By Angie Geren

In the November 2016 edition of Together AZ I wrote, “It is OUR time, we need to be the voice for those with none, we need to be the lighthouse for those searching, we need to be the driving force to change the conversation, we need to stand up and say, “I’m in recovery and I refuse to stay silent anymore.” 
January begins our legislative season, and it’s imperative we come together and advocate for change. Historically, those affected by addiction have not been represented in the legislative process. We were a demographic easily ignored and dismissed. As the opiate crisis continues to expand and overdose deaths continue to rise, we can no longer sit idle. Last year 35 people represented all of us by meeting with legislators and advocating for key legislation at our Addiction and Recovery Advocacy Day. I know we can easily double our attendance this year on January 11, 2018! It was clear we are being heard and have support from many legislators, however, we cannot rest on our laurels. The legislative process is long, arduous and requires diligence and support through the process.
Quick breakdown of bill process: first read, second read, committees, Committee of the Whole, Caucus, third read, vote and on to either Senate or House to repeat the process before being sent to the Governor’s desk for signature and then the law won’t go into effect for another 6-8 months. This allows for bad legislation to get changed and stopped along the way, it requires us to follow the bills and make sure good legislation has support through the entire process.
Many new bills are being introduced that could have a profound impact changing the conversation around recovery and addiction. Some bills directly affect the way addiction treatment works, ie., banning patient brokering, sober living regulations, and a Good Samaritan Bill that would not punish those who call emergency responders in a case of overdose with drug violations. These big changes need our support and voice. Legislators need to see people in recovery, they need our stories to shift their perceptions that we are “junkies” who will never amount to anything.
Advocating takes on many forms, from meeting one on one with your legislators to calling or emailing. The process can seem daunting and for those of us who have been let down by the “system” it can be very scary, however we are here to help shift your perception also! 
We need YOU, please join us at  to find out how to become involved, read the bills that we are advocating for, and create change in our communities.