By SARA ARTHURS
Focus on Friends has been honored on the national level for its Recovery Month efforts last year.
The nonprofit organization has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.
Focus on Friends is a peer-led recovery center for people in recovery from mental illness, substance abuse, trauma and related issues. Last year, it organized Findlay’s first Recovery Month, a celebration of recovery held nationwide every September.
This week, Focus on Friends learned the event was selected by a panel of judges as the winner in the rally and walk/run events category of SAMHSA’s Recovery Month Annual Event Award Program.
Focus on Friends’ executive director, Wayne Ford, will travel to Washington, D.C., to accept the award at a luncheon Sept. 8 at the National Press Club.
The award had three categories: rally and walk/run, educational events and special celebrations.
Ellyn Schmiesing, recovery accountability manager at Focus on Friends, said the recovery march in Findlay was a unifying experience in the community and raised awareness that people in recovery are just like anyone else.
“Everybody came together,” she said.
She said it was meaningful to see about 240 people gather together to support this effort, to devote a morning “to say, hey, I value recovery, and recovery’s important to me.”
Focus on Friends submitted an application in April with information about the events and how they strove to include everyone in the recovery community — including those in recovery, their families, treatment providers, advocates and the general public.
Findlay’s first Recovery March was held Sept. 12, 2015, sponsored by Focus on Friends, the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services and St. Marks United Methodist Church.
Following the march was a rally with keynote speakers including Hancock County Common Pleas Judge Reginald Routson, who spoke about changing the justice system’s approach to addiction and recovery; Eric McKee, a business owner who spoke about his experience with treatment-resistant depression; and Andrea Boxill, deputy director of Gov. John Kasich’s cabinet opiate action team. Planning the event involved forming new partnerships, Focus on Friends wrote in the application.
The organization also reported that the event helped unite the recovery community and raise awareness in the broader community.
Schmiesing said the recognition speaks highly of Findlay as “an amazing community” which came together for Recovery Month.
“When they rally around an issue … amazing things can happen,” she said.
Ivette Torres, associate director of consumer affairs at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA, said Focus on Friends was honored for doing “an outstanding job” of creating an event. Applicants were reviewed extensively by a panel of subject matter experts.
Torres said this recognition helps carry SAMHSA’s message “that recovery is possible, that recovery does happen and that the people that need to get into recovery can look at the light at the end of the tunnel and pick up a phone and call for help.”
Focus on Friends is located at 509 W. Trenton Ave. and can be reached at 419-423-5071.
Focus on Friends is currently planning activities for Recovery Month 2016. The Courier will be reporting on it in the near future.
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