Sea Change RCO’s Dual Goal to Serve Recovery Community While Influencing Policy / The SandPaper.net / March 1, 2023

By Victoria Ford

Sea Change is more than a nonprofit recovery community organization. It’s a vehicle for change in the lives of those affected by substance use disorder, and it’s moving at high velocity.

In short, the mission is to “crush the stigma” around substance use disorder and what it means to be in recovery.

Sea Change Founding Executive Director and CEO Elizabeth Beaty of Holgate reflected on the “catapult of growth” that has taken place in the last year – more precisely in the last six months. In August 2022,  Sea Change received the blessing of the Rx Foundation in the form of a $50,000 healthcare innovation grant and guidance that has enabled Beaty to carry the mission farther and more broadly into the communities that need it. The funding has allowed Sea Change to create, without interruption to its services, a whole new model for recovery, advocacy and organizing that hasn’t been done before.

Sea Change certified peer recovery specialists and volunteers provide unconditional support to anyone who reaches out, with one-on-one, online and in-person support groups, available six days a week, as an alternative to traditional 12-step programs.

The idea is to bridge services with organizing, Beaty explained – to let the people who are directly impacted by substance use be the voices that inform the policy change. For some in recovery, activism can be part of what’s called their “recovery capital,” or work/tools that help them maintain their chosen path of recovery – for example, testifying in Trenton about how the system has failed them and how it can be improved.

“We let people define recovery for themselves,” she said.

In partnership with the New Jersey Organizing Project, Sea Change is “working at the intersection of boots-on-the-ground community-based recovery services and organizing people power for systemic change to save, heal and empower lives.” Their union has “led to the launch of the National Sea Change Coalition, where we support other states in building out this model and uniting in power to end the devastating addiction crisis.”

Right now they are working on the “Not One More” campaign to end the overdose crisis by fighting two state Senate bills, S3096 and S3325, that would increase fentanyl penalties.

To everyone who has lived experience with substance use and feels unheard, Beaty offers a call to action: attend the public forum of the Ocean County Opioid Advisory Council on Tuesday, March 7, from 3 to 4 p.m., at the Southern Service Center at 179 South Main St. in Manahawkin.

The council was formed to advise the county board of commissioners on how to use its share of the $641 million in funding New Jersey will receive through 2038, from settlements with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and the top three pharmaceutical distributors, to implement treatment, prevention and other strategies to combat the opioid epidemic. The council is taking public input to better understand the existing needs – transportation and harm reduction supplies are two examples Beaty named – real solutions, rather than more arrests.

The “Not One More” campaign’s next monthly virtual community meeting is Thursday, March 9 at 6 p.m.

Written testimony is being accepted by the opioid advisory council through March 18 at [email protected].

The name of the game is “normalizing harm reduction” by combining the powers of Sea Change’s community-based grassroots services and NJOP’s community organizing and activism.

“To this end, we build community, peer support and collective power, by and for those directly impacted by SUD. Uniting harm reduction-focused recovery community organizations and (community) organizers nationally, we work to share best practices in policy and implementation, develop communications and narrative, and foster compassionate support to identify a path to full harm reduction. With intentional strategy and lived experience, we create greater health equity, human dignity and mutual respect.”

Sea Change and NJOP share guiding principles.

“People who use drugs and who struggle with addiction deserve a voice and have a right to access healthcare that meets them where they are and is evidence-based, affordable, and empowers them to live healthier lives.

“There should be transparency and oversight of all federal, state, county and municipal funding and policies meant to treat those impacted by substance use disorder (including but not limited to addiction treatment programs, recovery housing, medication-assisted treatment programs and drug courts). Policy and funding should center on providing dignity and compassionate care to people who struggle with substance use.

“Community leadership and empowerment, meeting people where they are, and not leaving anyone behind – across rural, urban and suburban areas – because together we are stronger and can make impactful change.”

Beaty has some new ideas for this summer’s third annual “100 Waves for Recovery” fundraiser to promote and expand its reach. Stay tuned. She also reminded supporters that birthday fundraisers on Facebook and Instagram and memorial donations are easy ways to help the organization.

Ahead for the recovery community organization, Sea Change has been given a physical space on Route 9 in Barnegat; renovations are underway, though the timeline for opening is uncertain, Beaty said. The new location is more easily accessible via public transportation and provides added office and meeting space as well as harm reduction supply storage. Details are forthcoming.

In the meantime, Sea Change continues to nurture relationships with community/business partners Blessed Roots, Yoga Bohemia, Crossfit A-Game and the Reiki and Wellness Center of Manahawkin. Visit seachangerco.org, the central hub for information and upcoming events.

— Victoria Ford

[email protected]

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