The national recovery movement has a lot of work left to do. Stigma, misunderstandings, and a lack of access to resources keep many people away from getting the help they really need. However, the good news is that people concerned about recovery have many reasons to be hopeful. Many organizations are full of people enthusiastically working to spread the message of hope and recovery to people who need to hear it.
One organization that is working to spread that message is Young People In Recovery (YPR). Five years ago, YPR began as a group of 12 friends trying to support each other, but it has blossomed into an influential nationwide organization, working to change the conversation about addiction and support people in recovery, one youth at a time.
Young People in Recovery was created out of a conference in Baltimore put on by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in December, 2010. SAMHSA puts on many conferences and events, but this one stood out as particularly meaningful. At the conference, 12 youth enthusiastically working on their own recoveries bonded with each other. One of them was Justin Luke Riley, who explained to The Fix that they realized “many of our friends aren’t making it in recovery,” and that they needed to change the conversation and approach so that more young people could be guided to a life free of active addiction.
Out of these bondings and conversations, this group of 12 enthusiastic youth in recovery founded Young People In Recovery, which has grown to an organization boasting 80 chapters. What started out as an informal grassroots organization has grown into an established nonprofit with a budget of $2 million a year, from grants, donations, and revenue. Such impressive growth shows how much hope and promise the group’s vision of finding new ways to support recovery and respond to the challenges young people often face in their recovery journey.
Giving a Voice:
YPR calls itself an “advocacy and action organization,” looking for different ways to best support recovery in their local communities. Each local chapter is free to develop its own ideas and agendas based on what the people of its community feel like would best support recovery. Their work has varied from peer support, to education, and from political advocacy to job training.
Anything that would advance the causes and support the lives of people in recovery is worth throwing their efforts towards. In this way, YPR is not as interested in cramming a single nationwide agenda as equipping anyone interested and willing to use their own voices to make their world and community a better place.
Advocate, Educate, Collaborate:
Many people in recovery have found that one of the most effective ways to make yourself feel better, purposeful, and hopeful is to help others. The people working in YPR have found that simply telling their own story of addiction and recovery can a very powerful tool in creating positive change for both individuals and communities.
Speaking in open policy dialogues, testifying in front of elected officials, or hosting their own events, members share about their own addiction and recovery journey, both destroying stigma and powerfully explaining why change is needed. This is all part of their self-proclaimed mission to “advocate, educate, and collaborate,” using their own voices and joining with others to provide job training, health care access, housing and employment, and other needs that can best support recovery.
However, not all of YPR’s work consists of advocating for changes to be made. In many important ways, YRP chapters are working to provide important services to communities themselves. They provide direct service through workshops helping people with the basic life skills they need to secure stable and safe housing, employment, and continuing their education.
There is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure all people with addiction issues get access to the care they need, and do not face discrimination or misunderstanding as they do. However, YPR’s and organizations like it, are doing vitally important work to transform communities to better support recovery. Hopefully, they will continue to grow for many years to come.