|North Adams' Rally for Recovery Highlights Need for Community Support
|By Kim McMann, Special to iBerkshires
05:10PM / Tuesday, October 10, 2023
|Current and former Mayors Jennifer Macksey, Thomas Bernard and Richard Alcombright were attending the rally.
Rebecca Dodge has been named director of the new peer recovery support center in North Adams.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Approximately 75 people braved the wind and rain Saturday to attend the Rally for Recovery — a resource fair, speakers' forum and standout.
The goal of the annual event, previously Voices for Recovery, is to bring awareness of the struggles to overcome addiction, to celebrate those in recovery and to provide inspiration for others on the path to recovery.
"Recover out loud so people don't need to suffer in silence," said Becky, one of the recovery speakers, in sharing her story.
As another speaker, Benjie, described recovery as people getting back to their families, their children and to living their lives, there were many agreeing, nodding their heads and clapping.
"People, places and things keep me sober," he said. "North Adams keeps me sober. All the people and the peer support groups here, it's what keeps me going and striving for success."
The rally was sponsored this year by HEALing Communities North Adams and held at First Baptist Church on a date that was rescheduled because of the weather.
The "Helping to End Addiction Long-term
" initiative is being undertaken by the National Institutes of Health and covers 67 communities in Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio. Scientists from the nation's leading health agencies and four major academic institutions are partnering with these communities to test a set of interventions to combat the opioid crisis.
EcuHealth, SaVida Health (an opioid treatment center), the Brien Center and North Adams Spectrum all had representatives tabling and providing information and resources.
The rally was welcomed by Mayor Jennifer Macksey, who read a proclamation from the city recognizing Recovery Month in North Adams. The mayor noted "the power of each man and woman in recovery showcases the power each of us holds to transform ourselves, our families and our community."
She recognized two former mayors in attendance: Thomas Bernard, now president of Berkshire United Way, and Richard Alcombright. Alcombright, a member of the HEALing Communities Study, introduced several speakers who shared their own stories of recovery.
During the personal stories, the need to reduce stigma associated with addiction and recovery was brought up repeatedly. Wendy Penner, another member of North Adams HEALing Communities, responded in agreement, stating addiction must be recognized as a medical disease.
Several speakers also acknowledged the sometimes-difficult decision to take prescribed medications as part of the recovery process, comparing taking Tylenol for a headache or Tums for an upset stomach to taking the prescribed drugs necessary to treat addiction.
Recovery coach Caitlin McKinnon capped off the speakers' series with her own story of recovery and lived experience.
"My clients always say they learn a lot from me," she said. "I've learned a lot from them, too."
Several of the speakers thanked the organizations and individuals providing support. Alcombright reminded those gathered of all the people not only in the room but in the community at large who are supporting this movement of recognizing the disease of addiction and supporting recovery.
"No one has to be lonely on this journey," he said.
Another speaker, Marcus, described recovery as the best decision he ever made and asked that the community just "give us a shot and let us show our hidden talents."
He also took the opportunity to remind the attendees "the whole team ain't here. A lot of people, most of us, all of us, know somebody that passed away in active addiction."
He pointed out, no matter where each person is in their own recovery, there's always a chance to help somebody else.
A video produced by HEALing Communities, sharing more personal stories was screened as well. The videos will be shared on YouTube via the Berkshire Overdose Addiction Prevention Collaborative's channel.
The event culminated when Rebecca Dodge, founder of the Have Hope Initiative, was recognized as the newly appointed director of the North Adams Peer Recovery Support Center, opening in later this year. Data collected for the HEALing Communities study at Boston Medical Center for the past four years has now been leveraged to access funds to create the center and provide operating expenses for the next five years.
Participants then braved the wind and rain to briefly stand outside First Baptist Church with signs to raise awareness, but the elements ultimately proved too much. Bright purple and black T-shirts from the event were handed out and will be popping up throughout the community and across social media reminding everyone there is hope and there are opportunities to help.