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Breaking the stigma of substance use disorder during National Recovery Month

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs launched a stigma reduction campaign called, Life Unites Us

EPHRATA, Pa. — Getting treatment for substance use disorder can be a challenge. This National Recovery Month, those in recovery celebrate their sobriety but also acknowledges the challenges of treatment and recovery during COVID-19.

"For so long we have fought the stigma of substance use disorder on multiple levels," said Joi Honer, Retreat Behavioral Health. "And we continue to fight the stigma around it."

Honer not only works with people in recovery at Retreat Behavioral Health in Lancaster county, but she herself is in recovery from substance use disorder. 

"We get well, we get better, we don't make news because we are being healthy productive human beings," said Honer. "Folks need to see that part of it,"

Breaking the stigma of substance use disorder is a big focus of National Recovery Month, but this year, folks like Honer want people to know that despite the challenges of the pandemic, recovery is possible. 

"While substance use disorder has consequences," said Honer. "Recovery has so many benefits."

Human connection is a big part of recovery but because of the pandemic, that isn't possible. However, Honer says, Retreat has used technology, like its recovery app, for those in recovery to reach out to other alumni or for help. 

"It is a thousand times harder to climb that road alone when you don't have groups of people or that kind of support," said Maggie Hunt, Retreat Behavioral Health. 

Hunt, also works at Retreat and is in recovery. She says, while some things have changed because of COVID-19, recovery is still possible and worth it. 

"If anyone is struggling, you are not struggling alone," said Hunt. "Even if you think nobody cares, somebody definitely cares about your life and want you to be here."

To help break the stigma, the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs launched the Life Unites Us campaign. It's a nearly $2 million campaign focused on changing the negative beliefs people have of those suffering with substance use disorder. It will also share stories of those in recovery, and resources for those who need treatment. 

There are a number of ways to receive help if you or someone you know is struggling from substance use disorder. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services focused on substance use disorder and mental health. They have a national helpline, 1-800-662-4357. It is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. SAMHSA also has resources to help you find treatment centers near you. 

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