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U.S. Labor Dept. Awards $1.6M to Combat Opioid Crisis in Connecticut

New York, NY – The opiate epidemic is another crisis that will not go away. According to data released by the CDC, overdose deaths reached a record high of 93,331 in 2020  the amount of deaths is already 20,000 above the previous high in 2019 —with estimates still rising. 

Ben Kimmel.

In Connecticut, the US Department of Labor awarded $1.6 million to the state DOL in order to boost training and employment services in eight different counties. The relief will support eligible individuals who look to improve and recover in Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London, Tolland and Windham counties. Funding for this project is part of a $4.8 million National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grant awarded in September 2019 to the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, there are naysayers and skeptics who assume the stigmas attached to alcohol and substance abuse disorders are true — that there is no such thing as recovery and that programs like this are a waste of our tax dollars. However, with more than 30 years of continuous sobriety myself, I am one of many who stand as living proof that recovery is possible.

Perhaps, grants like this will be more common with the appointment of Marty Walsh to head the U.S. Department of Labor. Walsh, the former mayor of Boston and longtime labor leader, openly acknowledges his membership in the recovery community. In 2016, Walsh addressed the Democratic National Convention by saying, “My name is Marty Walsh and I am an alcoholic.”  These are brave words to say in an open setting — let alone on the main stage at a National Conference.

Now, what I am about to write is openly challenging. However, as a person in recovery, I can say that, yes, I have been labelled. I have been put down, shamed, locked up, punished and humiliated by my own actions. When I was a young man, I struggled with background checks to achieve employment. As a dropout, I did not receive my high school diploma until I was in my mid-20’s. At the time, I believed I was hopeless, worthless, useless, and weak. Then again, I never had the benefit of employment training programs. I never had the support systems that are around now. I did not have the benefit of peer recovery advocates. In fact, when I entered treatment, the stigma of alcohol and drug addiction was, “Once an addict, always an addict!”  Fortunately, I was able to prove that this is wrong. Moreover, I was able to prove to myself that I was neither hopeless, worthless, useless nor weak.

During my time in recovery, I have chosen to join hands with others and educate myself as a specialist. I have acted as a member of overdose reversal programs. I have contributed and created transformational programs in homeless shelters and jails. I have also been part of police initiatives and sought specialized training to become a mental health educator. As a certified recovery advocate, I have assisted in efforts to help others achieve long-term sobriety.  Along the way, I have learned one valuable lesson — that by incentivizing people with hope over shame — people choose help over hopelessness. 

Yes, we are certainly in the trenches of a fight. Not everyone gets well, and not all stories are successful. But with a death toll of 93,331, the number of casualties will only climb higher if we do nothing to fight back.

Be advised that we are at war with a sickness that takes lives, regardless of wealth, race, background, culture or creed. Doing nothing will change nothing. Therefore, I say bravo to Connecticut’s Employment and Training Administration. I say bravo to the Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh for his openness and his bravery. May this be the gateway to more programs to come

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on thewrittenaddiction.com, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Well-being and DEI Content Provider, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at bennyk1972@gmail.com

 

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