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Event takes steps to erase addiction stigma


Erase the Stigma, Steps to Recovery Homes’ second annual mental health and addiction awareness event, took place at the Cottonwood Recreation Center Saturday, June 24, attracting people from across the region.

The event, which was free and open to the public, featured 28 resource booths from advocacy, charity and health care-related organizations. Food, drinks and day passes to the rec center were handed out to attendees for free.

Steps to Recovery Homes co-founder Damien Browning estimated the turnout at approximately 175 people.

“I think it went very well,” Browning said, adding that the event was intended to be a service to the community — a benefit for rural Arizona, which continues to struggle with addiction and mental illness, as well as the stigma attached to those who suffer from the conditions.

“It was a win-win for everybody.”

The event featured seven experts speaking on subjects including grief, trauma and community awareness.

“Forty-two million people suffer from mental illness and 24 million suffer from addiction every day in this nation, and the stigma surrounding these illnesses keeps them living in the dark, suffering alone,” Browning said. “Solutions are available. However, first we need to give them the strength to reach out and resources to turn to.”

The city of Cottonwood placed its resources behind the event, endorsing Browning’s efforts by waving the rec center’s usual rental and setup fees for the event. Founded by couple Damien and Anne Browning, Steps to Recovery Homes is in its fourth year of operation.

The Brownings oversee two Cottonwood homes, one that houses eight men and another that houses five women. Last year, the operation packed up and moved to its office in Clemencau Plaza.

At the Steps to Recovery Homes office, founders Damien and Anne Browning welcome applicants to its addiction recovery program and help train volunteers. At Miracles Happen, the nonprofit’s resale store two doors down, current and former participants in the recovery program sort, pick up, label and sell used items.

“Steps to Recovery Homes witnesses the battle every single day and is hosting Erase the Stigma event in collaboration with many other organizations in Arizona who are committed to helping those who suffer with mental health problems and addiction,” Damien Browning said. “The more we, as a society, understand the unique challenges of mental health and addiction the more we can all help those that have these issues and the safer our communities will become.” 

In the wake of Erase the Stigma, Browning said he has received a number of requests from organizations across Northern Arizona to host similar events.

“This is about helping our whole community,” Browning said, adding that he recently evaluated Steps to Recovery Homes’ yearly statistics and was pleased by the outcome. “Out of 245 people
that have come into our program, 48 percent are leading a better life ... That’s making a core difference.”

Browning invites parties interested in volunteer opportunities to stop by Steps to Recovery Homes at 516 State Route 89A, or contact Browning at (928) 592-2603.

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