The Missouri Recovery Network (MRN) was established in August, 1999. The initial funds for MRN were provided by a three year DHSS SAMHSA grant. When the grant was written, those in recovery from a substance use disorder had limited involvement in helping shape practices, policies and opportunities for those in recovery and seeking recovery. It became known that the recovery community had much knowledge and insight to share based on their lived experiences and that their contribution could and would positively affect and shape the mental health service delivery system. It was proposed in the original grant that funds would be used to establish a statewide recovery advocacy organization which would become involved in training and educating people in recovery about the mental health/behavioral health care system, the process of policy and systems change, and advocacy.
The original SAMHSA grant was also intended to engage and empower the recovery community and the community networks to advocate their views about the service delivery infrastructure, service system planning, and advocate for policy change within the broader behavioral health system. Also included in the original grant was to organize, plan, and advocate for health care reform and other activities related to the improvement of community based substance abuse treatment. As a result of the original grant, MRN has affected positive change in the behavioral health service delivery system. We find it ironic that we have come full circle and continue to seek additional funding to continue on our original quest. This grant would “complement” the original intent for establishing this organization. The organization was highly effective during the grant period and the Department of Mental Health has chosen to continue funding MRN for the past 10 years.
MRN has joined the newly organized national recovery organization, the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO), and has participated in many federal level training opportunities to become more educated on what the future will hold as it relates to health care reform and systems’ change.The MRN is the only statewide recovery advocacy organization in Missouri with its primary mission to advocate for those in the substance disorder recovery community. Currently, the MRN Board of Directors is comprised of 15 members. These members include professionals in recovery/treatment/corrections arenas as well as individuals and family members in recovery. The MRN Board of Directors consists of individuals who possess much knowledge, expertise, and passion. Areas of expertise include, but are not limited to: drug court, Department of leaders, life health coach, etc. Many of our board members also serve on other state and national boards which advocate for recovery services. We have excellent geographic and demographic representation on our board. Each region of the state is represented.
Our Primary Function – Advocacy
The MRN has been recognized as the Statewide Voice for Recovery. We have received recognition at the local, state and national levels as an established recovery organization that advocates for change in public attitudes, policies and opportunities for individuals in recovery and seeking recovery. The MRN is recognized as the catalyst that organizes, educates and empowers the recovery community to advocate at all levels: local, state, and national.
We model advocacy to show how each of us can make a difference and how our unity has the power to change public attitudes and government policies.
The Missouri Recovery Network (MRN) has a long history of advocating for the benefit of the recovery community in our state since 1999, the MRN mobilizes those in recovery, their families and allies to help end discrimination, broaden social understanding about addiction and recovery, reduce barriers to and support recovery, and achieve an improved public response to alcohol and other drug use disorders as a public health crisis. Recovery needs to involve the individual and their support system and family in order to achieve the foundation needed to sustain long-term recovery and improve their lives which impact communities. The cultural values, traditions and beliefs of the individual must always be respected and supported by their support network and the protection of their rights and elimination of discrimination in the field of health care and health services should always be in the forefront.
MRN is known as a collaborative and valuable partner within our state. MRN has collaborated with numerous partners on many occasions regarding many issues. Some of the partners we have worked with and issues we have tackled include:
Working collaboratively with the Missouri Substance Abuse Professional Credentialing Board (MSAPCB) to increase the workforce in the behavioral health field by advocating for change in the criteria for individuals who are applying for a RASAC credential. MRN approached the MSAPCB Administrator regarding the change in criteria, and due to our advocacy efforts, the criteria was changed allowing more individuals to apply for that credential, therefore increasing the workforce pool. This concern was brought to our attention by an individual in recovery (MRN member) who was unable to start the certification application process because he had not been off probation for 2 years. His concerns were validated and the advocacy process began, therefore getting the criteria changed by the MSAPCB Board of Directors.
- We are currently working with the MSAPCB to provide direction in the certification of recovery support service providers. We have provided information on the national movement for certification and credentialing. MRN is an integral member on a statewide committee to develop the certification process and ensure that individuals in recovery are utilized to strengthen the future behavioral health care work force. Missouri has grave concerns regarding the behavioral health workforce. In anticipation of health care reform, we need to build capacity to address the growing need for behavioral health services.
- MRN was chosen to work with Faces and Voices of Recovery in 2008 on the national HUB event for recovery month. The event was called “Hands across the Bridge” and was held in St. Louis, MO on the Chain of Rocks Bridge between Missouri and Illinois. Hundreds of recovery advocates gathered to form a human chain across the river to signify the strength and resilience of the joint recovery community. Lou Gossett was secured as our featured speaker. We obtained tremendous press coverage for the recovery celebration.
- MRN was also chosen to participate in the national Recovery Voices Count Campaign. The MRN membership and members of the Board of Directors registered over 100 new voters during the month of September at our multiple statewide recovery events.
- MRN has engaged the recovery community to plan, coordinate and implement activities to bring awareness to the reality of recovery during the month of September- National Recovery Month. Last year, 2011, over 14 recovery events were planned statewide, with MRN assistance.
- MRN Director was asked to be on the selection committee the past 3 years to select the Missouri Recovery Delegate to attend the national recovery month hub event.
- MRN has held an annual Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Jefferson City for over 8 years. MRN members make appointments with their elected officials and share with them their comments on legislation that would impact the recovery community.
- The ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) collaborated with the MRN on a statewide Meth Awareness campaign. A MRN member was selected as the face of Meth recovery on all state billboards and campaign advertisements.
- MRN has actively participated in the development, coordination and implementation of Project HOPE (Heroin Overdoses Prevention and Education). This project came about as a result of the alarming number of heroin overdoses throughout the state of Missouri. MRN Director has helped plan the multiple town hall meetings in the Mid-Missouri region while a MRN BOD member has assisted in planning the town hall meetings in the St. Louis region. The Mid- MO attendance has been 400+ while the St. Louis region has reached several thousand people. Recovery is highlighted during the meetings, with those in recovery from a heroin addiction sharing their stories of hope and healing with the community.
- MRN Director was chosen by the Mid-America ATTC as one of the two Missourians to attend the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) national training of facilitators in Florida. As a result of that training, she has done numerous ROSC trainings statewide to help educate communities on ROSC.
- MRN has joined forces with multiple partners to advocate for legislation which could enhance the life of the individual in recovery and or seeking recovery. Examples include: Increasing the alcohol excise tax to fund existing and new recovery programs; advocating to lift the life time ban on food stamp eligibility for those who have a past criminal record due to nonviolent felonies stemming from substance use disorders; expungement of a criminal record after a certain number of years for nonviolent offenders as a result of substance use, etc.
- Many MRN members currently serve, and have served in the past, on the Dept. of Mental Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, State Advisory Council (SAC).
- The SAC is responsible for advising the Director of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and the Director of Comprehensive Psychological Services on many issues pertaining to prevention, treatment and recovery services statewide. MRN members serve on the Dept. of Mental Health’s Consumer Conference planning committee as well as several committees relating to the mental health system transformation.
- The MRN Director serves as a member of the policy steering committee for the SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, referral and treatment) grant, which is a 12 million dollar grant state initiative. Many state organizations are represented on this steering committee.
- The majority, if not all, MRN Board Members serve on numerous local and statewide advocacy coalitions in which many partners sit around the tables.
- MRN BOD members have been asked to present at numerous annual conferences regarding multiple topics. Such conferences are the Dept. of Mental Health Annual Spring Training Institute, Annual MADCP Conference (MO Association of Drug Court Professionals), Missouri Crime Association Annual Conference, MACA Annual Conference (MO Addiction Counselors Association) just to name a few.
- MRN members provide testimony at the state Capitol annually to raise awareness regarding the need for mental health and recovery support services within our state.