Recovery Community Organizations in Medically Underserved Communities of Color

by Joe Powell

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A Recovery Community Organization (RCO) is an independent, non-profit organization led by persons in recovery, their family members, friends and allies. RCOs provide a combination of long-term peer-based recovery supports, community education, grassroots mobilization and advocacy to support recovery. The sole mission of an RCO is to mobilize resources within and outside of a community to increase the prevalence and quality of long-term recovery within a community (Valentine, White and Taylor, 2007).

 In 1998 SAMSHA funded 20 RCOs throughout the United States to advocate and educate communities about the long-term effects of recovery. It was in the same year that the Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (APAA) was founded by people from various backgrounds and experiences. We had one simple purpose and that was to spread recovery in Dallas Texas. Now 21 years later, we know through experience that the RCO model is ideal for African American communities impacted by addiction and co-occurring mental health challenges. Recovery flourishes in a community that is connected to a network of strength-based services; and that network thrives because of the experiential knowledge and lived experience of the people in recovery and allies.

While many African Americans receive services in traditional addiction treatment programs many of these programs offer acute care solutions to a chronic and progressive illness. Simply, they focus on the problem and the person’s weakness rather than their strengths and supports. Many of these programs are located outside of the black community and offer little to no continued cultural hope or recovery support upon discharge. It became clear that services were needed within the community to support recovery. APAA moved to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in the heart of a black community in Dallas. The first thing our RCO did was Map the entire community for recovery capital and champions. In the community there were churches, barbershops, police stations, grocery stores, community groups, 12 step meetings etc. We pulled the entire community together, bringing addiction out of the closet and we mobilized the community to support recovery. We viewed the entire community as the recovery center. We noted that there were many liquor stores in the community and no programs to support recovery. We started training and hiring recovery coaches within the community to support long term recovery. Treatment centers often lose funding and shut down. We have found that offering a peer-based solution in the black community is a great solution.

Federal, State, County and the city council is now involved in our recovery efforts. Our funding is now provided by various community groups who see the benefits of anchoring recovery in the community. While there is much work to do, we have a thriving recovering community in Dallas. We coordinated the 2016 National Recovery Celebration and look forward to hosting the 2019 Big Texas Rally for Recovery. 

About the Author

Joe Powell is the President and CEO of APAA a leading peer driven, peer led, and peer ran recovery community organization. He is recipient of the Vernon Johnson Award for advocacy. 

Implementing Cultural Competence in a Trauma Informed Setting for African-American Emerging Adults with Co-occurring Disorders

by Fred Dyer, PhD, CADC

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The aforementioned title of this post reminds those of us who are working with African American Emerging Adults with Co-occurring Disorders, and/or those who desire to, that due to the early exposure of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE'S) and their impact psychiactrically, behaviorally and developmentally, when working with African Emerging adults it is necessary to be able to respond to the trauma in their lives in a culturally competent/sensitive manner.

 Laura Brown{2008} reminds us of the importance of cultural competence  in trauma informed care by stating that "Healthcare delivery of services for emerging adults  cannot be all inclusive without embracing, the need  for cultural competence/sensitivity, and even the best practices lack efficacy when culture is not incorporated as a trauma-informed solution. Additionally failure to bring cultural competence to the table can lead to missteps in genuinely helping African American emerging Adult trauma survivors or worse can result in deepening the wounds of trauma, creating secondary and tertiary traumas that are more painful than the original because they are appraised by victims and survivors as unnecessary wounds.

 As with other important topics time nor space affords the appropriate amount of time to discuss. However any discussion/treatment of trauma must and should include: Historical trauma and culturally competent/ sensitive practice parameters for healing historical trauma.

The following are a few principles for implementing culturally competent/sensitive trauma informed -care with African- American emerging adults with co-occurring disorders. 1. connect clients with resources they trust including types of professionals and traditional healers, 2. help clients to restore a sense of safety, 3. connect clients with elders who lived thru traumatic events and who managed trauma, discrimination, and setbacks, 4. remember it is important to ask clients "what the event means to them. It is clear that addressing cultural competency and utilizing cultural sensitivity in a trauma -informed setting with African - American emerging adults with co-occurring disorders is no longer an exception, but rather an expectation.

MY Recovery Story . . .


Jamelia Hand, MHS, CADC, MISA 1

Editor's Note: The first blog post of 2018 is the story of a daughters love for her father before and during her Fathers active addiction and the daughter finding her life purpose in the midst of her fathers addiction.

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So, I show up to work one day and EVERYTHING was falling apart...

It was 32 below zero (wind chill factor) in Chicago, IL and I was the ONLY person who came to my office to work on this day. When I checked the voicemail there were 3 messages (my entire staff) stating that trouble with car, trouble at home, sickness, prevented them from coming to work. I also received a voicemail from my boss which stated "We're going to go in a different direction with the new project". So, the project that i'd been researching and developing for 2 weeks had to be redone. And did I mention that the project proposal was due by the close of business on the next day? I started the coffee maker and headed over to the hospital to make my daily rounds. I'm an addictions counselor by trade but was working as a supervisor at a detoxification program for patients who wanted to begin their addiction recovery journey. I walked from my office to the hospital a few feet away and greeted everyone in the emergency department (all 4 of them).. I then went upstairs to the unit where I find out that there was only 1 physician, 1 nurse who was divided between 2 floors, and 34 patients. I gauged the "climate" on the unit and gave the doctor a little bit of a pep talk before what could be assumed to be a stress-filled day...(click here to continue reading this post).