Friends and family remembered victims of alcoholism and drug addiction Monday night during Santa Barbara’s second-annual candlelight procession.
The Santa Barbara Community Recovery Network held the vigil to illuminate the lives of those who have died of alcoholism and substance abuse. Approximately 40 community members gathered at the New House III recovery center on Bath Street to share their stories. Following a moment of silence for deceased family members and friends, the procession moved to Burtness Auditorium at Cottage Hospital, where a panel of speakers discussed the need for better treatment facilities in Santa Barbara County.
Sonya Baker, the community coordinator for the Recovery Network, spoke to the audience about Santa Barbara County’s current lack of a treatment policy for alcoholics and drug addicts.
"We need a policy for the county," Baker said. "Policy drives what our elected officials have to do."
Speakers at Cottage Hospital talked about the responsibility of the Santa Barbara community to provide adequate treatment to those who need it.
"People often think of addiction as somebody else’s problem, but it’s really a community problem," Baker said. "We need to put a face on recovery. We need to make elected officials aware of the need for this kind of treatment. Large crowds at these events send a message."
Alex Brumbaugh, project director for the Community Recovery Network, said the network is working with the Santa Barbara County Dept. of Health to ensure treatment is available to more people. The stigma attached to addiction makes people hesitant to seek treatment, Brumbaugh said.
"Alcoholism and drug addiction affect people across all income levels and nationalities," he said. "We need to bring awareness to the community that alcoholism and drug addiction are not moral failings. They are illnesses that people can recover from. No one has to make the journey alone," Brumbaugh said.
Jim Shepard, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, talked to the audience at Cottage Hospital about the importance of local community support for programs like the Community Recovery Network.
"We’re all in this together," he said. "I don’t want to bury any more people."