San Mateo County to recognize recovering addicts

For 20 years, San Mateo County has recognized and celebrated individuals in addiction recovery.

With September being National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, the Board of Supervisors is taking it a step further by declaring it Recovery Happens Month.

“Through this recognition, we hope to show that there is broad support for what [recovering addicts are] doing and how difficult it is,” said Stephen Kaplan, director of alcohol and other drug services for San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. “It’s helpful to know that those in recovery are supported by others outside their immediate support center.”

On Sept. 14, county officials, recovery agencies and community members will join together in Redwood City for a number of activities focused on bringing attention to the overall issues of substance abuse.

Following a breakfast at the Bridge Recovery Center, people from around the county will march to the Board of Supervisors Chamber, where the board will issue a proclamation officially declaring September Recovery Happens Month. After the board session, those who have gathered will then march to Red Morton Park for a picnic and celebratory events.

The awareness march began last year and was very successful, drawing about 200 participants. But this year, event planners are expecting a significantly larger group, Kaplan said.

“The board has been very supportive and the event last year was exhilarating because of the show of people,” Kaplan said. “In my mind, it’s not a single-day event. The impact keeps growing and has a reverberating effect. It adds to the outcomes we’re trying to achieve.”

While the event celebrates those who have committed to or already completed a recovery program, Kaplan said it should be used as an opportunity to reduce stigma that often interferes with an individual’s opportunity for change.

“This may provide those who are still actively using with the impetus to enter recovery,” Kaplan said. “It also gives us an opportunity to educate the community that addiction is a health issue, not a moral issue. By reducing stigma, recovering addicts can attain adequate housing, jobs with living wages and the chance to fully participate in the community.”

shaughey@sfexaminer.com

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