September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is partnering with community programs throughout the region to host special events in Sitka, Juneau and Prince of Wales Island during this month.
National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month is hosted nationally by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: It’s Worth It,” which emphasizes that while the road to recovery may be difficult, the benefits of preventing and overcoming mental and/or substance use disorders are significant and valuable to individuals, families, and communities.
Alcohol and substance abuse issues have had tragic effects on Alaska. According to the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics, between 2006-08, Alaska Natives had an alcohol-induced death rate about three times as high as whites. Alaska consistently has had an alcohol-induced death rate more than twice that of the rest of the United States, and Alaska Natives account for almost half of these deaths.
The 2011 state-sponsored Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) estimates 20.8 percent of Alaska adults have binged on alcohol in the past month and 7.4 percent are heavy/chronic users.
In 2010, Alaska jumped from 11th to second in the state-by-state rankings for binge drinking. The estimated 15.5 percent of Southeast Alaska adults who have ever abused or been dependent on alcohol is more than double the U.S. rate.
In 2009, Alaska ranked fourth in illicit drug use, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. National research shows that substance abuse is indicated in 70 percent of all cases of child abuse, and 80 percent of the adults behind bars are there because of drug or alcohol related crime.
According to Harry Bradley, a counselor supervisor with the SEARHC Gunaanastí Bill Brady Healing Center, the purpose of these Recovery Month events is two-fold. “The first is to support and encourage people in recovery as well as their families and friends. The second is to increase the community’s awareness and understanding of the agencies and support services that are available to assist and provide prevention services, substance abuse treatment, mental health care and community support. During the month of September, we hope to have as many individuals, agencies and schools involved as possible in these scheduled community-wide events.”
To help people in their recovery, SEARHC offers three residential substance abuse treatment centers in Sitka — Yéil Jeeyáx Raven’s Way for adolescents (ages 13-18), Gunaanastí Bill Brady Healing Center for adults and Déilee Hít Safe Harbor House for women.
SEARHC provides outpatient alcohol and substance abuse treatment through its Haa Toowóo Náakw Hít behavioral health clinic in Sitka, its Juneau Behavioral Health Clinic, and through the Community Family Services program in nine communities — Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Kake, Klawock, Klukwan and Petersburg.
SEARHC also offers a Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program that works with schools and youth groups to prevent youth substance abuse and young adult binge drinking.
In addition, the program offers a toll-free 24/7 SEARHC Help Line at 1-877-294-0074 for Southeast residents who need help in a time of crisis, sponsors the “1 is 2 Many” regional suicide prevention task force for Southeast Alaska, offers suicide prevention/intervention training in the region and hosts a Youth Ambassadors program to prevent suicide.
In Sitka, the SEARHC Behavioral Health Division is partnering with Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), Youth Advocates of Sitka, the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, and Sitka Counseling And Prevention Services (SCAPS) to offer two recovery events during September — a potluck social with open mic and canoe journey, and a recovery walk/potlatch.
In Juneau, the SEARHC Juneau Behavioral Health Clinic is partnering with the Tlingít and Haida Indians of the City and Borough of Juneau, the Central Council of Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the Alaska Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and numerous other partners in the community group Voices for Recovery to offer events during Recovery Month and on International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day on Thursday, Sept. 9.
The Juneau Voices of Recovery group is offering a recovery film festival, recovery walk, poetry slam and a Swing Into Recovery Dance in Juneau for Recovery Month.
Watch your local media and bulletin boards, because additional Recovery Month events may be added at a later date. More information about National Recovery Month can be found at http://recoverymonth.gov/.