Op-ed: Voices of Recovery Drive the Kentucky Comeback

  • Cosigned by the following individuals in recovery who have partnered with Kentucky Comeback Campaign: Ashley McCarty (Frankfort), Kenneth Bearden (Louisville), Vanessa Keeton (Louisa) and Desiree Powell (Bowling Green). Learn more at kentuckycomeback.com.

    In Kentucky, you don’t have to look far to find one of us… a loved one, a neighbor, or a colleague who has struggled with drugs and alcohol. Or maybe you are one of us, too.

    But even if you’re one of the few who hasn’t been personally impacted by the addiction crisis, you’ve surely seen headlines and news stories about people who have tragically lost their lives because of this awful disease.

    Amid these tragedies, however, are glimmers of hope: our stories of recovery and second chances are real. The decision to get help for a substance use disorder is never an easy one, but recovery is possible with the proper treatment and support. And those of us who have been able to return to healthy lives feel a great responsibility to support others in their own journeys to recovery.

    That’s why we’re joining forces with Kentucky Comeback to encourage the Kentucky General Assembly to enact positive, statewide reforms that will give more Kentuckians a second chance at leading meaningful, productive lives, free from dangerous substances like drugs and alcohol.

    One of these bills, House Bill 7 filed by Rep. Adam Bowling, seeks to create “Recovery Ready” communities across the state so that regardless of where you live, if you are struggling, you can access comprehensive treatment and recovery services near you.

    In some parts of the state, recovery housing is plentiful; in others, it’s hard to come by. Some areas have highly active job training programs for Kentuckians coming out of treatment programs, while others lack these initiatives altogether.

    We are proof that treatment works, but we also know how cumbersome and confusing the process was at times. The bottom line is this: Kentuckians who are ready to get help for their substance use disorders shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to find the right resources close to home.

    Another piece of legislation, House Bill 126 filed by Rep. Ed Massey, would lower the charge on thefts below $1,000 to a misdemeanor rather than a Class D felony. If you’ve struggled with a substance use disorder yourself or know someone who has, you understand how easy it becomes to engage in other harmful, illegal behaviors. Kentuckians recovering from substance use disorders are already facing an uphill battle; this legislation seeks to remove at least some of the obstacles they might encounter when trying to get their lives back on track and find steady employment.

    People who struggle with substance use disorder and become justice involved may find themselves on the path of both reentry and recovery. Removing barriers for these people so they can pursue education and become employed is critical for their success. House Bill 25 has bipartisan sponsors in the House and would remove the felony conviction prohibition for someone seeking a KEES scholarship.

    Many states have already passed the types of policies that we’re calling for, and with substance use on the rise in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, stay-at-home orders, job loss and growing anxieties, it’s time for us to follow suit.

    It’s not easy to tell our stories and advocate for change based on the hard lessons we learned, but we do because we know it can make a difference. Kentucky Comeback is not just about showing people that recovery is possible, it’s about fostering an environment where recovery is celebrated, encouraged and, most importantly, accessible.

    Let’s not let this legislative session pass without taking some steps in the right direction.

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