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DHS news release

May 15, 2006

Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: C J Reid (503) 945-9813

Governor's Council to hear from speakers on reducing addiction stigma

Speakers at a Tuesday meeting of the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs will address the issue of stigma faced by alcoholics and addicts.

Council members requested the presentations as they prepare a report to the governor about stigma, which national surveys have shown affects individuals' decisions to seek treatment.

The public session, beginning at 1:15 p.m. in Oregon State Capitol hearing room 50, will feature:

  • Michael J. Sweeney, J.D., assistant director of the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program, who will speak to the Oregon State Bar's progress in the area of stigma and addictions.
  • Dale Walker, M.D., Oregon Health & Science University professor of psychiatry, who will address stigma from a cultural perspective including communities of color such as Native Americans.
  • Ed Blackburn of Central City Concern, which provides treatment services, who will address stigma from the perspective of how it is found in treatment policies and practices.
  • Jerry Gjesvold, employer-services manager for Serenity Lane treatment center, who will speak to stigma's impact on employers.
  • Vicki Skryha, Oregon Department of Human Services housing and homeless program manager, who will talk about fair housing laws and facilities siting laws.
  • Gary Cobb of the Recovery Association Project, a nonprofit organization that provides a vehicle for people to speak out about addiction issues, who will talk about reducing stigma in addiction, behavioral health and primary-care settings.
  • LaVonne and John Doherty, a Portland couple who will tell the story of how they lost a daughter to drugs and depression and the role they believe stigma played; and Matthew Goss of Portland, who will talk about Faces & Voices of Recovery advocacy work related to stigma and treatment.

In an earlier report this year, Council members said they believe stigma against those who abuse alcohol and other drugs is severe and should be addressed in an effort to get people into treatment earlier.

Surveys conducted for Faces & Voices of Recovery found that two-thirds of the general public believes stigma exists against people in recovery and 27 percent believed it was acceptable that some companies are less likely to hire people in recovery. A separate survey found that four in 10 people in recovery said embarrassment or shame was their biggest obstacle to entering treatment.