They’re recovered, and they vote.
“This is going to be a multi-tiered, multi-year effort and eventually we’ll run candidates in recovery for the Legislature or even statewide office,” says Ryan Hampton, spokesperson for Recovery PAC, a Nevada-based, non-partisan political action committee formed earlier this year in response to the opiate crisis.
The PAC’s officers are connected to drug and alcohol rehab facilities, including the Las Vegas Recovery Center.
Hampton says the PAC intends to be a force in this year’s election.
One out of three American households is affected by drug or alcohol addiction, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. That’s a lot of people mobilized by a single issue and Recovery PAC is hoping to turn their concern into power at the polls.
“We are setting up a platform committee made up of patients, providers, social justice partners and others which we’ll unveil in September. We’ll use that platform to rate the candidates on the November ballot and get the word out to our voters,” says Hampton. “We’re creating a model for the recovery-oriented voter and we’ll roll that out this cycle.”
Hampton says the PAC has not yet released a financial report but says early contributions are from small donors. The PAC will accept money from treatment and recovery providers and others in the industry, but not from pharmaceutical companies. He says bad actors in the rehab industry, who have yet to be identified, will also be excluded from contributing.
“We are passionate about it. We are looking at fraud in the treatment industry, marketing programs that take advantage of the community, insurance practices. And it needs to be dealt with at the state level. Historically, the recovery community has been left out of the discussion,” Hampton says. “We’ve been focused on other issues like breaking the chain of stigma but we haven’t had a political movement of people who are becoming single issue voters in response to the addiction crisis.”
Hampton says a Surgeon General’s report indicates recovering addicts have a better than fifty percent chance of remaining sober after five years.
“All the money is going to prevention and treatment. If we want people to recover, if we want people not to die than we should be focusing on the first five years. Policymakers believe treatment and recovery are the same thing. They are not,” says Hampton, referring to recovery challenges like adopting a lifestyle that supports sobriety.
“We have a problem with supporting recovery in our community. Peers helped me with housing, they help with employment and life skills,” says Hampton, who attributes his own success in recovery in part to a network of peer supporters, who receive government reimbursement for assisting recovering addicts with services, finding work or shelter.
AB 194 from the 2017 legislative session would have required state certification of peer supports or so-called “sober coaches.”
“It was going to ‘medicalize’ the peer recovery community. It would have wiped out the capacity for peer supports. If lawmakers would have engaged the recovery committee they would have known it was a problem,” Hampton says.
Hampton acknowledges standards and accreditation processes are necessary for peer recovery supports but he says they already exist.
“Politicians are using the opioid crisis as an issue for talking points. Politico recently wrote if you want a winning election issue, write an opioid bill. The problem is the bills either have no funding attached or they would do harm. AB 194 was an ill-advised attempt that would have hurt the ability to get life-saving recovery support,’ Hampton says. “Policymakers have stood by us for the most part but they need to be educated.”