By Mark Powell
It sounds simple enough: people battling addiction should be encouraged in their recovery effort. But believe it or not, that hasn’t always been the case.
Back in 1991, Maryanne Frangules was working as an Addictions Clinician when she noticed a disturbing trend. Prescription pain medication was becoming more widely available. Health insurance providers were covering less and less for addiction treatment while, at the same time, more and more people were being put into jail for addiction-related crimes instead of receiving treatment and recovery support services. Maryanne and others wanted to raise the profile of people in recovery to have a voice to address these concerns.
That observation led to the creation of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR). Its members include people in recovery, family and friends. Together, they work to educate the public about the value of living in recovery. Their primary focus is putting a face on recovery, and in the decades since its founding, MOAR has given a powerful voice to those in recovery.
Things started simply enough. In those early years, MOAR began by celebrating “National Recovery Month every September,” (which was then called Treatment Works Month). From there it received a recovery community support federal and state grant in 1998 which enabled the organization to expand its outreach by speaking up for peer recovery services.
“We began hearing from so many other organizations who talked about a lack of a continuum of care,” Frangules says. “That was how we learned about the power of coalition. Since then we’ve been speaking with a unified voice.”
MOAR is thankful for the support of treatment providers, recovery homes, and other stakeholders. This gives meaning to the MOAR vision: “We seek to continue to build a recovery-informed society where recovery becomes a societal “norm” and prevention a societal “given.”
MOAR representatives serve on four important state commissions related to recovery coaching, prevention, medication assisted treatment, and involuntary treatment. The group also formed a Good Samaritan Campaign, which helped Massachusetts become the seventh state to pass a Good Samaritan Law, encouraging people to call 911 to save a life from opioid overdoses. MOAR helped educate lawmakers and other public officials to make sure that the law would be enforced.
Additionally, MOAR actively supports the value of recovery centers, which through peer-led activity helps all to maintain recovery. In fact, MOAR has a federal grant which serves as a hub for recovery community organizations (RCOs) to connect, share lessons learned, and expand peer recovery supports.
Frangules is not only MOAR’s executive director but she also serves on the board of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national voice for addiction recovery. She notes recovery can take a long time, just like other diseases. But she also says it’s worth the effort. “When you look at this drug epidemic, you have to want to support the multiple pathways to recovery. When you see recovery in the works: it’s a beautiful thing.”
MOAR was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.