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Did you know, approximately 20 million Americans suffer from substance use disorders, yet only about 10% receive proper treatment? Since 1989, September has served as National Recovery Month to increase public awareness about mental health and substance use recovery, while promoting and supporting evidence-based treatment and recovery practices. The month also serves as a time to acknowledge those who have had success in their recovery process and to show gratitude to health workers in the field.
This year, to honor National Recovery Month and to gain a better understanding of addiction and recovery, we interviewed expert Ronald Clark. Clark, who currently serves as our Community Services Manager, is also a Certified Peer Support Specialist, Certified Peer Support Specialist Training Facilitator, Certified WRAP Training Facilitator, Certified MHFA Training Facilitator, and Certified QPR Training Facilitator. Clark has dedicated himself to assisting others on their journey to recovery, and he credits Camino for allowing him that opportunity. Here is what he had to say:
Can you tell me a little about what you do at Camino?
I am the Manager of Community Services at Camino Health Center. Our mission is to equip people and their families to live healthy lives. Part of what I do is to assist members with mental health challenges and substance use disorders to have a more self-directed, productive, and successful life. I also facilitate an array of evidence-based practices – WRAP, Peer Support, Mental Health First Aid, and QPR (suicide prevention) – that have proven to help members rewrite their endings.
How did you get involved in working with substance use disorders?
I have been working in this field for over 12 years. My involvement in this body of work stems from my 21 years of active addiction to drugs and 2 mental health diagnoses. As I found ways to get well and stay well, I used that experience, strength, and hope to help other members, stakeholders, and providers.
What is a common issue/misunderstanding you’ve noticed in your line of work?
There is an absence of hope and support.A common misconception people think is true surrounding people who struggle with substance use disorders is they are bad people trying to be good. This is not true! Instead, they are sick people trying to get well and stay well!
What does a typical day look like for you, and what strategies/tactics do you rely on when assisting members?
I do not have a typical day as all my days are different. I may start with some meetings, reports, or phone calls that need to be completed. Then I will get a Divine appointment involving a person in crisis – a drug overdose, return to use, mental health breakdown, soon to be evicted from home, or presently homeless – all of which involves some form of trauma. I walk hand-in-hand with them, identifying available local resources and providing options so they can have choices to self-direct their lives for themselves. The goal is for them to rewrite their ending to obtain better outcomes in their own lives.
How do you maintain a positive attitude when working with patients? What gives you hope?
The hope is that, each and every day, I have a chance to stay in this process of recovery, and just maybe I can pull another person out of the river to join us in spreading the word that recovery is a possibility.
What does National Recovery Month mean to you, and what advice do you have for people who are struggling or know someone who is struggling with substance use disorders?
It’s a month set aside to bring about awareness and to educate the community that recovery from substance use disorder and mental health does exist! How about doing this thang year in and year out, though? I don’t have the luxury of waiting until September every year to try to save lives. My advice is let’s start treating people like people. Keep the hope alive and know there is hope after the dope!