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Recovery advocates hope to keep seeing reduction in addiction stigma

Opioid Deaths
Posted at 1:58 PM, Dec 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-23 13:58:49-05

JOHNSON, Vt. — It's hard for me to express the amount of admiration I have for Dawn and Greg Tatro.

After losing their daughter to an overdose, Dawn and Greg Tatro set out to not only help people in recovery but also change how it's done.

The organization, Jenna's Promise, is named in honor of their daughter.

"One just said to me again tonight, he goes, 'I used to come to Johnson (Vermont) for drugs.' Now, he goes, 'I come to Johnson for recovery.' He goes, 'It's pretty awesome," Dawn said.

The Tatros' dreams of expanding how they help people have expanded over the course of a year. They now have a café that employs their residents and a health center.

"Once you get that veil of addiction off their, off their, face and you see the real person come out, it's incredible," said Greg.

The best part they say is how the town has embraced its residents. By going to the cafe, the people are actively participating in their recovery. It's a true, "It takes a village" mentality, playing out in real-time.

"It's cleaning the town up," said Dawn. "It's helping people and, uh, and it's creating this community."

Will Eberle is the executive director of the Vermont Association of Mental Health and Recovery.

"Unfortunately, we're still tracking at a very high rate of overdose deaths in Vermont. Currently, we have, according to our latest statistics, 151 overdose fatalities in Vermont through August of this year, and around 80% of those have included fentanyl," Eberle said.

There's no national data out yet for 2022, but with the prevalence of fentanyl across the nation, experts like Eberle are expecting it to be another year of tragically high numbers nationwide.

However, just like Dawn and Greg have seen, Will says the good news is that he's seeing less stigma as communities step up.

"Over time, it's starting to become sort of the community's business to work on these things more than the recovery sectors business, which is very heartening to see," he said.

The Tatros and Eberle believe the only way to completely flip the script on addiction and overdose deaths is for everyone to realize they have a role and to invest in the people and the places impacted.

They're hoping next year, even more communities see the value in the people working to make their lives better.

"It seems so simple, but to believe in someone, it's sometimes really what they need," said Dawn.