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story.lead_photo.caption Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Locke Thompson makes remarks Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, during the opening ceremony of Recovery Awareness Week held at the Cole County Sheriff's Office. In the background is Circuit Judge Cotton Walker. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman/News Tribune

September, National Recovery Month, is a time to educate people about substance abuse, Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said.

Programs work, Wheeler said.

They are important to law enforcement organizations because people suffering from substance use disorders end up on the wrong side of the law.

"Eighty percent of the people behind bars right now have a drug abuse problem," Wheeler explained. "Out of those 80 percent, about half of them are taking drugs or alcohol because they are self-medicating because of some other types of issues that they have."

Wheeler spoke Monday evening as Cole County kicked off its inaugural Recovery Awareness Week in a ceremony outside the Cole County Sheriff's Office. About 40 judges, prosecutors, counselors, people in recovery and well-wishers participated in the event.

Featured speaker Brenda Schell, a public health analyst and the former director of Missouri Recovery Network, encouraged people in recovery to continue their efforts.

"We, as a community, also support those who are still struggling to achieve recovery," Schell said. "We acknowledge the many professionals who dedicate themselves to helping people overcome the many challenges that come with addiction."

The theme for Recovery Month is "recovery is for everyone," she said. The theme emphasizes recovery affects individuals, families and communities.

"Changed hearts lead to changed minds. Changed minds lead to changed communities," she said.

Recovery is possible for all.

More than 23 million people have resolved a drug or alcohol problem and are in recovery, she said.

Monday evening's event was intended to give people chances to learn about recovery, and to let them know no one is alone during recovery.

The week continues at 6 p.m. today with Wellness Night as the community is invited to join in yoga outside the Capitol. Graduates of treatment court are to be recognized during a ceremony 6 p.m. Wednesday in the amphitheater at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park. A movie will follow the ceremony.

A cleanup along the trail at Washington Park begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday. The week concludes with a closing ceremony and a glow fun run/walk at the West Edgewood Drive Greenway trailhead beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit Recovery Awareness Week on Facebook.

"Given the right tools, and the right supports, many people — or most people — who suffer from a substance use problem will achieve full remission of their disease," Schell said.

When we speak about recovery, we need to include advocacy, she said.

"We need to speak up and we need to speak out. We need to tell people recovery is possible — and it's real," she said. "You are living proof. And the language we use is so very important in helping those who are suffering, and helping educate our community members and our families."

Addiction is a disease and should be treated just like any other disease, she said.

Jefferson City will open a crisis stabilization center soon, Schell pointed out. It is to be one of six new centers being established statewide, funded in large part by the state. Revenue for the centers wasn't released until the end of August, but organizers are optimistic they'll have one open at Compass Health, 227 Metro Drive, near the end of the year.

The center (and treatment courts) are important to people in recovery, Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said. Treatment courts improve outcomes and reduce addictions and related crimes, she said. And, they do it at less expense than tossing people into the criminal justice system.

Treatment is essential to people in recovery achieving healthy lifestyles.

"They need to know that they have a supportive community behind them," Tergin said. "That is absolutely what we're here to show tonight."

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