National Recovery Month, an annual celebration sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a national observance held every September with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of mental and substance-use disorders and celebrating those in recovery. 

Members of the Cambria County Drug Coalition Recovery Workgroup, in collaboration with local organizations and businesses, are joining together to host the third annual “Recovery in the Valley” event on Sept. 21 in Gazebo Park in downtown Johnstown.

This year, on a national level, Recovery Month will be celebrating its 30th anniversary of promoting the societal benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery for mental and substance-use disorders, celebrating people in recovery, acknowledging the contributions of treatment and service providers, and spreading the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. 

Each year, Recovery Month chooses a new focus and theme to spread the message and honor the successes of treatment and recovery. 

The 2019 theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger,” highlights the need to share resources and build networks across the country that support recovery in all its forms.

Mental illness and substance-use disorders affect people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, geographic regions and socioeconomic levels. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that an estimated 50% of all Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, more than 27 million people in the United States reported that they are using illicit drugs or misusing prescription drugs, and nearly a quarter of adults and adolescents reported binge drinking in the past month. It is important for them to know that help is available. These individuals can get better, both physically and emotionally, with the support of a welcoming community.

Families and communities can make a difference. 

Oftentimes, individuals who experience a mental or substance-use disorder feel isolated and alone. Yet, every year, millions of Americans experience these conditions. 

It’s important that we offer support to individuals facing mental and substance-use disorders. In fact, we need to create environments and relationships that promote acceptance. Support from families is essential to recovery, so it’s important that family members have the tools to start conversations about prevention, treatment and recovery. Too many people are still unaware that prevention works and that mental and substance-use disorders can be treated, just like other health problems.

Having been in long-term recovery for nine years and working in the recovery field for seven years, both in mental health and substance use, I have witnessed the positive reality of recovery firsthand. 

Individuals who embrace recovery achieve improved mental and physical health and form stronger relationships with their neighbors, family members and peers. 

We need to make more people understand that recovery is possible.

Communities can improve the lives of those in recovery by extending opportunities for meaningful daily activities, such as jobs, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors. Local communities can play a significant role in supporting those in recovery as they gain the independence, income and resources necessary to fully participate in society. 

This healing of individuals allows a healing of the community.

This need for awareness is why Cambria County, the Cambria County Drug Coalition, Magellan Behavioral Health and Behavioral Health of Cambria County have partnered to celebrate Recovery Month by hosting a special event to honor individuals and families who are in long-term recovery. “Recovery in the Valley” is a family-friendly event to promote the societal benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery.

“Recovery in the Valley” will be held in Gazebo Park on from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 21.

This year’s event will feature four speakers from different paths of recovery followed by music from Bill and The Band, whose members found each other in recovery, and The Junction. 

This event will also feature resource tables hosted by behavioral health providers, public information about different pathways of recovery and various church groups offering help to those struggling with substance-use disorders. 

There will also be opportunity to network, enjoy children’s activities and have some fun pictures taken in the photo booth.

Your attendance at “Recovery in the Valley” will demonstrate support for the recovery community. We urge community members to join the celebration of recovery and help us eliminate the stigma and discrimination of those with behavioral health conditions. 

Offering support to those experiencing mental and substance-use disorders can make a huge difference. Together, we can help others realize the promise of recovery and give families the right support to help their loved ones. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, alcohol or other drug issues, please plan to come out. You will have the opportunity to meet with people and learn about resources in our community that can help. Help is available, regardless of income or insurance.

Jason Rilogio is co-chairman of the Recovery Workgroup of the Cambria County Drug Coalition. 

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