Open Letter From Major John Donovan of Recovery Community Network

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The following is a letter from Major John G. Donovan of Recovery Community Network.

Over two decades ago “Big Pharma” introduced a new pain medication to the market. It was known as OxyContin. It was marketed as a breakthrough in pain management as it was highly effective in relieving pain and it was non-addictive. Doctors prescribed, drugstores supplied and the opioid epidemic was born.

Recently the State Attorney General, Keith Ellison held a listening session in St. Cloud, MN.  During his address he talked about opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and three of the nation’s largest opioid distributors, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen.  These pharmaceutical companies have agreed to a $26 billion settlement, including $303 million that will go to Minnesota, for prevention, recovery, harm reduction and other options to address the opioid epidemic.

As the Director of the Recovery Community Network (RCN), I have witnessed firsthand how individuals, families and communities have been devastated by these predatory pharmaceutical practices. It is only right and just that “Big Pharma” be held to account for their role in this plague that has ravaged our nation.

However, what is equally important is that people in recovery and Recovery Community Organizations have a voice in how to best use these funds. We have data, best-practices, lived experiences and evidenced based solutions on how to address this problem. As our moto goes, “Nothing About Us Without Us.”

For those of you who might not be familiar with Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs), we are nonprofit organizations led and governed by people in recovery. We do not provide clinical services or treatment. Instead, we offer a flexible model of free, ongoing peer recovery support services, education and advocacy for individuals, families and communities affected by substance use disorder. RCOs honor and support all pathways to recovery, including harm reduction strategies, and we work across systems such as criminal justice or housing to remove barriers to recovery.  Our sole mission is to mobilize resources within and outside of the recovery community to increase the prevalence and quality of long-term recovery.  We do this primarily through public education, advocacy, and/or peer-to-peer recovery support services.

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Additionally, in its comprehensive plan to reform the substance use disorder treatment system in Minnesota released in 2017, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) stated: “It is necessary to transform our state’s substance use disorder (SUD) treatment system from an acute, episodic model of treatment to a chronic disease, longitudinal model of care. Creating a person-centered recovery-oriented system of care in Minnesota will expand and enhance the nature of services available for substance use disorder, while improving integration and coordination with the rest of health care.” Recovery Community Organizations like the RCN represent a large portion of this person-centered recovery-oriented system of care in Minnesota.

In the weeks and months to come, county and civic leaders will hold talks about how to use these settlement funds.  It is imperative to include the “recovery community” in these discussions.  Not only do we need to hear from healers, but we need to hear from those who have been harmed. “Nothing About Us Without Us.”

Maj. John G. Donovan, M.Ed., C.P.R.S.
Director, Recovery Community Network


Maj. John Donovan is a person in long-term recovery with over forty years of abstinence. He is the director of the Recovery Community Network and is the author of the book, “A Soldier’s Recovery Journey”.  

Last Updated on August 1, 2022

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