By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Public discussions about addiction and recovery reflect a new determination – an emerging social movement, essentially – led by local mental health advocacy and recovery groups, and strongly supported by allies in the broader community.
For reasons of both public service and personal experience, the issue is a topic mayoral candidate Dr. Ed Shadid feels strongly about, and discusses openly.
Last week, an event highlighting the matter was co-organized by Randy Tate, executive director of NorthCare, Inc., a nonprofit agency that aids in substance abuse recovery, and Sara Barry, mental health/addiction recovery advocate.
“As advocates for those in recovery, we would like to mobilize our communities to take action and send a message that it is unacceptable for an individual’s past history of addiction to be used as a reason to challenge that person’s fitness to hold a public or political office,” said Barry.
The Tate-Barry event, held at Café do Brazil in Oklahoma City’s midtown district, included individuals in recovery as well as recovery advocates and providers.
Oklahoma City attorney Pete Schaffer said, “I am here because the issue of drug addiction and mental health and all related issues are very important for us as a society to discuss openly. It’s not something to be swept under the rug.
Anonymity is great, but open discussion is even greater.”
In a public heath forum held in 2012, Dr. Shadid stated, “After struggling for many years, I eventually found a spiritual path towards recovery and that, after many years, has led me here.”
Tate said, “Individuals experiencing addiction(s) or persons who may be in recovery often feel hopeless, isolated and oppressed.”
“The unsealing of divorce and treatment records of Dr. Shadid, and the publication of allegations made nearly a decade ago as part of a bitter divorce and custody battle felt heavy-handed in consideration of Dr. Shadid’s recovery lifestyle and abstinence from drug or alcohol use for almost ten years,” Tate added.
“Getting sober is very hard work, and we applaud Dr. Shadid and others for their recovery and contributions to our community.”
Another advocate, George Crooks, said, “The mentally ill tend to avoid the public eye and then they avoid treatment. It’s a bigger issue because of the stigma that goes with a mental illness diagnosis.”
Parents Helping Parents, a non-profit comprised of caring parents offering hope through resources, education, and shared experience also deals with the addiction issue.
“We had a full house to hear Dr. Shadid speak about the issues our community is facing concerning addiction,” said Leslie Gilmore President, PHP Edmond Chapter.
In related news, The Referral Center (TRC), a certified recovery program in Oklahoma City, held its first annual Charity Dinner to Change Lives, featuring Dr. Shadid as keynote speaker, and honoring him for open discussion of his own challenges.
Shadid described addiction as a disease of the brain.
“There is still so much shame and stigma associated with it,” Shadid said. “The recovery community in OKC is huge and together we will advocate for better public policies.”
Behavioral health advocate Jill Amos reflected, “Regardless of your political views, I think this event is a great way for folks to get together and discuss the effects that stigma has on individuals in recovery.”
Amos continued, “I am excited to see someone in the public’s eye talking about their experiences with recovery. I think that shows people that the diseases of mental illness and addiction don’t discriminate and can exist in any human brain. I want people to understand that it’s normal for people to need care for their minds just like they need it for their bodies.”
Statistics released in January by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services showed that in the past year 21 percent of Oklahomans report having a mental illness and 12 percent report having a substance abuse disorder. Between 700,000 and 950,000 Oklahomans suffer from these issues.
Findings also show that 77 percent of adult Oklahomans and 80 percent of Oklahoma youth who need substance abuse services do not receive them.
Shadid commented, “We have one of the highest opiate prescription abuse rates in the world. When we ask why we are in the top 10 cities for violent crime and property crime in America, we have to ask why are the crimes occurring and is addiction part of that.”
Shadid continued, “It is critical that the people of Oklahoma City know how common this disease is, what it is doing to our city and that there are treatments that work if we will invest in them. “Although it will be painful, I pray that some good will come from the discussion of what addiction can do to a family.”
Commenting on the recent events and new attention to recovery issues, Tate told The City Sentinel, “I believe that Ed’s message will be something that will grow in attraction beyond this race.”
Mayoral hopeful Ed Shadid addresses addiction, mental health and recovery issues with community groups
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