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Recovery Voices Count

As we enter the final two months of the 2020 election cycle, it becomes more vital that we include the faces and voices of recovery at all levels of the campaign. It is in our hands, and those of our community, to help those running for office understand the significance of substance use disorders and support the wide range of recovery efforts across America.

Take Action Today

The suggestions that follow are intended to complement formal, larger-scale efforts you may have underway, such as voter registration projects or structured get-out-the-vote programs.

The ideas in the Advocacy Toolkit are a series of very practical initiatives, tactics, and messages that you can act on right away. They are a mix of activities that will help you build a constant presence, and help you expand your network of recovery advocates.

It is important to lift all voices in advocacy efforts. Access to voting is a constitutional guarantee and should be openly available. For Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities, this ideal has been abridged, suppressed, and in some cases threatened with violence. For many involved with the criminal justice system, information about restoring the right to vote for individuals with felony convictions is overly complex and varies from state to state. As advocates, we are compelled to support and engage in the free and fair electoral process and make sure all voices are heard.

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Register to Vote

Are you registered to vote?

Visit vote.gov for more information on voter registration, absentee voting and other election day procedures and events in your area.

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Action Resource

Organizing Action Clusters

Where possible, build small Recovery Action Clusters (4-6 people) who can work daily to share information, coordinate social media activities, and plan new initiatives in real time.

Additionally, each member of this Cluster can work to expand the network, building more such groups in a matter of days. Make assignments to each person within the Cluster, e.g:

  • Morning news scan and summarize for Cluster
  • Talking to recovery friends about creating video stories
  • Writing sample tweets
  • Asking five friends if they are registered
  • Etc.
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Action Resource

Regional Action Hubs

In a similar vein, Recovery Community Organizations (RCO’s) around the country should be encouraged to create regional action hubs which share organizing tips, tactical plans, social media ideas, and recovery data.

(See: Association of Recovery Community Organizations)

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Action Resource

Daily News Scan

It is critical to review national, state, and local news early each morning.  The websites of candidates who are important to you must be reviewed daily as well.  What you learn – and then share – will often provide news hooks that will give you excellent opportunities to communicate recovery messages.

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Action Resource

Build Graphics and Photo Libraries

It is important to create a resource base of multiple images now.  A diverse set of graphics and photos will enable you to move swiftly and tailor your efforts on social media and provide your advocates with a range of image options.  This effort also gives you an opportunity to activate recovery colleagues, who might have access to interesting images and are eager to share them.

  • “Recovery” is a difficult concept to capture in an image! Ask friends for 2-3 photos of friends/family members in recovery, with smiling faces, and where possible, indications of recovery – next to a book, holding a pamphlet, under a “Run for Recovery” banner, etc.
  • Take your own photos to meet your advocacy purposes – groups discussing plans, handmade recovery signs, friends filling out mail-in ballots, etc.
  • Scan the numerous free digital photo sites – e.g., Freerange Stock, The Open Photo Project, Stockvault.net. A comprehensive list of free digital art and graphics can be found at format.com
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Action Resource

Identify Recovery Allies

Expanding our network is vital.  Each member of your Cluster should identify five people you know who are aware of your role in the recovery world but who themselves are not part of it.  Reach out to them periodically over the next seven weeks.  Remind them that recovery from substance use disorders benefits the entire community.

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Action Step

Key Dates Card

As soon as possible, every state should develop a simple “Key Dates” card that identifies all the deadlines for:

  • Mail-in ballot applications
  • Mail-in voting
  • Absentee ballots (where different)
  • Early voting dates

While you may not be able to distribute the cards as you normally would, they should be featured on your website and be regularly distributed through social media. Each card should include your state election board’s website.

For key dates in your state, visit rockthevote.org/how-to-vote and usvotefoundation.org

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Action Step

Weekly Top Policy Issue

Each week, establish one of the many recovery-related issues as the topic/theme you will advocate for throughout that week.  Make sure you consider state and local issues too.  National topics might include:

  • Federal funding for Recovery and Family Support programs
  • Equitable Insurance Coverage
  • Increased access to non-opioid medications

When considering state and local issues, make sure you encompass all the issues that touch on addiction and recovery:

  • Inclusion of underserved populations
  • State health budgets
  • Family caregiver programs
  • Criminal Justice reform
  • Mental health parity
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Action Step

"Recovery and My Community"

Urge members of your RCO to write short vignettes about the positive impact their recovery has on their communities.  When individuals describe the good things that happen now because they are in recovery - Little League coaches, church deacons, environmental cleanup leaders – versus the difficulties they may have faced in addiction, they demonstrate that recovery counts for all of us.

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Action Step

Petition for Priority

Create and circulate a petition for every candidate urging them to make recovery issues a top priority in their next term in office.  Asking for members’ signatures and prompting them to circulate the petition themselves creates tangible goals and a sense of momentum.

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Action Step

Presidential and Other Debates

These moments provide outstanding opportunities to raise recovery issues in the larger community.

  • Create a short, side-by-side factual comparison of candidates’ records and positions.
  • Comment on candidates’ Twitter and FB pages leading up to debate.
  • Post on debate host’s social media urging them to ask candidates about addiction and recovery.
  • Issue a statement to the press after the debate evaluating candidates’ views.
  • Be active the day after the debate with a variety of social media posts.

Don’t forget to emphasize state and local election debates as well, and use a debate as a hook several days before the debate date, and the days afterward as well.

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Action Step

Recovery Voices Counting

Build on the “Recovery Voices Count” theme by doing comparative counting, e.g.: “There are 54 days until the election.  Did you know there are more than 23 million Americans in recovery?  We are counting … because Recovery Voices Count.”

Other data that could be used might include:

  • X days until the election – Y thousands of overdose deaths this year
  • X days until the election – Y thousands of people on treatment waiting lists
  • X days until the election – Y billions in health care savings through effective treatment and recovery
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Action Step

Acknowledge the Role of COVID-19

As you think about advocacy work, the implications of the COVID pandemic must be foremost in your mind.

The implications are primarily two-fold: one, many standard, in-person campaign activities simply can’t happen, or are too difficult and cumbersome to execute even if they are permissible.

Two, as you know, the pandemic is adversely affecting both addiction and recovery.  Your communications must acknowledge this painful fact where appropriate.

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Communications Tactic

Twitter and Facebook

Most important, these on-line platforms should be employed frequently.  Especially in an election cycle, attention spans are fleeting, and you should plan on communicating your messages on a near-daily basis.  Diversifying your messages and using images is also very important.

Speak up! Demand high-quality addiction recovery services, and elected officials who will fight for them!

If we don’t make recovery a priority this election, no one will! Get active, and we’ll get results!

Recovery changes lives. So does voting! Get active in your community, make recovery count, and vote!

Remember, there are lots of ways to vote this year. Know what your options are, act on them, and make recovery count!

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Communications Tactic

Social Media Connections

To truly make recovery voices count, we must connect with as many related voices as possible. That means taking time to respond to and share social media content from sources ranging from mental health to racial equity.

In an election season, it’s critical to connect with the entire community.  Given our country’s legacy of oppression and marginalization specifically around the right to vote, it is important to reach out to all facets of the community. Follow them on Twitter. Post to their sites. Share their information. Cross-post between platforms.

It’s critical to remember the wide range of diverse advocates you can connect with, and these groups are usually simple to find via a google search, but some simple examples of local chapter groups and communities are:

  • NAACP
  • Voto Latino
  • M4BL (Movement for Black Lives)
  • Fairfight 2020
  • Local BIPOC groups
  • LGBTQ+ groups
  • Youth organizations
  • Nurses groups
  • Science and research groups
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Education advocates
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Communications Tactic

Video

Video is the most impactful communications vehicle that exists. And with cell phone technology, you can create powerful video content on a regular basis.

The key is simplicity: ask willing members to articulate why recovery counts to them in no more than 3-4 sentences.

This video content can be uploaded, shared, and posted almost anywhere. For example:

“Hi, my name is Tim, and I am a person in long-term recovery. Recovery has changed my life It has brought my family back together, I am now a homeowner, and coach my son’s Little league team. But there are millions of people in our country who struggle with substance use disorders, and our elected leaders need to do more to help them and their families. In this election, recovery really counts. It matters to all of us, and we have to make sure our voices are heard loud and strong by everyone who wants our votes.”

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Communications Tactic

Call-In Radio

Most media markets have at least one news-talk radio program that features listener call-ins.  Take advantage of them.  Research your stations and their procedures for call-ins, start listening, and pick up the phone!  And remember, the topic doesn’t have to be recovery – if the host is talking about Election 2020, then Recovery Voices Count!

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Communications Tactic

Media Relations

It will be difficult to get political reporters to focus on recovery issues in such a turbulent election cycle, but there are two specific steps you can take that may be productive: one, create a basic Fact Sheet for the media that identifies all the pressing recovery issues in your state and community, and two, when news breaks about addiction spikes, treatment successes, etc., share this information with your local political reporters and point them to the advocacy work you are doing. [See: Your Choices, Our Lives: A Quick Guide to Fair and Accurate Coverage of Addiction & Mental Illness]

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