Parts of Appalachia have been called the epicenter of the American drug problem. In 2018, drug overdose mortality rates in Appalachia were 48% higher than the national average. The COVID-19 pandemic brought an increased mortality from substance use disorders for people living in rural Appalachia. Regional economic, health, and social inequities make the recovery process more challenging.
For those caring for people in recovery in Eastern Kentucky, these facts became a call to action. A consortium of recovery providers and community organizations are presenting a free Appalachian Gathering for Recovery Solutions on May 12 to bring together social and community service organizations, students, professors, medical personnel, drug court judges and graduates, beneficiaries of recovery programs and concerned citizens.
“Seeing the numbers and facts made us realize the need for sharing the advances in treatment and recovery,” said Dr. Kathy Walczak, director of addiction Studies at Union College and director of the event . “We will share best practices from several perspectives, including addiction professionals, medical field, academic, justice, social services, and social support groups.”
Gene Detherage, Jr., of Rowan County is particularly qualified to speak at the Gathering from this broad perspective. He was born in Barbourville KY. In recovery since 2014, Gene has worked tirelessly since to facilitate the recovery of others. He was integral in setting up a Collegiate Recovery Program at Morehead State while he earned his Bachelor’s degree and went on to earn his Master of Public Administration while working in recovery programs around Eastern Kentucky.
Beyond his professional and lived experience, Detherage has worked closely with the Kentucky ACLU on criminal justice reform. He had a hand in developing Recovery Ready Communities legislation and now serve on the state advisory committee. Through Gene’s life experience and academic training, he has an intimate, practical, and academic knowledge of recovery, recovery housing, fair chance employment, the judicial system, treatment, harm reduction, community organizing, and consensus building.
National pioneer in the field of addiction medicine Al J. Mooney, M.D., will be the keynote speaker. He was at the helm of Willingway Hospital and Foundation for over a decade, a top treatment center founded by his parents while they were in the midst of their own recovery. He helped establish the certification standards for the Addiction Medicine specialty and was one of the first U.S. physicians to be certified.
Dr. Mooney has consulted internationally with developing recovery programs and worked with Georgia Southern University to establish one of the first “recovery campuses.” One of Dr. Mooney’s philosophies states that recovery is about more than getting sober, but is about building and enjoying abetter life in sobriety. It’s about finding and developing loving relationships, solid friendships, strong community ties, satisfying work, and invigorating play.
The Appalachian Gathering for Recovery Solutions will be held May 12, 2022, at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. It is a free educational and networking event in Eastern Kentucky encourage collaboration and share best practices for treatment and recovery support across disciplines. Read more and register at:
This event is presented by a consortium consisting of: Union College, Operation UNITE, Mission of Hope, Support Centers International, the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone of the KY Highlands Investment Corporation, University of Cumberlands, KY Elks Drug Awareness Program, Tri-County Elks Lodge, SOAR, Volunteers of America, Lilly Endowment Inc, Addiction Recovery Care, United Healthcare, Springs of Life, Appalachian College Association.