September, for many New Haven residents, is a time for barbecues, raking leaves, and absorbing the last few warm days before the temperature drops. But the month also marks the 14th annual National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, and the city’s Office of Substance Abuse Policy and Prevention has launched a campaign to highlight the ongoing struggles of alcoholism and drug addiction.
Hoping to reach out to New Haven residents from all socioeconomic backgrounds, the Office of Substance Abuse Policy and Prevention, or OSAPP, has planned a monthlong radio advertising campaign on WYBC, released an endorsement from New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., and sent eight busloads of people to a “Recovery Walk” in Hartford last Sunday.
The city of New Haven is participating in September’s activities in order to inspire substance-dependent and other residents to work toward a positive future, OSAPP director Esther Armmand said.
“Our main purpose is to heighten awareness of [substance abuse] as a problem,” Armmand said. “It affects all social classes and cultural groups.”
One aspect of OSAPP’s outreach involves distribution of their “Summer Buzz” pamphlet, a sequel to the acclaimed “Buzz without the Booze” publication, which contains recipes for exotic nonalcoholic mixed drinks.
Substance-abuse is an ongoing, widespread medical problem to which events like the Hartford walk help to draw attention, said Phillip Valentine, associate director of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery.
“I think the problem [of substance abuse] itself is about the same [as it has ever been,]” Valentine said. “[But] the way we’re addressing it has radically changed; our prisons are swelling with nonviolent people — I think these people are sick and need treatment. If thousands of us have put our faith in recovery, people will see hope.”
This month’s events will also help reduce the stigma sometimes associated with substance abusers, Armmand said.
“We want people to learn that the only shame is not seeking help,” she said.
In New Haven, Hartford, and cities across the country, substance abusers and their supporters have planned and attended Recovery Month events.
Alisha Pollastri, a staff affiliate in the Psychiatry Department of Yale Medical School, attended Sunday’s walk in Hartford along with others from Yale’s research program on the genetics of substance dependence. Pollastri said she and her coworkers participated in the walk with two purposes in mind: to recruit new participants for Yale research studies and to offer reaffirmation to their patients.
“We work day to day with people who are struggling with recovery and we wanted to show our support,” Pollastri said.
Student health educator and associate clinical professor of psychiatry Carole Goldberg said Yale’s student health education program does not traditionally participate in Recovery Month.
“We focus more on the entire year,” Goldberg said. “We’ve found that it works better for the students.”
Goldberg also said a Student Health Expo will be held tonight at Yale University Health Services, and a substance-abuse counselor will be available there for discussion.