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Desert Companion

Debriefing: ‘The Timing Was Right’

How a fledgling group lobbying for addiction causes notched a winning legislative session

In early June, the Recovery Advocacy Project did what special-interest lobbies do: sent out a summary of its wins in the recently concluded state legislative session. In total, seven bills they backed passed and four didn’t. What makes this record remarkable is that it was achieved in the group’s first year of existence. How did a band of newbies from the seemingly obscure world of substance abuse recovery charm Carson City? Foundation for Recovery Executive Director Dona Dmitrovic, who helped get RAP off the ground, explains.

On the relationship between Foundation for Recovery and the Recovery Advocacy Project: Over the years, a few Foundation for Recovery board members determined that we really did need a 501(c)4 organization to focus more on advocacy for issues that were affecting people and families in recovery. In the summer of 2018, the timing was right. There were volunteers who were there to step it up, and the legislative session was around the corner.

TFW you know you’re on the right track: In the first couple months, around 2,000 people signed up — people in recovery, their family members, and community allies. That doesn’t mean they were all active, but that was a clear sign. We hosted our first Recovery Advocacy Day in Carson City in March. A bus from Las Vegas with about 60 people on it, and another big group from Northern Nevada were there, and many more came and went throughout the day.

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The win that meant the most: I think the biggest one was our so-called “stigma bill” (AB367). It means that any language (in state law) referring to people with a substance use disorder is person-centered, rather than “addict,” or “alcoholic.” To me, that’s a huge, huge win.

How to succeed your first time out: There hasn’t been a concerted effort in the state to come together before this. There’s a better understanding of the issue now, more public awareness, and people interested in it, so when we gave people the opportunity and training to help the state push toward a recovery-centered system of care, they responded.

When it all came into focus: On Recovery Advocacy Day, we had a roomful of people and the attorney general was our keynote speaker. People got up and talked about family members or themselves. Seeing grassroots community members be given a voice, to look legislators in the eye and tell their story — that was really powerful. And some of the legislators had stories too, because addiction touches every one of us.

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