The UNSHAME Kentucky Community Impact Committee (CIC) is a board of local community leaders dedicated to ending the addiction stigma. The objective of this committee is to be a resource for the campaign, representing community organizations and the needs of the general public; the committee provides input and feedback on the campaign, as well as insight and direction for continuous improvement.
If you have any addiction stigma related topics that you would like discussed in an upcoming CIC meeting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking the constraints off Rehabilitative Facilitators
Working in Corrections and engaging Justice Involved individuals with Substance Use history can be a challenging role for many. This can be due to the nature of the job, the nature of the environment, and/or the interactions within the security and medical aspect. There is often so much STIGMA attached to this population that negatively impacts their ability to seek and attain help. Even more so having others help them in their journey. Working in different types of correctional structures and environments, it was interesting to see the dynamics that play a role when it comes to justice involved incarcerated individuals and those that provide service. Corrections can be so much more than just a place for incarceration, it can be a place for restoration and rehabilitation. Individuals with Substance Use often find themselves tangled in the web of trauma, stigma, emotional isolation and other elements. However, I have some great news… FACT IS people can have a RECOVERY PROCESS and we regardless of where we work or provide services can become the change agents of the OUD response in our areas. FACT IS a great majority of incarcerated individuals will return to their community at one point of another. So where do we begin to make an impact. It begins with information, understanding and the willingness to be a rehabilitative agent and engage in the process of decreasing stigma’s associated by breathing in knowledge and exhaling rehabilitative facilitators to increase the voice of HOPE, RECOVERY and RESILIENCE.
-Karyleen Irizarry Forensic and Community Health Liaison RVBH
“Looking Through a Different Lens”
By David Brumett
To say that my younger brother and I are as different as day and night is an understatement. Growing up we were polar opposites. He liked sports and I didn’t have an athletic bone in my body. I played piano and he liked to jam out to the radio. I excelled in school and he had little interest in classes. I was the ‘golden child’ and well, my parents were always calling his name. Even though there were so many differences, the one thing that became common among us later in life is addiction. And, beyond addiction our commonality is now long-term recovery.
I found recovery through incarceration, coupled with long-term residential treatment. My treatment program was twelve step, abstinence based. For me, recovery consisted of working steps, going to meetings, building a connection with people in my fellowship, refraining from using any substances, etc. My brother chose to utilize Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) as his pathway to recovery.
It wasn’t until I began working for my current organization and receiving significant training on MOUD that I ever really viewed my brother as someone “in recovery.” I judged him because his recovery didn’t look like my own. Unfortunately, I was taught that recovery that didn’t look like my own wasn’t ‘real’ recovery. But, after learning more about the benefits of MOUD and recognizing that my brother was being successful in his own recovery journey my view point changed tremendously. I had to change the lens that I was viewing my brother (and others) through. In fact, I had to sit down and extend an apology to my brother for never giving him the credit he deserved. He was taking his medication as prescribed, had maintained employment for several years, was an active father, and a responsible son/brother.
By looking through a different lens my brother and I have gotten much closer. We have erased the stigma of MOUD in our relationship and we can now have conversations about our own recovery, even though our pathways are very different. I regret not being able to support my brother over the last several years due to my ignorance of MOUD and the incorrect views I held onto. If you know someone who is utilizing a pathway different than your own, reach out and ask them to share their experience with you and have a conversation about it. You may need to adjust your own personal lens in order to see things more clearly.
Art and creativity help us express our emotions, cope, and deal with everyday problems. Recently the Madison Opioid Response and Empowerment program partnered with the Madison County Public Library for a two-month Creative Community Healing Endeavor using art and creativity to start a community discussion about factors affecting us as individuals and as a community. The project began with Mindful Yoga classes. We decorated masks representing the false fronts and coping mechanisms we show others in our daily lives and looked at the real person hidden underneath. We created beautiful junk journals that expressed participants’ creativity and allowed them an opportunity to process internal dialog, emotions, and trauma. We screened Heroin(e) and Recovery Boys. Two months of artistic and creative activities led up to a Community Read of Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver. During the book club discussion, we talked about the opioid crisis (especially in our Appalachian region). We also talked about trauma and recovery, generational impacts, as well as the literary aspects of the novel. Our goal was to engage members of Madison County in conversations. We provided education, reduced stigma, supported empathy, and increased compassion.
Billy is the Program Manager for twelve (12) Young People in Recovery (YPR) chapters in the state of Kentucky and is over six (6) years in long-term recovery. In his role at YPR, he helps make communities recovery ready and lead the implementation of YPR's EPIC life skills curriculum at five treatment facilities. Billy also serves as the Co-Chair for the Louisville Host Committee and is a District Committee Member of Alcoholics Anonymous, District 29. He is continuing his education to better serve his community at Northern Kentucky University in their Peer Support Specialist Program.
My name is Alan Thacker and I am a person in long-term recovery from substance use. Today, I am a Grant Accountant at Fahe, a non-profit that specializes in solving the big problems of housing insecurity and persistent poverty in Appalachia. Parts of my job touch areas related to helping people in the early parts of recovery like our KY Access to Recovery program that provides vouchers to people with housing assistance, car repairs, and clothes to find a new job. Additionally, I am a volunteer at Recovery Café in Lexington, KY. Before I made a career pivot into nonprofit finance, I was previously a criminal defense attorney and saw firsthand how substance use impacted the lives of my clients, their families, and the community. In addition to my law degree, I have a Masters in Accounting as well as a Masters in Business Administration both from Northern Kentucky University. For undergraduate, I attended Transylvania University and studied Anthropology and Economics. I am very curious and love to learn about anything and everything. Outside of work and school, I have served as the Chairman Lexington’s Park and Recreation Advisory board for nearly eight years, the Transylvania Alumni board for four years, Treasurer of Dove Creek Townhomes for over 10 years, as well as the Vice President of the Lexington Gay Sports Commission for 3 years. I am excited to turn a very negative part of my life into something that can be used to help others moving forward.
My name is Cynthia Robinson, and I am a person in long-term recovery. I have been working for the last few years with other people who battle with substance use disorder and are trying to find their own pathway to recovery. For me, it’s not about how people make it into recovery or how they stay in recovery, it’s about watching them figure out how to live again in their own successful way. Everybody has their own recipe. Currently, I work for Deaton and Deaton Counseling as a Community Outreach Worker. My heart is full of dedication and passion when it comes to giving back to my hometown, the town I grew up in, and the town I lost myself in. I live a beautiful life today. I’m married to an amazing woman who gets to experience blessings and growth with me. We share our wonderful kids together, and we are both pursuing our education together. Living life in recovery isn’t always simple but I get to wake up every day and find some type of gratitude in my heart and that lets me know that what I’m doing is worth everything. I used to be the one in active use, and now I’m the one on the other side of the fence. I have a goal to advocate for those still suffering in silence, the ones who are no longer here with us, and to fight against the stigma surrounding substance use disorder. I am honored to be a part of UNSHAME KY!
Karen Atkins is a native Kentuckian and graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. She resides in Lexington with her husband, Kevin, and is passionate about building recovery capital and supporting people in recovery. Karen is a committed Recovery Ally and stands beside those who are in recovery and understands it is a lifelong journey. She knows that SUD/OUD is not a choice. She fights and educates herself and others to end stigma and is fortunate to work in a field where she helps people. Karen is an accomplished senior-level Public Relations professional who values dedication, service, and excellence. With over twenty years of demonstrated experience working in the public relations field, she has a knack for making meaningful connections. She is the Public Information Officer at Kentucky River Foothills Development Council, Inc., a Community Action Agency that assists low-income families and individuals attain self-sufficiency. Karen also oversees Foothills’ Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP). As the RCORP Implementation II Project Director she is responsible for the management of the HRSA funded federal grant including working with community partners to build regional planning capacity to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with opioid overdoses in Madison County. In addition to her work, Karen is involved with Leadership Madison County, the Public Relations Society of America, and Southland Christian Church. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She looks forward to the day when “ally” becomes synonymous with loving your neighbor.
Karyleen Irizarry is the current Forensic & Community Health Liaison for RiverValley Behavioral Health in Western Kentucky. She began her career working as a correctional officer for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Puerto Rico in 1999. During her tenure, she obtained an Associate Degree in Nursing and attained a Registered Nurse (RN) license in 2010, facilitating services for individuals with mental health and/or substance use issues. She continued her nursing career while continuing her service as a correctional officer. Since then, the service integration of healthcare and justice systems to improve rehabilitation, accountability and community safety has been her career mission. In 2012, she moved to Nashville, TN where she joined the Tennessee Department of Corrections at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution attaining many professional accomplishments and continuing her efforts of decrease barriers and facilitate rehabilitative services. In 2016, she participated in the implementation and processing of ID applications and Driver License renewals for eligible offenders. Product of Tennessee Department of Corrections and Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security partnership for offender successful reentry. In 2017, Ms. Irizarry continued her role of offender services by participating in the offender Risk/Needs Assessment Plan in determining re-entry plans for individuals returning to their community. She has made it her career mission to decreasing barriers, streamline health and rehabilitative services, accountability and community safety for at-risk individuals. Ms. Irizarry holds an Associate's Degree in Nursing, a Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Services Management, and a Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration.
Katie Fields serves in the role of a Faith-Based Community Liaison for the City of Louisville. She assists the Faith Community in the steps of moving someone in addiction from crisis to career.
She also creates space to educate and equip faith leaders with community resources. The goal is to help eradicate the shame and stigma of those seeking help for substance use and for those living in recovery to find a safe community to thrive in.
Sidney Bisschop is the Harm Reduction Director at the Jessamine County Health Department. She oversees the Syringe Exchange Program and the Jessamine Transitions Program. Sidney has a Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Development from Eastern Kentucky University and a Masters degree from the University of Kentucky in Social Work. Prior to her director position, she was a social work for two years in the Jessamine Transitions Program at JCHD. Sidney is currently a certified Social Worker, in training for her Licenses as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Sidney’s passion is mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders. Sidney is inspired by her hard-working team and watching those in recovery continue to grow, that is what drives her daily work and long term goals. Sidney was born and raised in Jessamine County, KY and wants to continue to serve her community as a leader in Harm Reduction.
HI! My Name is Talana Young and I am Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). I am honored to be a member of the UNSHAME Kentucky committee. With over 8 years of experience in the field, I have developed a passion for mental health, healing, recovery, and inclusion. I am originally From Yonkers, NY, where I've seen first-hand the affect substance use and addiction has on families. I believe in advocating for marginalized communities using my platform to make a positive impact on society. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, I began my career as a supervisor at a residential treatment center for individuals struggling with substance use. I then transitioned to become an Assertive Community Treatment therapist, where I served clients with severe mental illness and co-occuring disorders Currently, I work as a therapist at a local rape and crisis center, providing support and healing to survivors of trauma. In addition to my professional work, I am a proud parent and love spending time with my family. I also enjoy traveling and exploring new places, as well as spending time in nature to recharge my energy. As a member of the UNSHAME Kentucky committee, I am excited to continue my advocacy for mental health and promote the importance of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness. I believe that through education, empathy, and community support, we can create a world where mental health is valued and prioritized.