There has been a significant upward trend in funding for nonprofit companies in the U.S. according to the Harvard Business Review.
Non-profits, the Business Review says, have become America’s biggest employer. There are almost one million non-profit organizations in the social sector, and donors, polls reveal, want to elevate the game beyond simply funding homeless shelters and food pantries.
They want to end homelessness, hunger and drug addiction.
Perhaps, but surprisingly, some appear to have the manpower to give it a shot. Every other American adult, (90 million people according to the Review), already works at least three hours a week as “unpaid staff” for a variety of non profits.
As to the question of, “ how can we best invest the money generated by non-profits in response to the need?” we propose that an added investment in “sobriety” be included.
There are many communities now that recognize the need for major help when it comes to dealing with local drug addiction, Little Rock among them. In 1940, the city held its first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in Akron Ohio in 1935, by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.
I moved to Little Rock in 1979, went to my first AA meeting here at the Cosmopolitan Club and with meetings and God’s help I have remained sober for 40 years. And counting.
In recent years, with the passing of Joe McQuany, “Geno” Walter and other Little Rock pioneers in recovery over the past decade, as well as diminished support from UAMS and Baptist hospitals mainly for budgetary reasons, there has been a slip in recovery resources.
At One Day at a Time, we invested in enhanced coverage of our sober living beat with a comprehensive web site.
By mid summer of 2017 there were 45 homicides in Little Rock, more than double the number of homicides the previous year.
That included a spectacular shoot-out at Little Rock’s “Power Ultra Lounge” nightclub on July 1, which sent 25 people to the hospital with gun shot wounds. Miraculously, there were no deaths.
Little Rock mayor, Mark Stodola responded to the night club shooting with a promise to beef up law enforcement, especially in light of the city’s record crime rate, and take other steps to fight back.
Stodola said the department was short 80 policemen, an increase in vacancies from 58 last summer, and he added, “Obviously, we should do more to defend our community from drug dealers.”
We should, of course, do what we can to shut down the supply of drugs coming into to our community through drug dealers, but drying up the demand for drugs is where the more lasting solution lies and should be our long-term focus.
To break their habit, consumers of drugs will need help with their recovery-mental, physical and spiritual help-and it’s in our community’s best interest, as well as the addict’s, to help them get it.
Little Rock, has the resources–hospitals, churches, 12 Step meetings and the experience—going back close to 80 years–to provide the necessary support.
Unfortunately Arkansas has some unfinished business to attend to as reported on the front page of the Sunday Arkansas Democrat Gazette (December 2).
“A Missouri-based non profit became Arkansas’s largest provider of state-funded mental health services by milking a flawed system that has drawn the attention of federal prosecutors, an Arkansas Democrat Gazette investigation found.
“The state’s Rehabilitative Services for Persons with Mental Illness (RSPMI) program rewarded service providers with handsome reimbursement rates, limited competition and little oversight.”
More will be revealed about the (RSPMI) matter. For now let’s take a look at what Georgia has been doing to promote recovery and then the Arkansas “Fighting Back project.”
Georgia Promotes Sobriety
Ten years ago Jim Langford became the executive director of the Georgia Meth project, a non-profit operation that blanketed his native state with a graphic ad campaign dedicated to verbally flogging meth, a drug, and by promoting sobriety.
Later, as the growing opioid crisis gained momentum, the Meth Project gave way to a broader focus, the Georgia Prevention Project which now has opioids in its sights and a growing interest in reducing drug abuse in other areas.
The statewide Prevention Project accomplishes its work through awareness campaigns, educational programming and strategic relationships with national and community based organizations.
Their mission is to partner with community members, schools and prevention professionals to develop strategies, build coalitions, and provide needed resources to overcome and eventually eliminate the abuse of drugs.
The emphasis is on what you are gaining, sobriety, and not what you are giving up, addiction.
For communities looking to reduce and even eliminate drug abuse in their populations, part of their plan should be sell sobriety using the latest marketing tools including advertising.
As a goal, sobriety has much to offer. Speaking generally, your health is better, you live longer, family problems are more manageable, divorce rates are lower, jobs are easier to get, friendships are more attainable and the money’s better. It’s not perfect, of course, but it sure beats the alternative.
Alcoholics Anonymous, which has helped sober up millions around the world, including me, stresses anonymity for those in recovery and subsists mainly on the donations of meeting-goers passing the hat. It is widely accessible but shuns marketing. AA also resists public fundraising, which might either give away member identities or, on the flip side, give undo credit to those who are overcoming their disease where modesty is called for.
My own view is that we should respect the principles of AA and encourage those suffering from addictions to attend these meetings as part of their recovery and provide lists of meeting dates, times and locations.
Good as it is, AA is often not enough. Depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues require special medical attention. AA is free but mental health treatments for those with marginal or no insurance can be expensive for an individual. More funding will be needed.
In 1989, in an effort to reframe the national conversation about the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) launched “Fighting Back” a public health initiative aimed at substance abuse.
Part plan and part hypothesis, Fighting Back was a seven year experiment designed to help mid sized communities (population range: 100,000 to 250,000) reduce the demand for illegal drugs and alcohol.”
Dr. Anderson Spickard Jr, a psychiatrist and professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee was named director of the multi million-dollar Fighting Back project.
The hope was that Fighting Back sites (Little Rock was one of them) would help answer two important questions:
1. Could mid-sized communities come together to design and implement a comprehensive public health strategy addressing substance abuse?
2. If implemented, would a comprehensive system significantly reduce the number of substance abusers within the community?
Barbara R. Thompson with input and other help from Dr. Spickard wrote a book “Fighting Back, the first 8 years,” an invaluable recounting of the project.
From Thompson’s book
“The use and abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol is perhaps the most disturbing and destructive social problem facing the United States. One in ten drinkers is addicted to alcohol, young people are abusing illegal drugs in increasing numbers and the sale of crack [note: today, 28 years later, opioids are in vogue] has decimated our inner cities.
“As an increasing number of people experience firsthand the devastating consequences of substance abuse, there is a growing movement to ‘fight back’ and reclaim our communities.
“These efforts usually focus on stepped up law enforcement, hiring more police officers, increasing penalties for drunk driving, handing out stiffer sentences for selling illegal drugs. When these tactics fall short, most communities choose, mistakenly, to pursue them more aggressively.”
Largely missing from local discussion about addiction at that time, and even now to some extent, was the possibility of a comprehensive community wide strategy for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
Cause for optimism
The response to the foundation’s call for proposals caught even veteran observers of the substance abuse field by surprise. Three hundred thirty one communities from 46 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico submitted lengthy proposals.
“Proposal after proposal told the same story.” Thompson’s book said. “Crack Cocaine had joined forces with alcohol abuse to shred the fabric of once stable communities. Compartmentalized government agencies and understaffed nonprofit organizations were overwhelmed by the complex web of social problems related to substance abuse.
“In many communities, the problems had reached such proportions that individual citizens were risking personal harm to stand up to drug dealers-on street corners and even on their own doorsteps.”
“Yet in almost every case, we have witnessed first hand the power of good leadership and the ability of citizens to move from paralysis to effective action.
“In the process, we have come to believe that, despite an air of national discouragement, almost all our communities have the talent and resources to tackle the numerous problems of substance abuse from a public health perspective.
“Although, the specific form of an effective program is not necessarily transferable from one community to another, our Fighting Back sites have benefited enormously from exchanging ideas and programs with one another.
“It is our hope that this document will enable that cross fertilization to take place at a country wide level and contribute to the national dialogue on drugs and alcohol abuse.
“Finally, we are continually reminded of the sacrifice and courage required by those on the front line of the Fighting Back program. Fighting Back staff and volunteers have experience a firebomb, shootings, and most tragically the death of a volunteer’s son who was executed by drug lords seeking revenge for her anti-drug activities.
“These incidents, and many others, remind us that we are participants not merely in an academic process, but in matters of life and death—for ourselves, our communities and our nation.”