North Dakota's Recovery Reinvented

Recovery Reinvented is an ongoing series of innovative practices and initiatives to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction in North Dakota. They are driven to find solutions and help people affected by the disease of addiction with proven prevention, treatment and recovery approaches. Last fall we were thrilled to participate in Recovery Reinvented’s Innovate Recovery Competition and honored to be announced as the Grand Prize Winner.

Luke, Recovree co-founder, at Recovery Day at the Capitol in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Luke, Recovree co-founder, at Recovery Day at the Capitol in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Today marked the first-ever Recovery Day at the Capitol to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and addiction. The event will continue the dialogue to inspire action, eliminate stigma and celebrate the power and hope of recovery.

We have such admiration for the work Recovery Reinvented is doing in the community. So, in honor of their inaugural Recovery Day at the Capitol, we wanted to share our Q+A with their team! Keep reading to learn about their innovative methods to reinvent recovery in North Dakota.

Q: How did Recovery Reinvented come up with its model?

A: Recovery Reinvented came about from a desire to bring more awareness and advocacy efforts around the disease of addiction. Many chronic diseases have associations that draw attention toward important causes such as the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association. With addiction, there are no such associations that are continually advocating for people to find recovery and get well. So we established Recovery Reinvented to change the discussions around addiction and eliminate the shame and stigma that keeps people from reaching out and getting connected to resources.

Q: Who are you learning from?

A: We continually seek to learn from everyone, particularly those with lived experience and who are working in the trenches. At the national level, we have looked toward organizations such as the Addiction Policy Forum, whom we have enjoyed a strong partnership with, as well as Faces & Voices of Recovery which is an exceptional organization working to embed recovery in communities. One of our biggest supporters and a group we learn from is the North Dakota Behavioral Health Division, which is consistently cited as one of the most innovative teams in the country. And we learn from everyone affected by the disease of addiction from people in recovery, treatment facilities, advocates, and youth - all of them provide unique and valuable insight for addressing the challenges we face.

Recovree founders Luke and Melissa with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum.

Recovree founders Luke and Melissa with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum.

Q: What are your biggest challenges and greatest strengths?

A: Some of our biggest challenges involve changing the perceptions around the disease of addiction and the powerful stigma that prevents open discussion and people finding treatment and recovery. In partnership with the Addiction Policy Forum, we conducted the first of its kind statewide stigma survey, which provided a baseline for how much stigma affects our state's population. We found that 60% of respondents were affected by addiction in some way. While many people are affected by this disease, 37% of people surveyed believe that addiction is a choice. This shows that stigma is a major barrier in our state because so many view it as a moral failing rather than a public health issue. The challenge in eliminating stigma is significant, as improved care and access to resources will not be impactful if people do not seek these services.

The strengths of Recovery Reinvented lie in the strong sense of community and connectedness in North Dakota. We largely operate on a unified front between the executive branch, agencies, and advocates to eliminate stigma and improve access to treatment and recovery options. We are a small state full of caring and committed people who are using this momentum to drive change quickly. The strengths of motivated people carrying out advocacy efforts, peer support, and talking openly about the disease of addiction is galvanizing true change in our state.

Q: Where do you want to be by 2020?

A: Through our efforts with Recovery Reinvented, we will want to have normalized the conversation around the disease of addiction, with most of the people in North Dakota talking about addiction, sharing stories and seeking help.

Our statewide stigma survey has set a strong foundation for us to measure our progress, we will be making decisions based on evidence and data.

By 2020, we want to observe more people viewing addiction as a disease rather than a choice, more community support for treatment and recovery, more transitional housing in one's own community, and a commitment from policymakers, healthcare providers, and stakeholders to address the disease of addiction from a public health approach.

More information regarding Recovery Reinvented and their initiatives can be found here. The press release for Recovery Day at the Capitol can be found here.