This year’s Mobilize Recovery event was the third annual conference for recovery advocates across the United States. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national advocacy event was a hybrid event, making it the largest and most accessible training to date. Over 300 advocates attended in person, while nearly 1,000 participants logged in to network, share skills, and cultivate community. The conference was hosted by the world-class Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino and supported by Nevada’s public health department, ensuring that participants would stay healthy and safe.
The Voices Project-created event was sponsored by Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Serve You RX, the Levenson Foundation, Ascend Video, and Callahan & Blaine and supported by our partners the Recovery Advocacy Project, Sandgaard Foundation, National Council for Behavioral Health, Truth Initiative, Young People in Recovery, McShin Recovery Resource Foundation, Well Being Trust, Faces & Voices of Recovery, Shatterproof, Opioid Response Network, Herren Project, The Phoenix, She Recovers, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, CCAPP, AHRE, Victoria’s Voice, Partnership to End Addiction, Foundation for Recovery, and the Kennedy Forum.
The conference included a two-day training in public narrative, led by storytelling coaches and based in the work of Marshall Ganz at Harvard University. Participants worked with coaches to learn to tell their stories in compelling, persuasive ways to help change the narrative around addiction and recovery. Other trainings helped advocates gain skills in community building, relational organizing, creating culturally responsive recovery support services, and including families in recovery support. Advocates led panels about unpacking and dismantling racism in recovery spaces, as well as developing cultural humility in delivering services to the LGBTQIA+ community. The power of inclusive recovery spaces was a central theme of Mobilize, as participants were challenged to consider recovery from an intersectional lens and fill the gaps to support our most marginalized and historically excluded community members.
“Three years into Mobilize, we are stronger than ever,” said Ryan Hampton, founder of the Voices Project. “In spite of a pandemic, in spite of the challenges front-line advocates face in their own communities, it’s incredibly meaningful that we can come together and renew our commitment to building equity in the recovery space. This movement is for everyone, and as we grow, we’re making sure that everybody feels like they have a seat at the table.”
This year’s event included special opportunities such as appearances by speakers such as President Bill Clinton, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Senior Director of Substance Use Disorders and Recovery at the Clinton Foundation Chris Thrasher, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use SAMHSA Tom Coderre, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Regina LaBelle, NYT Bestselling Author Resmaa Menakem, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, and more. Mobilize also included a screening of the new documentary Tipping the Pain Scale followed by a Q&A with the director and cast; daily group fitness hosted by the Phoenix Project; and a self-care module for advocates. Participants picked up new skills that will help sustain their advocacy and cope with the stress of working on the front lines, during a pandemic and widespread fentanyl poisonings.
The hybrid event was popular and accessible, with high engagement between participants. Mobilize Recovery 2021 built on its successful platform by bringing people together to celebrate our wins, honor our struggles, and plan for our collective future.