In April 1998 a core group of individuals came together to establish the Association of Persons Affected by Addictions (APAA) and apply for Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Recovery Community Support Program funding. The initial focus of the group was on the assurance that the needs of those seeking services were being adequately met, particularly in the newly evolving managed care environment.
This was done under the auspices of Dallas Helps, a nonprofit organization with a Mission to serve persons at risk for, suffering from, or impacted by addiction, through advocacy for appropriate, accessible, high quality prevention, treatment and recovery services in our community. Dallas Helps had a history of successful, inclusive collaborations specific to treatment systems design and developing consumer friendly, more responsive treatment systems (lead agency for CSAT funded Target Cities Initiative). With the advent of managed care in the publicly funded sector, the lone voice missing at the table was that of those most directly affected-the consumer. To address this void, Dallas Helps focused its attention more specifically on developing consumer advocacy. Dallas Helps had never been a direct service agency, but had served as a catalyst for solutions to the problems associated with addictions.
Dallas Helps staff and a committee of APAA members worked on the formal establishment of APAA including the development of By-Laws-addressing structure, mission statement, membership, dues, officers, frequency of meetings, and primary activities. We “borrowed” from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Dallas to help us establish and define our organization.
It was through the process of developing the Bylaws that the initial mission of APAA was defined, as well as how we would operate (an elected Steering Committee and Officers) and monthly membership meetings (the 4th Tuesday of the month). After much discussion, and exposure of members to other grantees and training through CSAT, members began to feel like they needed to “revisit” the mission, and goals and objectives. Technical assistance was provided through CSAT and two day long retreats were held where we defined our core beliefs, vision, mission and goals.
During the three years APAA was funded by CSAT, we made great strides toward accomplishing many of the goals set during a series of retreats. We made important gains in keeping addiction issues as part of the dialogue. However, trying to change the direction of a speeding engine (TCADA and the Legislature), and influence the 3000 lb. Gorilla (managed care), takes time. To have started this work, to have made headway in being recognized as the consumer representatives on the addiction side, to have provided the only data to date on the impact of managed care on our constituents, and to have been included at the table is significant.
Advocating for funding for recovery services was important to undertake. We spent several years in the advocacy effort and we will continue to work to get services for people in recovery on all levels. But we cannot wait for those that control the purse strings to look our way. The needs are now. People seeking recovery need support now. People trying to maintain sobriety can’t wait. They need help and support now. As an organization, as people in recovery and friends, families, and allies, we intend to be proactive in getting what we need to support our own recovery and that of our brothers and sisters in recovery. When APAA first began to organize in May of 1998, those that attended the meetings were anxious for action. People wanted to do something to make life better for people striving to achieve recovery from addiction. It was difficult for many to be patient with the process of building a sound foundation for the organization. Many wanted to hit the streets and make some noise.
But we tried to do it right. During the first three years much of the groundwork was laid. We identified Core Beliefs, Vision, Mission, and Goals, for APAA. We received valuable training, and we grew to understand the role of advocacy. In the first three years our focus was on addiction treatment in the publicly funded sector. We wanted to know how managed care was affecting persons seeking and in need of treatment. We wanted to be in a position to have an impact on the decisions being made that affected persons ability to get appropriate treatment. We wanted to make sure there was a “voice of recovery” to keep addiction issues from being ignored.
However, this process has taught us some lessons that we did not foresee in the beginning. As a group we now see 1) the importance of shifting the focus from treatment to recovery and 2) the need for a shift to identifying what it is we can do for ourselves and our peers as members of that broad rubric known as the recovery community.
We have seen a glimpse of the power of being heard and the possibility of making a difference. When we speak from the heart, from personal experience, and when we publicly demonstrate the success of recovery, we make a statement of hope that we can make it better for ourselves and for society. There is no more powerful testament than that of one who has been there and has not only survived, but has come away better for it. It is challenging, scary, risky, but above all, empowering. We know what is needed to support recovery. It is imperative that we build on the work we have done and begin to see real progress in bringing about the needed changes in the system in our community to better assure recovery. The foundation is laid and we are on sound footing. We are ready for action but with a much more sophisticated perception of what it takes to build a strong organization and to achieve lasting goals for the entire community.
As of October 1, 2001, APAA assumed its own 501(c)(3) and began operating as an independent and entirely volunteer organization with a Board of Directors to provide the leadership. The APAA Board determines the membership meeting programs. Members volunteer to take a meeting date and be responsible for arranging the program and speakers. Ideas for meeting topics are generated from the feedback forms filled out by attendees, as well as by Board and members themselves. The President conducts the membership meetings. APAA members have actively participated in presenting programs.
Many APAA members are actively involved in the community and play leadership roles in areas that involve recovery issues. One APAA member has been appointed by the Dallas County Commissioners to the Dallas Area NorthSTAR Authority Board (oversight for managed care pilot). Three members serve on the DANSA Advisory Committee. Joe Powell, APAA President, sits on two national recovery effort planning groups. One APAA member served on a Stakeholder’s Panel to review Guidelines for Consumer Protection and Responsibilities. APAA members provide testimony at both the state and local level, and make presentations at conferences. Three members participate on the Close to Home Coalition (a statewide coalition), and twelve members visited their Legislators in Austin to promote support for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. More importantly, almost every APAA member is actively involved in supporting their peers in recovery.
Membership for APAA is defined as persons in recovery; friends, family members, and significant others of addicted persons; and other allies interested in and supportive of our mission. Because of our initial focus on the NorthSTAR Behavioral Health Managed Care Pilot, persons who had participated in publicly funded treatment were specifically recruited for membership. All treatment providers that serve the medically indigent population were notified of the existence of APAA and asked to inform their constituents of APAA. Also the Mental Health Association, Coalition on Mental Illness, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Dallas were enlisted to notify any of their constituencies who might be interested and appropriate for membership in APAA. Presentations were made to the treatment provider network, the addictions counselor association, the addictions ministry coalition, as well as announcements made at various meetings attended by staff or members. Word of mouth recruitment by members to friends and colleagues who would be appropriate for membership was expected to be our best means of recruitment. From the beginning our membership has been made up of people interested because of personal experience and commitment.
Recovery Celebrations got the message out and served as a means of recruiting new members. Our first major event was May 1999 with an attendance of 84. The event was deemed a success and there was a great deal of optimism and enthusiasm generated. Subsequently we held nine additional events with attendance ranging from 60 (during the worst ice storm of the winter season) to 350 for a celebration that included the whole family on a wonderful summer day.
APAA is well known to the recovery community and to key stakeholders. We have been a formal active organization for over four years. The listing below gives evidence of our membership and of the stakeholders with whom we will participate in this project.