FM recovery groups form an alliance to serve the community and each other

(Valley News Live) - "I really think there isn't a family in our community that hasn't been affected one way or another – by someone who has an issue in which they're searching to have recovery," says Pastor John Roberts, with the Recovery Worship Congregation.

From drugs and drinking to gambling and over eating - almost everyone knows someone who needs help, but not everyone knows where to get it or how. Now, there's a plan to fix that. More than a dozen local recovery groups are working together to create an alliance where they can lean on each other to help those in need and create healthier communities.

"There's so many helpful people, so many wonderful agencies seeking to provide support for people who are desiring recovery, and collaborating together - having an alliance – would just really improve those services," Roberts says.

But the alliance can do more than help with referrals and short term projects. Organizers say it can benefit the community in the long run by keeping providers in their care-giving roles.

"Compassionate fatigue is something that happens to caregivers many times when they are putting their emotions aside to take care of others. They just continue to burn the candle at both ends trying to help – and sooner or later, it does catch up to them," says Kristi Ulrich, the Director of Fargo Operations with Face it Together Fargo-Moorhead. "It can be detrimental to their health. Sometimes they have symptoms similar to PTSD. And so it's really important for people that are caregivers to take care of themselves, first and foremost, in order to help others."

It's something Roberts understands because he's been through it.

"It's easy to forget to do that when you see so many around you that are in such desperate need. But it's really important to care for yourself," he says. "My own personal experience was I hit a point where I needed to stop for a while. It was because I wasn't taking care of myself. But found ways, got help, found ways, and I have come back in."

But that's not always the case. Compassionate fatigue and burn-out can end careers. Experts say about one in four mental health and addiction professionals leave their jobs because of it - which is something the F-M area can't afford.

"The treatment centers in Fargo-Moorhead are begging for licensed addiction counselors. There just aren't enough people to do the work," Roberts says.

Collaborators say the alliance lets providers know they're not alone - and that can give them the strength to keep fighting for everyone.

"There's enough people in this community that are suffering and need help – that as caregivers and those that are helping, we need to remove the silos and work together. And really network together, because some issue that I may be having with the compassion fatigue, one of my colleagues may be having it as well and being able to work through that together is really important," Ulrich says. "We're all in this together."

"It's really helpful to know that you're not the only one doing the work. Your work load may not change, but if you have the sense you are part of a community that's working to bring solutions – that eases the burden," says Roberts. "An alliance of folks who are doing this helpful work could certainly provide for care for people and encouragement and support and accountability for self-care for those who are providing the services. An alliance would be awesome in helping with that."

The alliance's next meeting is February 20th at the Lost and Found Recovery Center.

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