People talk and enjoy food Friday evening at the Snohomish County Recovery Coalition launch party in Everett, Washington. (Sophia Gates / The Herald)

People talk and enjoy food Friday evening at the Snohomish County Recovery Coalition launch party in Everett, Washington. (Sophia Gates / The Herald)

Group advocating for addiction recovery launches in Snohomish County

The 40-member local chapter of the Washington Recovery Alliance counts housing and employment among its priorities.

EVERETT — Spirits were high at the Everett Recovery Café as people talked, sang karaoke, and feasted on pizza and Italian sodas piled high with whipped cream.

People were there to do more than party last week, though. The gathering at 1212 California St. was to celebrate the launch of the Snohomish County Recovery Coalition, a group that will lobby for policy changes to support recovery from addiction.

The coalition, with around 40 members and counting, is a local chapter of the Washington Recovery Alliance doing similar work on a state level.

In the last legislative session, the alliance advocated for recovery support services to be included in the funding plan for the payout from settlements with opioid distributors and manufacturers. The alliance also opposed criminalizing drug possession, advocating for treatment and recovery services instead.

“Incarceration for drug possession rarely prompts behavior change,” reads the alliance’s website, “in part because one of the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder is continued use despite negative consequences.”

Among the Snohomish County coalition’s priorities are recovery housing and removing barriers to employment, said E.V. Velez, one of the coalition’s leaders. Coalition members want to make sure people get the resources they need to maintain their recovery, Velez said.

“We’re firm believers that the opposite of addiction is connection and community,” said Tristan Seikel, advocacy and programs director for the Washington Recovery Alliance.

Seikel, whose pronouns are they/he, emphasized the value of gathering spaces like the Recovery Café, which allow people to reach others who have lived through similar struggles. Big picture, they said, the group is fighting for a system that “supports recovery in all its forms.”

Different recovery options — from harm reduction to abstinence-based programs — should be accessible to everyone, they said.

Democratic state Rep. Lauren Davis, who is also strategy director for the Washington Recovery Alliance, was among those speaking at last week’s launch party.

“Now that I’m a legislator, I can tell you if we try to cut — ever — a single nursing home bed, you will never hear the end of it because it’ll be on the news,” said Davis, of Shoreline. “Everyone will make a huge fuss and it will never happen.”

But in 2014, when the alliance started, “there was no advocacy for our people,” she said.

Part of the alliance’s work is to shift the narrative about addiction.

“Recovery is not the exception, it’s actually the rule,” Davis said. “And we need to make that more prominent.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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