According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 63 percent of Americans have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction at some point in their lives. To raise awareness for this problem, September has been named National Substance Abuse Recovery Month. In accordance with this, the Department of Substance Abuse Services in Loudoun County has been working on a series of strategies to help those in the grips of addiction.
"Our message is one of recovery, that treatment is available," said Catherine Motivans, a representative of the center.
In partnership with the Substance Abuse Addiction Recovery Alliance (SAARA), Motivans has targeted several strategies for spreading the message of recovery. Currently, public service announcements are circulating on Channel Three as well as WAGE radio. While the messages are taken from the national campaign, they are slightly tailored to provide local information. There are also plans to have printed posters on the Virginia regional transit buses.
A MAJOR FOCUS for this month has been on the business community. According to Motivans, the majority of those who suffer from addiction are employed. In light of this, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce invited the Substance Abuse Services to their monthly breakfast meeting — which is a chance for the business community to network once a month.
"We were contacted by the substance abuse office a couple of months ago and were asked if we could help," said Randy Collins, president, Chamber of Commerce. "We offered our assistance to spread the word."
Six representatives from the Substance Abuse Services attended the meeting and shared information about community support and recovery programs. Designed in a round-robin fashion, the idea was to give a "soft push to the business community" as Collins described it. This "soft-push" method was apparently a success as several business people stayed to talk with the services.
According to Collins, the issue of addiction in the business community is a very serious and complicated matter — for both employee and employer.
"Frankly, it becomes a legal issue," he said.
This stems from the confusion of how to deal with an employee who suffers from addiction. Many employees are unaware that they can seek help through their business — instead they keep it a secret for fear of losing their job. Likewise, employers struggle with how to encourage treatment while also dealing with lower productivity and a loss of morale. Confusion often results in an environment uneducated about the nature of addiction and the paths to recovery.
"Our message would be that the chamber encourages employers that have employees with substance abuse to let them know that there is help," said Collins. "They should not be concerned with losing their jobs."
THE STRATEGY TO help substance abusers in the business community has a partner effort in the public schools — addressing the problem early on.
Janet Clarke, acting community coalition coordinator, has been working to provide an "environmental level" of awareness in schools. A new strategy issued by the federal government, the environmental approach focuses less on assemblies and more on public service announcements and parent information sessions.
The Community Coalition is currently rolling out its "Parents Who Host Lose the Most" campaign. Designed to stop parents from holding parties for high-school students where there is alcohol, each parent is asked to sign a pledge card. These cards are then displayed in the child’s school and an asterisk is placed next to the parent’s name in the school directory.
"We are targeting that because it's been a problem," said Clarke. "What tends to happen in fast-growing counties is that things to do [don't] keep up with housing."
This, according to Clarke is the prime reason that high-school students turn towards alcohol for entertainment.
WITH NATIONAL ABUSE Recovery Month well underway, Loudoun County organizations are strategically raising awareness — in both the business communities and the population of younger students. The recent opening of the first teen center in Loudoun, which is in Purcellville, is proof that progress is being made.
"I think it's important that the community at large knows that they can get involved with coalitions and make a difference in this arena," said Clarke.