The Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area of the state offer a wealth of opportunities to get involved in issues you are passionate about as a social work student. I am personally interested in advocating for individuals that either struggle with addictions or are attempting to rebuild their lives after entering recovery from alcohol or other drugs. As Joe Schrank, MSW asserts in the significant addiction documentary, The Anonymous People, “There is nothing that impacts American life more than addiction.” The mistreatment of individuals suffering from substance use disorders is one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time. The disparity in services between physical illnesses and addiction treatment is staggering. This issue deserves public attention because of the incredibly damaging stigmas that keep individuals from accessing effective treatment.
Recovery Communities of North Carolina provides an entry point into the local advocacy movement that focuses on raising awareness around this critical issue. The non-profit grassroots organization seeks to promote a culture that supports addiction recovery for individuals, families and communities. They also aim to advocate for better access to a high quality of care, service and support for those needing it. I have been fortunate enough to participate in the last three rallies that joined hundreds of similar events across the country in celebrating the success stories of addiction recovery. Under RCNC I have developed a Collegiate Recovery Alliance with the help of two social work students and colleagues. The alliance was formed around creating standard practices at Collegiate Recovery Communities across the state. Collegiate Recovery Communities offer students in recovery from addiction a network of peers and programs that make certain they can pursue their collegiate goals without sacrificing their recovery.
Becoming a member of the Raleigh Chapter of Young People in Recovery have also given me the opportunity to actively advocate while attending graduate school. Young People in Recovery advocates for policies and programs that provide access to the resources necessary to help young people achieve and maintain recovery from addiction. YPR creates an expansive grassroots network that provides better housing, employment, treatment, and education opportunities for young individuals newly recovered from alcohol or drug addiction. We develop seminars on education opportunities for neighborhoods with at-risk youth. This seeks to educate students and parents on challenges such as filling out admissions applications, applying for grants and financial aid, and exploring education choices ranging from four-year universities to vocational schools or GED programs.
Addiction and recovery deserve public resources because addiction is a chronic condition that has long been mistreated with an acute-care model. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) sought to close the gap between addiction treatment and the long-term care already provided for chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Despite this, there are gross discrepancies between the MHPAEA and the treatment currently provided in North Carolina. I am working with several stakeholders across the state to develop a Recovery Community Organization BRSS-TACS Strategic Visioning team focused on informing North Carolinians of their local and state government’s non-action on this crucial obligation.
A full-time school and internship schedule still leaves time to network in the community and become involved in what fellow social workers are doing to advocate for marginalized populations. I highly suggest getting involved with the incredible local organizations that specialize in the type of social work that inspires you. It is a wonderful chance to network, gain real experience prior to graduating, and learn more about your unique path into the field.