The focus of the fifth Recovery Reinvented program will be on building support groups in the workplace, according to Kathryn Burgum, first lady of North Dakota and event organizer.

"We are concentrating on building support in the workplace because that is not the usual place support comes from," she said. "Addiction is a brain disease, whether it is drugs, alcohol, gambling, whatever it is, it affects the brain."

The recovery process from addiction differs from person to person although the first step is often seeking help, Burgum said. What Recovery Reinvented tries to do is increase the awareness and reduce the stigma attached to addiction so more people seek the help they need.

"We might be turning a corner in awareness," she said, referring to awareness of addiction and mental health problems by the public. "I think we are making progress in reducing that stigma."

Those efforts suffered a setback during the coronavirus pandemic.

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"The pandemic increased the struggles for people facing substance abuse and mental health issues," Burgum said. "That is why we have this event, so people know they are not alone."

Over its five-year history, Recovery Reinvented has grown each year, she said.

"A lot of returning people but also a lot of new people," Bergum said. "People from around the world join in with us. This is a worldwide issue."

This year's Recovery Reinvented will be held beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 25 at the Bismarck Event Center. People may attend in person or online. The event is free and open to the public although anyone participating is asked to preregister for planning purposes, Burgum said. A free lunch is provided to in-person attendees. The program wraps up at about 5 p.m. that day.

"Every year we do things differently," Burgum said. "We try to find different ways to reach out to people to eliminate the stigma. By eliminating the stigma, it gives people the courage to reach out for help."

The event includes stories of recovery told by state and national experts, tips on creating recovery-friendly cultures in the workplace and community and ways to eliminate the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction.

The keynote speaker is Joseph Lee, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and a nationally known expert on addiction and treatment. The event will also include a Recovery Resources Expo, which will connect people to a wide variety of addiction, recovery and mental health resources from across the state.

The event is geared toward a variety of people including medical and social services professionals as well as the families of those facing addiction problems, Statistics show the largest category of attendees for the 2020 Recovery Reinvented event was family members of people impacted by addiction.

A poll of those that attended the 2020 event found 81% were more inclined to seek help and support if they are struggling after attending and 93% felt they were better equipped to support a colleague, friend or family member who is struggling with addiction.

Problems of addiction are continuing in North Dakota. Burgum said about half of all arrests in North Dakota are alcohol or drug-related and 75% of the people in the North Dakota prison system have an addiction.

"We continue to reach out to people in difficult situations," she said. "Eliminating the stigma does give people the courage to reach out for help."