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Reducing Stigmas During Recovery from Drug Problems

For Ben Bass, CEO of the El Paso Alliance, communities of people in recovery from drug problems can help each other with peer-to-peer support, which reduces stigma and discrimination.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

Almost every family in America is touched by an often fatal malady – one that is sometimes denied, often ignored or covered up, and one that is completely treatable. People with alcohol or drug problems are found in every stratum of society and in every town and city.  They are often misunderstood and often blamed for their disease, but when they pick up their mat and walk away it is many times with a new appreciation of life, a new more spiritually centered and service oriented attitude that makes them good neighbors, good employees and good friends. Recovery from alcohol and other drug problems happens every day. There may be up to 20 million Americans who have recovered from this seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.

In El Paso, Texas people in the community of people in recovery have banded together to address issues such as stigma and discrimination for people in recovery and to provide peer-to-peer services.  These services, which are delivered and developed by peers, include recovery coaching, a recovery community center and a peer run residential recovery center, called Casa Vida de Salud. Casa Vida has served over 1,500 homeless people with co-occurring mental health conditions as well as alcohol or other drug problems since 2005.

The Recovery Alliance has served over 15,000 people since the community banded together in 1998, and its community events are sometimes the proof that people need concerning having a rich and rewarding life after alcohol and drugs. The Alliance has over 1,000 members from the recovery community along with family members and community allies. Alliance workers provided over 20,000 units of service in 2010 and logged over 5,700 volunteer hours.  The Alliance is supported by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the City of El Paso, the Veteran’s Administration, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and by the recovery community.

The Alliance has been very recently honored by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for innovative answers to the national epidemic of alcohol and other drug use as a Presidential Champion of Change.  The Alliance’s Director Ben Bass was invited to the White House on August 5th for a roundtable discussion and to address the workers at ONDCP.  Says Bass “We are very grateful for this honor, and to be included as a Champion of Change, and there is so much work to do”, commenting on the White House award.

Ben Bass is Chief Executive Officer of the El Paso Alliance, which is a leader in peer-to-peer recovery support services.