By Jessica Hulsey Nickel
There is an old saying in the field of addiction that we tend to circle the wagons and shoot inward. I’ve been in the field for 27 years now and it’s true, we sometimes get caught in turf or issue wars, is it prevention or treatment or recovery? Is it about alcohol, marijuana or opioids? Or about which organization reigns over all?Part of why I started the Addiction Policy Forum was to bring folks from all 6 pillars of our field to work together, to circle the wagons and point outward in the same direction as one team. And it’s working. 214 organizations from all 6 pillars came together and we helped pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), we helped secure the $1 Billion for 21st century CURES, and just last month we helped congress as they passed $7.4 billion to address addiction across all six areas for 2018 alone —the largest appropriations to address substance use disorder in this country’s history. I’m proud of how we’ve come together. And in addition to our key lanes we’ve woven in families and patients-- voices too often missing from the conversation. There has been some rumbles in our field lately, echoes of doing things the old way, of taking aim at each other instead of the disease of addiction. But this is an echo, our field and thousands of experts, scientists and families are still united, still working together instead of trying to tear each other down. I think we must focus on all of the good and teamwork at hand and not be discouraged by a few organizations mired in bad habits of the past. We have come together and we should stay together. This is not Lord of the Rings with one ring to rule them all. It’s not a competition or a game to assert dominance. We’re working to help millions of families and people who are struggling with a disease — and too often struggling alone. We need more organization, partners and advocates at this table, not fewer. And for each of us working on this issue I’d like for us to take a moment to see how far we’ve come and how we now lift each other up, instead of tearing each other down. So this week let’s celebrate that, let’s welcome the new group or advocate into our space with open arms, let’s give a shout out to good works happening in another lane other than our own, let’s build a bigger, stronger table that welcomes everyone and aims to work in concert not against one another. Let’s lift each other up to address addiction.
Jessica began working in prevention at 15 years old through an anti-drug coalition in southern California. The next chapters included an appointment by President Bill Clinton to serve on the Drug-Free Communities Commission, serving as a legislative aid in the U.S. House of Representatives, and work to pass and fund the Second Chance Act to help individuals returning home from prison and jail. In 2015, Jessica founded the Addiction Policy Forum to help families and patients struggling with the disease of addiction. Frustrated by the lack of progress in improving outcomes for those individuals and families struggling, she started the nonprofit with $13,000 from her own savings account and long hours at the dining room table. Read more about Jessica Hulsey Nickel.