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New Kensington nonprofit co-founder pays visit to White House

| Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, 1:06 a.m.
Laurie Johnson-Wade attended an anti-drug conference Monday at the White House in Washington, D.C. Dec. 4, 2017
Courtesy of Laurie Johnson-Wade
Laurie Johnson-Wade attended an anti-drug conference Monday at the White House in Washington, D.C. Dec. 4, 2017
Laurie Johnson-Wade attended an anti-drug meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C. Dec 4, 2017
Courtesy of Laurie Johnson-Wade
Laurie Johnson-Wade attended an anti-drug meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C. Dec 4, 2017

A co-founder of the New Kensington-based nonprofit addiction counseling center Lost Dreams Awakening visited the White House on Monday to advocate for increased support of addiction recovery programs.

“We're just honored to be invited, and hopefully to be able to shed some light on the importance of peer to peer support,” said VonZell Wade, co-founder of Lost Dreams Awakening.

“There's a ton of research out there that supports it — pre, during and post-treatment for those individuals setting out to get clean and change their lives,” he added.

Laurie Johnson-Wade, Wade's wife and co-founder of Lost Dreams Awakening, met with officials from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which advises the president on drug control issues. It also coordinates drug control funding and efforts to reduce illicit drug use and trafficking, as well as drug-related crime or health issues.

Johnson-Wade, along with recovery specialists from Texas, Utah, Virginia and Colorado, spent about an hour talking with Richard Baum, acting director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Johnson-Wade said the two big topics she brought to the table during the meeting were funding and workforce development for recovering addicts.

“A lot of people don't want to hire them,” she said. “We have to build up a workforce within our recovery community.”

Johnson-Wade said they also talked about having consistency for certifications of people who are doing recovery support services. She said different titles for the same job can cause confusion.

“In some states they might call it a recovery coach, in another state you might call it a certified recovery specialist,” she said.

She also noted the importance of family support during recovery.

“Families need their own version of recovery — coming up with a place they can pour their grief into and empower other families,” Johnson-Wade said.

The meeting was facilitated by the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO).

Following a welcome by Baum, attendees had the chance to highlight how addiction impacts their communities.

“Each of them are providing something unique, but all of them are providing recovery support services,” said Patty McCarthy Metcalf, executive director at Faces and Voices of Recovery, which coordinates ARCO.

Metcalf underscored the difference between addiction treatment and recovery.

“Treatment is referred to as a clinical process, provided by clinicians and doctors. It's also fairly short-term,” she said.

Recovery programs are often community-based and often led by people who are in recovery themselves, and trained to provide peer support. Recovery programs might focus on assisting people with finding housing, securing health care or dealing with legal issues, Metcalf said.

Lost Dreams Awakening is unique because it focuses on the needs of families, Metcalf said, calling the organization a leader in its field.

“With drug and alcohol, it's a relapsing disease,” Johnson-Wade said. People in recovery still need help, even after they leave a treatment center or a facility like a halfway house. She said ongoing support could take the form of counseling services or family support groups. Recovery doesn't happen overnight.

Johnson-Wade said she was happy to be able to share her knowledge and expertise, despite the long trip from home.

“It was worth it to represent recovery community organizations,” she said.

Jamie Martines and Emily Balser are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Martines at jmartines@tribweb.com, 724-850-2867 or on Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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