Changing the Stigma around Recovery

“Recovery is possible and the path to recovery is different for every individual,” shared Tonja Couch, Jackson County United Way (JCUW) Executive Director.  During our Community Conversations over the last year, JCUW learned very few are able to quit without the proper medical assistance and community support networks.  While Jackson County continues to struggle with the drug epidemic, one thing is being demanded from our community: If we are going to beat this, it will have to be together.

Cue county-wide partnerships to reach across the county from Crothersville to Medora and Brownstown to Seymour.  “We knew there was strength in variety of organizations coming together to support this effort,” stated Couch.  “We applied for support of Red Ribbon Week for 2018 from the Community Foundation of Jackson County, and wanted to ensure the message lasted longer than a week in October.”  

The grant request was a natural for the Foundation.

“Helping spread this message of hope was important to our Grant Committee and Board of Directors,” said Foundation President & CEO Dan Davis. The Foundation awarded a Fall Grant to help fund this year’s Red Ribbon Week campaign. “Addiction is a huge problem in our community as it is elsewhere, and helping erase the stigma of addiction and recovery is essential.”

As the Drug-Free Council Public Awareness team talked through how to make sure Red Ribbon Week had a lasting effect we started talking about promoting hope and recovery, too.  “Sharing a drug-free message is effective for some, but not for all that are already facing a life in addiction,” added Kimberly Buck, JCUW AmeriCorps member and Drug-Free Council Board Member. “We started talking about other signs that we have seen around the region, and wanted to ensure that we lifted up hope for people to seek recovery, not adding to the stigma of recovery.”

People experiencing addiction face a wide range of stigmas.  Stigma is often a consequence of labeling, which can lead to an individual being treated differently.  Indiana Next Level Recovery, has an ad campaign out right now focused on educating residents about the facts about substance use disorder, that there is treatment available, and recovery is possible.

One way Jackson County residents can help share the messages of hope in recovery is by purchasing a $5 yard sign that displays the message, ‘Small Towns, Big Hope, A County of Recovery’.  These signs are available at the United Way office during normal office hours, Monday- Friday 8 AM- 5 PM.

Chandra Campbell received as sign at the Drug-Free Council’s Keeping Hope: International Overdose Awareness Event in late August after speaking regarding her brother’s journey in recovery.  Chandra shared, “Addiction shows no mercy. It does not matter what your beliefs are or what your social status is. These signs to me symbolize not only hope but also courage, strength, empathy and love. Individually we are all just small pieces to the puzzle, but together we will form a beautiful picture.”

Other presenters from that night’s events shared their thoughts, too.  Jennifer Shapiro, Psalms 46:5 Ministries, shared, “It brings a sense of unity.  Whether you are in recovery or supporting people in recovery when you drive by and see it, it makes you realize you are not alone.”

“So many families in this county are affected by addiction.  Please realize that no family is immune,” added Debbie Pettay.  Debbie lost her son, Zak, to addiction this year and has been an advocate so others can learn how to help other families with the same battle.

Brenda Turner, Drug-Free Council Director, shared, “I have personally witnessed many people from our county find long-term recovery from their addiction.  If you're struggling with drugs or alcohol, you will find help in the local recovery meetings and treatment centers right here in Jackson County.  There is hope for everyone!”

AmyMarie Travis, Jackson County Drug-Free Council President and Superior Court One Judge, added, “To dedicate oneself to a challenge, a person must believe two things: First, one must admit there is a difficulty that needs to be addressed.  Second, one must believe that the desired result can be achieved.  The “Small Towns, Big Hope” signs are aimed at addressing those two issues.  First, removing any stigma attached to addiction should help those struggling with addiction to receive a message from the community that we support them.  Second, there is HOPE in recovery.  The “Small Towns, Big Hope” signs are meant to be a message from the community that there is no shame in asking for help and that recovery can be achieved!  I am thrilled that the Community Foundation of Jackson County, the Jackson County United Way, and the Jackson County Drug Free Council could partner is this message of hope.”

Through our community conversation work, our community clearly shared this hope, “Jackson County residents want to live in a community where people choose to live, a community that is healthy and safe. We want a community that is alive, vibrant and growing with places to go and things to do. We want to be known as a place where we work together for solutions to take care of our neighbors and generations.” JCUW is focused on delivering solutions based on the actions the community told us they wanted to see- one of those was create positive messages of hope for people in recovery.

“We have a long way to go,” shared Couch.  Many residents shared they wanted others to learn more about the drug issue, how it is affecting all members of our community, and how we can create opportunities for people in recovery to gather publicly. “We continue to make strides and are planning a third recovery rally for the year at the end of Red Ribbon Week on Saturday, October 27th called Get Loud Now.

Susan Tormoehlen, Celebrate Recovery Coordinator at The Alley and Drug-Free Council Board Member and Recovery Action Team Chair, summed it up like this, “Small Towns, Big Hope is a statement that we are not alone in our recovery.  It made me realize that I’m in a community with their eyes open and there is hope.”

For more information about the Drug Free Council Action Teams and how you can help change the stigma of recovery visit: or Jackson County Drug Free Council on Facebook.   The Drug Free Council meets the second Tuesday of the Month at 4 PM at the Community Foundation, with action teams meeting a various locations and times throughout the month.  For more information or to get involved in the Drug Free Council contact Brenda Turner (