All around us in Montana, there are hundreds of people in recovery from mental and substance use disorders. They are contributing to our businesses, connecting with their families and giving back to the community. Every day someone begins their journey of recovery.
However, too many people are still unaware that prevention works, and that mental illness and substance abuse are conditions that can be treated, just like we can treat other health disorders such as diabetes and hypertension. We need to work together to make recovery the expectation, not the exception.
Anyone who has worked with people in need of treatment has seen firsthand the benefits of recovery. Individuals who embrace recovery achieve improved mental and physical health, as well as developing stronger relationships and having an improved sense of self-worth.
Mental and substance use disorders do not discriminate — they affect people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, geographic regions, and socioeconomic levels. Over 9,000 people received treatment for substance use disorders last year in Montana. More than 21,000 adults received mental health services in the same period.
We can’t get discouraged by the prevalence of these problems because help is available. In fact, across the country, in 2011, 31.6 million adults aged 18 or older received services for mental illness, and 2.3 million people aged 12 or older who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem received treatment at a specialty facility.
Many of these individuals have achieved healthy lifestyles, both physically and emotionally, and contribute in positive ways to their communities. For them to continue their journey of recovery, they need the support of a welcoming community to help them on their path of long-term recovery. Fortunately, more than 80 percent of Americans would think no less of a friend or relative who is in recovery from addiction.
To educate people about the pathways to recovery and to support individuals in recovery, every September, throughout the nation DPHHS celebrates Recovery Month, an initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act will significantly enhance access to the prevention, treatment and recovery support service coverage for persons with, or at risk of, mental and substance-use disorders. According to SAMHSA’s 2010 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, providers will need to be prepared to provide services to up to an additional 11 million uninsured people with behavioral health problems. These providers have a unique opportunity to assist these individuals navigate the insurance eligibility determination and enrollment process.
DPHHS is celebrating Recovery Month to honor individuals and families who are in long-term recovery. We urge communities across Montana to join us in supporting them.
(Richard H. Opper is the director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.)