Tell the White House Why We Need Healthcare Parity

healthinsuranceIn 2008, Congress enacted the The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) to ensure that insurance companies cover mental health and substance use treatment no differently than they do other medical conditions. MHPAEA is a federal law that generally prevents group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical/surgical benefits.

It is now 2016, and we’ve got a long way to go to make parity a reality. There are still disparities between the accessibility and coverage of MH/SUD treatment versus other medical care.

You can do something about it.

Last month, President Obama created a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force tasked with increasing awareness about comparable insurance coverage, improving understanding of requirements for health plans, and increasing transparency around compliance with the law.

The President’s Task Force wants to hear from you, from patients, families, consumer advocates, health care providers, insurers, and other stakeholders on their experiences and difficulties with accessing services and coverage.

Share your comments, experiences, and recommendations with the Task Force. Or, submit your comments by sending an email to parity@hhs.gov.

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

CARA Update – Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act


CARA Call-In Day Tuesday June 14th

In March the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), followed by the House passing the House Opioid Package of bills in May. Now CARA and the House Opioid Package of bills need to be passed by the Conference Committee in order to be sent to the President’s desk for signature.

Want to help make sure the recovery support provisions stay in the Senate CARA bill?

Contact your legislators and let them know how important recovery support services provided by recovery community organizations (like MRC), recovery high schools (like Pease Academy), and collegiate recovery communities (like Augsburg’s Step Up Program) are to you. Click the links below, and make your voice heard.

CALL HERE

EMAIL HERE

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

CARA Legislation on the Move

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BREAKING NEWS FROM WASHINGTON D.C. – CARA is on the move!

The Senate voted 95-1 to send the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) to conference with the House, in an effort to send a final bill to the president’s desk before Congress recesses in mid-July. (Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the motion.)

CARA’s sponsors, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), are not among the Senate’s conferees, but Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will serve on the conference committee, along with 35 House members (see list below).

CARA co-sponsor Sen. Portman has been critical of the House’s package (which focuses almost solely on the opioid epidemic), saying the Senate bill is more comprehensive. Recovery advocates have also shown a preference for CARA because it prioritizes prevention efforts and includes provisions that address recovery programs. In a statement, Sen. Portman said:

“I’m pleased that CARA is the position of the Senate as we move into this conference discussion[.] My staff and I have been working very closely with our conferees, Senator Whitehouse, and other members to help find common ground between the two chambers.”

Unfortunately, no Minnesota legislators are members of the CARA Conference Committee. Nonetheless, our elected officials need to hear our stories. In order to ensure that the final bill presents a comprehensive approach to addiction, Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) is asking constituents to take action today. Tell FAVOR why CARA and a comprehensive approach to this public health crisis is so critical.

Republican Conferees:

  • Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California
  • Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan
  • Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia
  • Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin
  • Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas
  • Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia
  • Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan
  • Rep. Mike Bishop of Michigan
  • Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey
  • Rep. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
  • Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana
  • Rep. Susan W. Brooks of Indiana
  • Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter of Georgia
  • Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida
  • Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana
  • Rep. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Robert J. Dold of Illinois

Democratic Conferees:

  • Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey,
  • Judiciary ranking member John Conyers Jr. of Michigan
  • Education and Workforce ranking member Robert C. Scott of Virginia
  • Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington
  • Rep. Gene Green of Texas
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas
  • Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut
  • Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee
  • Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland
  • Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico
  • Rep. Judy Chu of California
  • Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut
  • Rep. Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire
  • Rep. Raul Ruiz of California

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

Authentic Connection vs. Shame

Authentic Connection vs. Shame
by Tyler Reitzner

There was a point in my active addiction that I had to be hospitalized to detox and stabilize. My drinking was causing significant damage to my liver and pancreas as well as spiking my blood pleasure to dangerous levels.  Spitting up blood was a daily routine. I spent six days in the hospital with doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists telling me “you can’t drink anymore or you will die” and I knew they were right.

When I was released I was optimistic about changing and was laughing with the staff as they discharged me but by the time they wheeled me to the lobby my mind was starting to race. I realized that I would be going back to my home, alone, sitting with myself. I took a cab home and halfway through the trip I had the driver stop at a liquor store. I was back in the hospital five days later.

Shame almost killed me, not alcohol. My drinking didn’t cause the shame; it was the best way that I had to deal with the shame. The feeling was crippling at times. It wasn’t the shame of being an alcoholic that kept me from getting help; it was the shame of being me, and not feeling worth it.

My shame is the brick wall at the core of my soul built of old wounds that tell me I am not good enough. It made the self-destructive lifestyle that comes with alcoholism feel comfortable and necessary. I felt isolated and worthless, to the point that alcohol became the only relationship that I felt comfortable with and I needed to connect with something.

Over 7 years later, I am in long-term recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD). I have focused on being myself, present, growing, and engaging in the relationships in my life. This is how I define authentic connection and it’s what broke down my shame wall and helped me feel worth living, even with imperfections.

The process started for me even back when I was in the hospital still in my active SUD. I had felt safe and taken care of while there. The staff treated me like a human and not a defective person. While I was in the hospital I felt sincere hope. When I left and lost that safe connection I felt the shame wall build back up and tell me I am not enough. Although, I did drink again, that feeling of hope stuck with me, and deep down I knew that I could connect to something other than alcohol. The recovery community became that connection for me. Authentic connection was the dynamite that started to blast apart the shame wall and lead to better relationships with my family who became a part of my community. However, the work didn’t stop there.

“You have to let us love you until you love yourself”, every defense mechanism I had kicked in the first time I heard that. That concept sounded terrifying to me because it meant that I had to learn to sit down, look myself in the eye and say I love you, Tyler, and you are worth that love. The love of my community made it safe to do that, and I now feel like I belong.

My oldest son and I recently had a discussion around recovery that validated my experience. We were discussing recovery and what it has meant to us and he made the following statement “I got to see you as you, and not the drunk you”.

Related Books for this topic by Dr. Brené Brown: Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong.  

Tyler Reitzner is a Patient Leader, Speaker and Behavioral Health Advocate. He lives with his wife and two boys in Minnesota.

Board Member: MN Trauma Project http://www.mntraumaproject.org/

Board Member: Minnesota Recovery Connection https://minnesotarecovery.org/

Director of Marketing and Outreach: FRrē, Family Recovery Resource Experts https://frre.net/

Coming this October! Podcast series and website, Strength in Brokenness, with Tyler and Dr. Ryan Van Wyk.

Historic CARA Legislation Passes House

diagramOn Friday, July 8, 2016, the United States House of Representatives almost unanimously approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA). The 407-5 vote bodes well for the bill’s passage in the Senate, after which CARA will land on President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

CARA includes policies and grant programs affecting prevention, law enforcement, addiction treatment and recovery support.

The implementation of CARA will:

  • Raise prescriber awareness through education about the danger of opioids;
  • Increase access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) for those with substance use disorder by increasing prescriber patient limits;
  • Expand first responder naloxone training programs and prescription drug take back initiatives, as well as general addiction treatment and prevention education, training and awareness campaigns;
  • Fund a comprehensive report on the reality of recovery in America and the collateral consequences of addiction;
  • Offer demonstration grants for states to provide a comprehensive response to opioid abuse; and
  • Provide grant funding for veteran treatment courts, treatment for pregnant and postpartum women, and recovery support services through recovery community organizations (that’s us – Minnesota Recovery Connection).

CARA’s financial commitment to expand recovery support services is modest – $5 million over 5 years – but overall CARA is a huge victory for recovery. CARA is an important step toward healthcare parity and a promising development that will further our efforts to end discrimination against those diagnosed with substance use disorder.

Please take a moment to thank your representatives for moving CARA forward.

Thank your representatives for voting YES on CARA.

Tweet your members of Congress #thankyou for voting YES on #CARA.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

The Senate Passed CARA!

July 13, 2016unnamed

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) – the first comprehensive addiction and recovery legislation to pass Congress in almost 40 years – is headed to the President’s desk this afternoon to be signed into law.

HUGE thanks to our own Julia Alexander for working on this legislation for more than two years! And Bravo! to the Addiction Policy Forum for all of its tenacity and perseverance!

Please take a moment to thank your Senators for voting yes on CARA.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

Social Media and Recovery Advocacy: The New Frontier

Social Media and Recovery Advocacy: The New Frontier
From Faces & Voices of Recovery Blog
by Brooke Feldman

Perhaps more than any other sociological advance we’ve seen over the past decade, the widespread use of social media has had a tremendous impact on the New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement. The ability to connect across counties and continents has facilitated the transfer of information and fostered opportunities for networking in ways never before imagined. The ability to virtually mobilize and organize the recovery communities online has magnificently spilled out into the physical world at recovery meetings, social events, advocacy days, conferences and massive rallies such as last year’s Unite to Face Addiction event in Washington, DC. In addition to these powerful benefits, the ability to put a face and voice on recovery has never before been more real as hundreds of thousands of people each day publicly disclose being a person in long-term recovery for the larger world to see on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. This public disclosure of recovery status has moved our movement giant steps away from mostly preaching to the choir and out into a place of serving as beacons of hope and sources of inspiration for the greater world to see. All told, the widespread use of social media has certainly advanced the New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement, yet as with all advances, the widespread use of social media has also brought new challenges for us to grapple with. This blog is the first of a series that will explore some of the challenges of social media and recovery advocacy that our community must discuss, struggle with and get to the other side of.

Language
With so many styles and varieties of recovery experiences that are embedded in individual and cultural contexts, coming to a place of one universal, non-stigmatizing and all-encompassing set of words and messaging is no easy task and remains one that our movement still struggles to unite around, spread and sustain. With social media providing a very public forum for self-disclosure and conversations around addiction and recovery, we see at least just as much use of less favorable language as we see individuals using the research-backed Faces and Voices of Recovery messaging. In order to continue moving forward with promoting non-stigmatizing language that will transform minds and hearts, our movement will have to acknowledge all of the factors at play in the variability of language, the real benefits of that variability, the potentially harmful limitations and challenges of that variability and ultimately new strategies for moving language forward.

Pictures
The notion that a picture is worth a thousand words is one that the advance of social media has brought square into the forefront. As we see unsavory and stigmatizing images used by the media for stories about addiction and recovery, how will the recovery advocacy community unite to demand better from the press? As we see an abundance of videos posted that demonize victims of an overdose, how will the recovery advocacy community unite to demand an end to public shaming that only leads to more discrimination, stigma and lack of awareness about the reality of recovery? As we see countless memes using stigmatizing language or poking fun at addiction and recovery, how will the recovery advocacy movement unite to counteract these images with memes that instead use strengths-based language that promotes the universal value and reality of recovery?

The challenges surrounding the language and pictures used on social media are just two of a number of areas we must address as we continue forward movement in the new frontier of social media and recovery advocacy.

Stay tuned for my next blog on this subject which will explore the personal and collective responsibility that comes with advocacy on social media…

brookefeldmanBROOKE FELDMAN, Faces & Voices of Recovery Recovery Blog Manager
Brooke openly identifies as a person in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder.  While recovery means many different things to many different people, what this means for Brooke is that for over 11 years, overcoming problem alcohol and other drug use has enabled her to stop the intergenerational transmission of addiction that claimed her mother’s life at a young age.  Furthermore, recovery has enabled Brooke to combine her own lived experience with professional and educational experience to live a life of service dedicated to supporting others around initiating and sustaining recovery.  Brooke firmly believes that long-term recovery is possible for all individuals and their families, so long as they have access to the resources and supports they need.  Much of Brooke’s professional, volunteer and writing efforts go toward ensuring that those resources and supports are more readily available when, how and where they are needed.

Recovery Voices Count! Voter Registration Information

Recovery Voices Count!vote-sticker

Did you know that in Minnesota you can register to vote online?

Pre-Registration is open until Oct 18.
After Oct .18 you will need to register to vote at your polling place on Election Day.

Wondering if you’re already registered to vote, or if your registration needs to be updated? Find out here.

Do you know what will be on your ballot? Do you know where to vote? To be prepared for Election Day, check the Elections & Voting website of the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State to answer any election questions.

It’s very important that supporters of the recovery community show up to VOTE on Tuesday, Nov 8! Not only is this a presidential election, but there are also important state and local offices to be decided – like judges, school district offices and in MN there’s also a constitutional amendment on the ballot too!

Everything you need to know about registering to vote from the Office of the MN Secretary of State:

Register Online
It’s quick and easy! You will need your Minnesota drivers license or Minnesota identification card number, or the last four numbers of your Social Security number.

Register on Paper
Download and print forms in English and other languages.Use these forms to register yourself or to register others in a voter registration drive.

Register on Election Day
You can register or update your registration at your polling place on Election Day. You will need proof of residence to register.
Learn more.

How to register if…

I’m a college student

I’m in the military or living abroad

I have a criminal record

I fear for my personal safety

I’m in a residential facility

I’m moving on or close to Election Day

I’m living temporarily in Minnesota

I’m homeless

My home is in foreclosure

The Faces of Recovery Project

Faces of Recovery
By Carolyn Wiger

Carolyn Wiger

About four years ago I had my interview for a chemical health social work position at Washington County. I debated whether or not I should mention that I am in recovery from drugs and alcohol. Previously, I was working as a counselor in treatment centers where the majority of my coworkers were also in recovery. They weren’t just in recovery, they were open about their recovery.  It was something to be proud of and celebrated.

I entered the interview room as stiff as a board because I was so scared that if I moved a certain way my tattoos would be revealed.  When asked what brought me into the chemical health field and why I wanted to work at the County, I felt my eyes begin to water. I couldn’t help but think about how just six years ago I was waiting to complete my Rule 25 Assessment and get into treatment. Now here I was, interviewing for a job where I would be giving the same type of help that I received at the beginning of my journey into recovery.

As a counselor, I always admired the County workers.  I knew that someday I wanted to be at the County. When I was offered the position, I bawled my eyes out. I felt so incredibly grateful.   On my first day of work I mentioned to a coworker that I was in recovery. Her response? “How did you pass the background check?” I paused for a second, but awkwardly laughed it off because yes, it was a legitimate concern. That didn’t stop me from talking about recovery, but I quickly realized that talking about my sobriety seemed to make my coworkers uncomfortable. “We don’t really talk about that here,” I was told. Well, why not?  It shouldn’t matter if I’m working at a treatment center or the County, both can be places where recovery can be openly discussed and celebrated.

In a 2014 study by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that Americans were more likely to view people with substance use disorders more negatively than those with mental illnesses.

  • 22 percent would be willing to work with someone with SUD.
  • 62 percent would be willing to work with someone with mental illness.
  • 64 percent believed employers should be able to deny employment to people with SUD.
  • 25 percent believed employers should be able to deny employment to people with mental illness.
  • 43 percent opposed giving individuals with SUD the same health insurance benefits as the rest of the public.
  • 21 percent opposed giving those with mental illness the same health insurance benefits as the rest of the public.

I’m sure all of us can say we have been affected by addiction in some way. According to a recent report by the Surgeon General, 21 million Americans struggle with SUD but only 1 in 10 ever receive treatment.  The American Medical Association declared alcoholism a disease in 1956 and did the same for drug addictions in 1989. Despite this recognition, SUD remains one of the most stigmatized diseases. The behavioral symptoms of addiction are so baffling that it’s hard to understand and even harder not to have an opinion. Even among professionals, SUD doesn’t get the same respect that other chronic diseases do, such as diabetes and cancer.  All too often treatment and services are discontinued due to the belief that someone hasn’t “hit rock bottom,” suffered enough consequences, tried hard enough, or “just isn’t ready.” How many other diseases would we treat that way? I have never seen another disease be subjected to so many people’s opinions.

I knew I had to do something and that’s when I decided to create the Faces of Recovery posters. I selected 10 incredible people. Most of whom have been instrumental in my own recovery.  I wanted to showcase people doing what they love and thriving in recovery.  My goal is to change the way others view addiction by getting a glimpse into the stories of recovery.  I want to help create a work environment that celebrates recovery. I also want to inspire people who are struggling that recovery is possible. Often times we see addiction publicized at its worst. We don’t hear the stories of recovery.  We’ve seen enough of the Faces of Meth posters to know that drugs are bad, but that doesn’t mean these are bad people.  The truth is, “these people” are nurses, construction workers, social workers, attorneys, moms, dads, husbands, wives, children and friends.

If I had to be judged forever by the things I did while actively addicted, I would have never recovered. The stigma of this disease keeps people sick and if we do recover, many of us are too ashamed to share our story, for fear of being judged. I easily could have shut down when I didn’t feel my recovery was accepted.  Instead, I used it as an opportunity to educate. I put my story out there because I believe when we are vulnerable and share who we are, we have the ability to truly connect with people. Those uncomfortable conversations about my recovery have turned into acceptance and understanding.  On May 20th I celebrated 9 years of sobriety. My coworkers invited me to lunch in honor of my sober birthday and we openly talked about recovery. I felt loved, accepted, and worthy and that’s the way it should be.

Kris Kelly from Minnesota Recovery Connection facilitates a Recovery Ambassador workshop for Washington County staff members.

For Recovery Month I hosted an event where I was able to showcase my Faces of Recovery posters and educate over 100 of my coworkers about SUD and recovery.  The response I have gotten from this project has been incredible.  The emails and calls I’ve received from coworkers and the community have been so encouraging. I plan to continue speaking about the Faces of Recovery and will add additional posters throughout the year.  It’s not just about hanging up a poster. It’s about the story behind each one.  It’s about talking openly about recovery and spreading hope. We learn from stories and we connect by stories.   We all have a story to tell and we can help defeat the stigma by sharing it.

About the author:
My name is Carolyn Wiger and I have been in recovery for 9 years. I have been in the Chemical Health field since 2010 and have been a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor since 2012.  As a counselor, I worked in both residential and outpatient treatment centers. Currently, I work at Washington County as a Social Worker. My personal struggles are what led me into this field and my recovery is what keeps me going today.  

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