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Annual event to highlight addiction recovery, mental health supports

Submitted Photo Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn lead off the first Recovery Reinvented in 2017. This year’s event will be entirely online on Oct. 28.

Media personality and addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky and New York Times best-selling author David Sheff will be featured speakers at the annual “Recovery Reinvented” event on Oct. 28.

Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum will host the fourth annual event, which will be held via livestream broadcast on recoveryreinvented.com.

Kathryn Burgum said addiction and mental health both will be discussed at this year’s event. A North Dakota Department of Commerce survey uncovered almost a 68% increase in mental health struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. One in five adults reported an increase in substance abuse, and addiction and mental health problems often go hand in hand.

“Even before the pandemic when we started thinking about Recovery Reinvented, we wanted to focus on the co-occurring disorders of the disease of addiction and mental illness,” Burgum said. “Now we know more about how people are struggling through these surveys. So we feel like it’s the perfect time to have speakers who will address these topics.”

Pinsky is an expert in the area of co-occurring addiction and mental illness. He will share his insight around strategies to eliminate the shame and stigma surrounding addiction, the connection between mental health and addiction and the emerging addiction challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What’s happening now with COVID is exasperating. There’s a lot of shame and stigma related to mental illness and addiction, which isolates people and makes people isolate, and COVID is so isolating. We lose connections in person with people, and even if we are in person, we’re six feet apart and have masks on. I think Recovery Reinvented is the perfect time for us to really talk about these situations, these types of struggles, and then also we will be sharing lots of different resources that are available to people in North Dakota and across the nation,” Burgum said. “We’re connected to a lot of groups nationally, and on social media, who are going to be getting the word out about Recovery Reinvented so I do believe we’ll have a bigger audience this year.”

Attendance at the 2019 event included 1,000 people in person and 2,500 online viewers.

The 2020 event includes:

– David Sheff, the author of the novel, “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction,” a memoir and major motion picture that chronicles a father’s experience supporting his son through addiction, relapse and recovery. Sheff, an advocate on the issues surrounding the U.S. drug crisis, was named to Time Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Influential People in 2009.

– Dr. Stephen Delisi of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, who will discuss Adverse Childhood Experiences, a test for adults working through mental health or addiction struggles to help specialists determine the best treatment.

– Local providers and clients who will share testimonials on their experiences with telehealth and virtual recovery support services.

Burgum said progress has been made but more needs to be done in reducing the stigma of addiction.

“We learned that 63% of North Dakotans believe addiction is a disease, but it’s still meant that one in three people believe that addiction is a choice or a moral failing,” she said.

In contemplating how to reach those one in three people, it’s been necessary to think outside of traditional audiences, such as health care or law enforcement, she said. That has led to outreach into the business world.

“Seventy percent of the people that struggle with addiction work full or part time,” Burgum said. “Corporations have the opportunity to help eliminate stigma and provide recovery-supportive workplaces so that they can have more productive employees.”

Speaking at Recovery Reinvented will be executives and employees from Solid Comfort, a Fargo-based manufacturer of hospitality furniture and developers of a recovery-inclusive workplace philosophy known as “Solid Start.” About 75% of Solid Comfort’s employees are either in recovery, out of the criminal justice system or both.

“One of the things we did at the state level is we created a tool kit for employers,” Burgum said. The tools focus on supporting employees’ behavioral health, including mental health and addiction recovery.

The state also is in the early stages of establishing evidence-based, peer-led family support groups. These groups follow the Families Strong program, which is a free, online support group. Efforts around the program will be highlighted at Recovery Reinvented.

“We will be doing what we can to continue to get the word out and to continue to create opportunities to be a part of this really great program, and it’s going to help a lot of people and families that are struggling with the disease of addiction,” Burgum said.

Recovery Reinvented runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Continuing education credits will be available. The event is free and open to the public. For more information or to register, visit recoveryreinvented.com/2020/.

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