Making Recovery Month Matter

September 3, 2013

By Kevin Kirby, CEO of Face It TOGETHER

National Recovery Month is celebrated each year as an opportunity for all of us affected by addiction to show the power of recovery to transform lives. While this is all well and good, I believe our work needs to go much deeper if we really want to make a difference in our nation’s communities.

We’re all aware of the grim statistics.  Almost 90 percent of people with a serious alcohol or other drug problem won’t get help in a given year. The hard fact is that far too many people with the disease of addiction, and their families, suffer in silence for a lifetime.

But this isn’t only about those directly affected. Every community sector pays the costs of the deep stigma and shame, and the failures in today’s system of care, that keep recovery out of reach for so many.

There are no easy solutions.  No doubt that health care reform and declining public sector funding are ushering in a sea change for the behavioral health field. But this is also a chance for real progress.  Positive social change doesn’t happen by accident. It comes by seizing opportunities and finding creative new approaches to old problems.

At Face It TOGETHER  we’re dedicated to changing everything about the way addiction is addressed in our communities. This means bringing unconventional partners to the table and connecting stakeholders in new ways.

Our work, which began five years ago in Sioux Falls, S.D., uses the power of the private sector to enlist multiple community sectors to transform institutions, systems, and cultures around the chronic disease of addiction.

We’re focused on total system change. We work to engage all the key players in the community – employers, integrated health care providers, payors and other influential stakeholders – to implement financially sustainable, shared solutions to addiction.

For example, our Employer Initiative extends the “community of recovery” directly into the workplace.  About 60 percent of Americans with addiction are employed full-time. The disease hurts employers through lost productivity, higher absenteeism and health care costs and safety problems.

Because employers have skin in the game – and many employers also want to do the right thing – the workplace must be at the core of a recovery-oriented community. Through our initiative, we educate employers and employees about addiction as a chronic disease, remove barriers to recovery like stigma and fear, create a culture of openness, coordinate recovery-supportive benefits, and show return on investment. 

We provide value to employers in return for a sustainable, stable funding stream for our local recovery community organization. Today in Sioux Falls, 25 major employers participate, representing about one-third of the community’s total workforce. 

You can learn more about what we do in communities by visiting

We don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I hope that this year’s National Recovery Month gets all of us thinking about how we can better serve as society’s “change agents” – asking tough questions and advancing creative solutions to make our communities fundamentally better places to live.

Kevin Kirby is CEO and co-founder of Face It TOGETHER. Earlier this year, he was elected to the influential Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship.

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