Commentary: Dear Frontline, thank you for visiting, but these things were left unsaid about Dayton

Dear Alec MacGillis, Frontline, and ProPublica,

Thank you for taking interest in our city, so much so that you have visited us several times and brought some awareness to some of the challenges that we face here.


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We owe you dearly for your support and spotlight on a local recovery community organization, FOA Families of Addicts, which has been doing wonderful work since its inception several years ago. With their founder, Lori Erion, FOA has been desired in a multitude of other states, and even other countries.

What was left unsaid is the reason why I’m reaching out to you today.

My name is Casey Steckling, and I am a person in long-term recovery; for me, that means that I haven’t used drugs or alcohol for over 12 years. Since that time, I have become a husband, a father, graduated college twice, and become a counselor and social worker. I, with my wife, Lauren, have co-founded Dayton Recovers, a local non-profit that has stepped into a season and time in which a lot of media have come to our city telling a part of the story.

Here is the other part: with great need comes great resilience, strength, ingenuity, and toughness, all of which have arrived in the Dayton area as the result of the challenges we’ve faced.


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I want to highlight some of what is going on here, so that our neighbors and friends in the recovery community may feel that their efforts and voice are being heard despite all the challenges illuminated by the press).

1. Several local recovery community organizations have arisen to meet the demand by using evidence-based, forward-thinking practices to pursue better futures for recovery support in our community. These non-profits have joined forces to form the Recovery Alliance of Montgomery County (RAMCO) and meet monthly to support unified practices against addiction.

2. In September 2016, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County, along with the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) took the lead to coordinate efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. Under this leadership, community partners have come together to form the Community Overdose Action Team (COAT). Due to the urgency of the problem, Public Health aligned efforts under the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to provide an operational framework. The NIMS model is used nationwide to respond to emergencies or disasters that effect a community. Montgomery County is unique in choosing this structure to respond to the opioid epidemic. The Community Overdose Action Team's primary goal is to reduce the number of fatal overdoses in Montgomery County.

Over 200 members, including those who are in recovery, and more than 140 organizations have come together to participate in one of eight operational branches of the structure.

The branches include a focus on the areas of: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, Illegal Drug Supply, Emergency Response, Harm Reduction, Prescription Opioid Misuse, Criminal Justice and Education and Information.

The branches were developed based on national and state strategies adopted to address the opioid epidemic, and produce Incident Action Plans every 60 days, according to information from the organizations.

3. Over 500 peer support recovery meetings happen within the Dayton area every week. If an average of 10 people attend each meeting (which is very conservative), that would mean that 5,000 individuals are actively attending peer support meetings in our city. We know that nationwide as much as 80 to 90 percent of those who report to be in recovery do not attend meetings actively. That means that we could place estimates easily within tens of thousands when we look at how many people are in active recovery in the Dayton area. That is 10,000 stories of reunification, reconciliation, job recovery, community development, and impact that make very few headlines within the media at large.

As you touched upon, we may have some issues that have challenged our community, especially fiscally over the course of the last several years. However, strength and resilience are based primarily on the opportunity that comes with trial. We may be on the downslope when we examine the reduction in overdose deaths, as well as the growth in recovery resources throughout our city. However, we invite you to come back and tell the rest of the story, as Dayton continues to be a model for the nation in the way that it has arisen from the ashes to fight against substance-use issues as a great, unified force.

The recovery movement here is strong and vibrant, because we have to be.

That is the story of our city, one that is deserving of love, and is triumphant in the way that it has come together to find solutions to problems that the media and nation told us were unprecedented. Please continue to visit us. I personally invite you to meet my family, have dinner with us, and come sit at the table of someone in long-term recovery who has an uplifting story to tell about our city.

Casey Steckling is president and co-founder of Dayton Recovers.

We invite you to come back and tell the rest of the story, as Dayton continues to be a model for the nation in the way that it has arisen from the ashes to fight against substance-use issues as a great, unified force.

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