September 13, 2021

Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community

Lori Criss, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS)

For over 30 years, September has been designated as National Recovery Month. Introduced in 1989 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this celebration was created to honor the millions of courageous Americans in recovery from mental health and substance use disorders, to encourage those not yet on the journey of recovery to seek out services that will help them to live their best life, and to recognize the contributions of both professionals and laypeople alike who facilitate this process.

According to research, mental health disorders are not uncommon; nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019). Mental illnesses refer to a variety of conditions that range from the mildest of presentations to symptoms so severe they are life threatening. About 5% of adults in the U.S. (13.1 million in 2019) have a mental illness serious enough to substantially interfere with or limit one or more major life activities. These illnesses can disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, daily functioning, and ability to relate to others.

Similarly, substance use disorders affect a large segment of the population; 1 in 12 American adults (18.7 million) have a substance use disorder. Some people have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder than others due to genetics. Substance use disorders can significantly interfere with the functioning of our brains and can cause difficulties in meeting major responsibilities at work, school or home.

About 9.2 Million Americans live with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder.

About 9.2 million Americans live with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Together, these two illnesses known collectively as behavioral health disorders, present a growing public health concern, and account for untold missed educational opportunities, lost productivity at work, increased crime, unnecessary hospitalizations, and premature death.

Understanding the gravity of this issue, the first task Governor Mike DeWine undertook after entering office in January 2019 was to establish RecoveryOhio. When outlining his plan to address Ohio’s growing behavioral health crisis, he underscored the importance of investing in people, prioritizing wellness, and promoting recovery-friendly communities. For the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, the voice of people recovering from mental illness and substance use disorders is central to our work. We are committed to partnering with Ohio’s recovery community to build capacity for widespread availability of recovery services and supports across the state.

Fortunately, our society is beginning to move away from the stigmatizing mindset that behavioral disorders are moral failings or a result of poor self-control, but instead are illnesses which are often preventable and highly treatable, and affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups.

This shift in understanding has included the adoption of the “recovery model,” a holistic, person- centered approach to care. Recovery is an ongoing, life-long process of change through which people improve their health, following these guiding principles:

  • Recovery emerges from hope: The belief that “recovery is real” provides the motivating message of a better future – that people can and do overcome the internal and external challenges, barriers, and obstacles that confront them.
  • Recovery is person-driven: Self-determination and self-direction are the foundations for recovery as individuals define their own life goals and design their unique paths.
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways: Individuals are unique with distinct needs, strengths, preferences, goals, culture, and backgrounds including trauma experiences that affect the pathway to recovery.
  • Recovery is holistic: Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. The array of services and supports available should be coordinated and work with each other.
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies: Mutual support and mutual aid groups, including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills, as well as social learning, play an invaluable role in recovery.
  • Recovery is supported through relationships and social networks: An important factor in the recovery process is the presence and involvement of people who believe in the person’s ability to recover, who offer hope, support, and encouragement, and who also suggest strategies and resources for change.
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced: Culture, in all of its diverse representations including values, traditions, and beliefs, are key in determining a person’s journey and unique pathway of recovery.
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma: Services and supports should be trauma-informed to foster safety (physical and emotional) and trust, as well as promote choice, empowerment, and collaboration.
  • Recovery involves individual, family and community strengths and responsibility: Individuals, families and communities have strengths and resources that serve as a foundation for recovery.
  • Recovery is based on respect: Recovery works best when individuals are free to enjoy the full array of human rights and are not subjected to discrimination, stigma, or marginalization.

The 2021 National Recovery Month theme, “Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community,” speaks to the welcoming nature of a community of recovery, while simultaneously sounding a call for equality. Though each person may walk their own unique path toward recovery, no one needs to walk it alone. Faces and Voices of Recovery, the organization that spearheads this annual efforts offers resources that can be used by any community to educate the public on the latest in recovery practices and maintains a calendar of local and national Recovery Month events. 

Lori Criss is the Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), a cabinet-level state agency, which was established in 2013 when the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services and the Ohio Department of Mental Health merged to become a single department. OhioMHAS exists to ensure all Ohioans have access to mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery by regulating over 2,000 mental health and addiction services providers statewide and leading a behavioral health system of 50 local Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health (ADAMH) Boards. Additionally, it operates six regional psychiatric hospitals, serving over 6,000 people each year, delivers recovery services to over 17,000 individuals incarcerated with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction each year, and operates Ohio Pharmacy Services, which supplies goods and services to eligible community partners. For more information, visit