issues can help us change how we think about them, providing people with the encouragement they need to take their own journey through recovery. Recovery Day is a powerful reminder of the individual people who may struggle, but with support, can succeed. Our campaigns seek to continue those reminders and provide access to helpful resources throughout the year.”

Recovery Day will return to its in-person venue at the State House in Montpelier during the second week of February in 2024. Link to Recovery Vermont’s website www.recoveryvermont.org/recovery-day-2023/.

For more information about Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield, Vt., visit their website www.spfldtp.org/ or call 802-885-4668.


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