DC launches peer outreach to guide people through treatment for addictions

There were 411 deaths from opioid overdoses in the District last year — that’s more than double the number of deaths from homicide, and nearly double the overdose deaths from 2018. So, the D.C. Department of Health is responding to the surge by helping people with addiction connect with peers in the recovery process.

“I have knowledge of addiction — suffering from a serious addiction to the redemption of recovery,” said D.C. native Mark Spence, who lives in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

“I’ve been through the process,” said Mark Spence. (Courtesy MyRecoveryDC)

Spence is among the certified DC Peers working with MyRecoveryDC, which connects them with people working to get treatment and services for drug and alcohol addictions.

“I’ve been through the process,” Spence said. “I’ve been able to help people for the last 32 years with my 12-step program. And now, with this opportunity, with this peer support [and] recovery coaching, I’ve been able to take it to the next phase for folks. Because we have all kinds of resources we can tap into.”

He added, “The District has completely bought into MyRecoveryDC — whatever individuals need to be successful to lead a productive life.”

You can find a Certified DC Peer and learn more about MyRecoveryDC on the campaign’s website.

Spence said there’s an unbelievable recovery community in the city, and it has long been active helping and supporting people. “And, I guarantee you — you’re going to end up seeing someone that you either grew up with or befriended at one time, around at these meetings, and living the lifestyle of recovery where you can blossom as a person,” Spence said enthusiastically.

“Although addiction is an ongoing issue, we know that many District residents likely started or increased substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Shauna White, pharmaceutical control division program manager for the health regulation and licensing administration, said in a news release. “We want to let individuals with the disease of addiction — as well as their family and friends — know that there are people and services available right now to help you on your road to recovery.”

The city’s combined efforts to fight the opioid crisis can be found at LIVE.LONG.DC.

People who want to get connected to resources can call 1-888-7-WE-HELP, or visit the D.C. Health and Wellness Center, at 77 P St. NE, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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