Nenana Wellness Coalition
September 30, 2014
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
We had nine participants today: Kat McElroy, Jessica Durtsche, Rose Allen, Bonnie Reed, Miles Martin, Tara, Virginia Young, Mary Alexander and Tim Horn.
We enjoyed pork /beet borscht, Ritz crackers with sliced cheese and walnuts & raisins for lunch.
WELCOME and READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson, Rose Allen.
PRAYER was lead by Rose.
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: There were no additions to the agenda.
MINUTES: Posted at the WIN link at http://www.railbelt.org and submitted electronically to the WIN e-list with no reported issues.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: No new guests this week.
Viewing and Discussion of DVD The Anonymous People: As always, a big shout out of Thanks! To Roland Mackey for setting up our DVD player. Due to the length of this documentary, we ate lunch while viewing DVD, which was almost 90 minutes long. It explored some of the various aspects of stigma to addiction in our nation today and the history of how we have perceived this issue since the emergence of the recovery movement in the 1930’s; it went on to examine some of the efforts in the past two decades to bring recovery out from behind the twin shadows of shame and silence.
In the opening sequence, we were told that there are approximate4ly 23.5 million Americans in recovery from addiction in the US of A today. It is estimated that 2/3rds of all families in our nation will have to deal with some aspect of addiction. Despite the wreckage created by addiction due to social upheaval, the costs of the criminal justice system, health care and lost productivity and notwithstanding a huge body of research proving that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, the public continues to frame it as a moral issue and the media highlights addiction with sensationalism designed to sell stories. The story about people in recovery is not “sexy.” There is no national awareness of recovery as a possible outcome. There is a public image of addiction, but there is no public image of recovery. This, combined with a history of people’s reluctance to speak on a public level about their individual recovery conspires to maintain the illusion that people addicted to alcohol and other drugs are “bad” and never get “better.”
One of the speakers compared addiction to cancer and described it as a modern black plague. The film provi3ed a historical background for the push to have addiction recognized as a disease, which finally began to happen in the late 60’s and early 1970’s, after three decades of education and lobbying by people in recovery, such as congressman Harold Hughes, comedian Dick Van Dyke and public health advocate Marty Mann. Unfortunately, addiction began to be criminalized again in the escalation of the so-called “War on Drugs,” in the following decades which resulted in an increased negative public perception of addiction and criminal justice response. It is estimated that 80% of the 6.9 million Americans incarcerated in 2011 were experiencing addiction to alcohol and/or drugs. Our nation currently struggles with an estimated annual cost of 550 billion dollars due to untreated mental health and addiction issues.
The DVD then described several recovery support strategies that are in place around the nation today thanks to the grassroots efforts of people in recovery from addiction, including: Operation Understanding, Society of American’s For Recovery (SOAR), Faces and Voices of Recovery and the McShinn Foundation. Because of efforts like these, there are 16 recovery-based charter high schools today in our nation (Boston has 4), 22 college-based recovery support programs including Rutgars Recovery House and a growing number of community-based recovery support programs. Highlighted, also, were several jail-based recovery support efforts. Don Coyhis of the White Buffalo program was quoted: “The harm of one is the harm of all and the honor of one is the honor of all.” Mr. Coyhis describes addiction as a diseased forest and explains that you cannot remove one tree from a diseased forest, nurse it back to health, return it to the diseased forest, and expect it to remain healthy.
There were two basic take-home messages: a) Silence Equals Death (borrowed from the AIDS activist group Act-Up) and b) Community is the Backbone of Recovery (taken from White Bison.) We had a lively discussion following the viewing of this DVD. What are some of the barriers to receiving treatment? How can we support people in recovery? What does community-based recovery support look like in our community? What are ways we could improve this? It was agreed to carry this discussion over to next week.
WELLNESS THOUGHT: Don’t be afraid to cry. It will free your mind of sorrowful thoughts. –Don Talayesva, HOPI
UPDATES/ANNOUNCEMENTS: There was no time for announcements today.
ADJOURNMENT: 2:15 PM