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Diversity in Detroit

This affiliate provides prevention, treatment, recovery, and advocacy for those affected by substance use disorder. As an organization, they are focused on redirecting prevention efforts to adapt to new challenges in both addiction and recovery.

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Supporting young people and groups who are at high risk for substance use problems is a priority for the Detroit affiliate.

For the last 23 years, Benjamin Jones has been the President and CEO of National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in the Greater Detroit Area. This affiliate provides prevention, treatment, recovery, and advocacy for those affected by substance use disorder. As an organization, they are focused on redirecting prevention efforts to adapt to new challenges in both addiction and recovery.

Retooling their message to address policy changes is just one of the challenges the Detroit affiliate faces, according to Benjamin. “Our community has been economically challenged for many years. We are currently in a resurgence. But poverty and education are still major issues. The legalization of the recreational use of marijuana has been particularly challenging. Now we have to address not just underage drinking, but also underage marijuana use. Many see the legalization as an endorsement of marijuana use.”

Supporting young people and groups who are at high risk for substance use problems is a priority for the Detroit affiliate. The group takes on other issues, which are co-occurring with addiction, as well. For example, they were recently awarded a five-year federal grant to prevent SUD and HIV with African-American youth, ages 13-24. The affiliate is also developing more special projects to address gaps in service, obtaining an electronic health record, and hopes to add robust co-occurring services to their treatment milieu. They also hope to hire more direct service staff, and work with changing policies regarding credentialing and policies that affect funding.

African-American communities face systemic and institutional discrimination, which severely impacts their ability to access recovery services. There are other barriers as well, such as transportation, child care, unemployment, education, legal issues, corrections, and access to care. NCADD in the Greater Detroit Area works to address these issues comprehensively.

However, anyone who’s in recovery can tell you how powerful it is to connect one-on-one with others. Including African-American faces, voices, stories, and most importantly leadership helps ensure that more people from that community will feel at home in recovery. Benjamin said, “It is important that interventions include perspectives from those who are affected by the issues. Including people in recovery in resolving the problems is an important variable.”

Seeing the “big picture” is the organization’s mission and its strength. Benjamin, who has worked in the recovery field for almost 40 years and holds BA, MSW, and PhD degrees, says that making a difference continues to inspire him. He’s working at cultivating and encouraging the next generation of recovery workers. As leadership and direct service staff age out of their roles, there are new opportunities for talented and motivated individuals to fill those slots.

In spite of the challenges, the payoff is worth it, Benjamin said.

“It is very rewarding to see people recover from addiction.”

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