Oct 1, 2021
Employers have a role in creating a work culture that supports addiction recovery, according to Jonathan Holth, a Grand Forks business owner celebrating more than 13 years of sobriety.
Holth will be sharing his experience and offering insight into recovery-friendly workplaces as keynote speaker at this year’s Recovery Reinvented on Monday, Oct. 25.
Last year’s event, held entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drew more than 5,000 people over the course of the day from across the United States and several other countries. Free to the public thanks to private sponsors, the 2021 Recovery Reinvented will be offered as a hybrid event, with in-person activities at the Bismarck Event Center and a livestream. Activities run from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Holth echoes the message of Recovery Reinvented that addiction is OK to talk about. It’s also important that workplaces not shy away from the topic, said Holth, 43, an owner in three Toasted Frog restaurants in North Dakota. He also serves on the advisory council for the Office of Recovery Reinvented and on various local boards in Grand Forks.
“I really feel like we have work to do in society in creating safer places for people in recovery, in terms of workplace cultures, event cultures, organizational cultures, to make it so that if somebody decides that they want to be sober, that they feel comfortable, and they feel safe and that they can share that with other people without retribution,” Holth said.
A Grand Forks native who spent time in Minot, Bismarck and Fargo before gravitating back to his hometown, Holth and a partner opened the first Toasted Frog restaurant in Grand Forks in May 2006. Additional locations opened in Bismarck in 2010 and Fargo in 2014.
During that time, Holth found himself drinking more. Because of his drinking, he wasn’t being a good boss, friend or business partner or even a good son and brother, he said.
“I’d known for some time that I needed help, but like many others facing addiction. I also I think had at the back of my head that I could turn it around myself,” he said.
His situation continued to worsen until May of 2008, when he had an intense conversation with his family and business partner and ultimately checked into treatment. He said he came out of 28 days of treatment excited about life for the first time in a long time. From the beginning, he has been open about his addiction and recovery experience, he said.
At the Toasted Frog, there is an openness to discuss addiction and no judgment if an employee decides to seek treatment.
“One of the things that prevents people from going to treatment oftentimes is fear of losing their jobs if they come forward,” Holth said. “We’ve put a policy in place that says if you need to get help, you’re not going to lose your job. You have a job waiting for you, no questions asked, whether you’ve been employed with us for one month or 10 years.
“Another reason they don’t go to treatment is that they fear that if they don’t work for 30 days, then they’re not going to be able to pay their bills and they’ll lose their apartment or they’ll have their electricity turned off. We overcome that barrier by telling people if you’d like to go to treatment, we’re going to pay you while you’re in treatment as well, so you don’t have to sacrifice financial well-being for your own overall well-being,” he added.
Taking that approach, the Toasted Frog has seen employees successfully complete treatment and return to work as productive, healthy people, which is what matters most, Holth said.
Holth also advocates for replacing a culture of happy hours.
“If you’re hosting events and you don’t have ample beverage choices, what kind of message are you sending to people that don’t drink?” said Holth, who notes the difficulty this creates for people in recovery. “You feel like a little bit of an outcast, and like you don’t matter, and I think that’s where stigma can creep in and make people uncomfortable. But I came out of treatment and made the decision that this is part of who I am and it’s not something that I’m going to be ashamed of.”
Recovery Reinvented will highlight the experiences of North Dakotans representing various perspectives, who will share their stories of battling addiction, finding recovery, supporting a loved one or dealing with the shame and stigma surrounding addiction. The event is hosted by Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum, who has been open about her personal journey with alcohol addiction and recovery.
“The whole reason we started this event was to help eliminate stigma, and we believe that storytelling is what helps eliminate stigma. This year we have a lot of people from across our state that will be providing stories, either from the stage or through video,” Kathryn Burgum said.
This year’s event will include the results and analysis from the North Dakota Addressing Addiction Survey. About 2,400 North Dakotans participated in the survey, created to better understand the knowledge and attitudes people hold about addiction and recovery. Valerie Earnshaw, a social psychologist from the University of Delaware and the principal investigator on the survey, will offer insights into the data and what communities can do to address the challenges of addiction.
Kathryn Burgum said a 2018 North Dakota survey, while less comprehensive, can provide a point of comparison on whether attitudes are changing.
“The more we know about how people are thinking about the disease of addiction and stigma in our state, the more we can address specific gaps and figure out solutions for the communities across North Dakota,” Burgum said.
Other event speakers include Joseph Lee, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation’s largest nonprofit treatment provider, and Laurie Johnson Wade, co-founder of Lost Dreams Awakening and national board member of Faces and Voices of Recovery. In addition to the livestream, speakers will be recorded for later online viewing.
Burgum said normalizing the conversation around addiction can help to reduce the overdose risk by creating a supportive environment for people to seek help. In 2020, drug-related overdoses claimed 188 lives in North Dakota, up from 79 deaths in 2019, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. As of mid-September, the Minot Police Department reported investigating 12 overdose deaths this year, compared to 19 in total in 2020.
Free naloxone, the opioid-overdose reversing agent, and training in its use will be provided to Recovery Reinvented attendees for use in their communities.
Additionally, this year’s event will bring back the popular Recovery Resources Expo, connecting attendees to a variety of addiction, recovery and mental health resources. Burgum said an effort is being made to make Expo participants available to online viewers, too.
Whether attending online or in person, people should register on the website, recoveryreinvented.com. People also can go to the website to sign up if interested in volunteering at the event or if they wish to nominate an individual or group making an impact in the field of addiction and recovery to receive a #RecoveryChampion Award.
Behavioral health conference set for Oct. 26-27
BISMARCK — Behavioral health and strong families are the cornerstones of a conference to follow the Oct. 25 Recovery Reinvented event in Bismarck.
The North Dakota Department of Human Services’ Behavioral Health and Children and Families Service divisions are combining their annual conferences this year into a single event that blends behavioral health and family well-being and resiliency topics. It is scheduled for Oct. 26-27 in the Bismarck Event Center and will be livestreamed.
Keynote speakers include:
— Author and podcast creator Nora McInerny will speak on adding levity to difficult and uncomfortable conversations.
— Long-time child welfare professional Matt Gebhardt from Casey Family Program will discuss the transformation of North Dakota’s child welfare system and what this means for supporting families and keeping children safe.
— Joyce Marter, licensed clinical professional counselor and founder of Urban Balance, will speak on ways individuals can support their mental health and build healthy relationships.
— Author and podcaster John Moe will explore society’s reluctance to discuss mental illness and offer ways to overcome the stigma.
— Ben Nemtin, author and cast member of the MTV reality show “The Buried Life,” will draw on his experience in managing depression and share how to rethink mental health to build resilience and lower stress.
The two-day conference will feature workshops on topics such as understanding cannabis use on parenting and child safety, trauma-informed care, reducing stigma in pregnant and parenting women with substance use disorders, housing first, equity and personal and unconscious bias.
Registration is $175, or $25 for university students and foster and adoptive parents. Registration includes attendance at a virtual ethics course to be held on a later date.
To register or learn more, visit behavioralhealth.nd.gov/conference.
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Oct 1, 2021