On the night of Wednesday, January 11, 2023, members of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) met with 23 individuals from across the country to kick off their newly founded Lived Experience Council. The meeting was led by Zoe Grover, PAARI Executive Director, Steve Jesi, PAARI Executive Board member, Travis Rapoza, PAARI Program Manager, and Holli Milner, PAARI Police Outreach Recovery Corps Member.
The meeting kicked off with PAARI staff members administering a brief overview of PAARI’s ongoing programs and their primary initiatives for the Council. The Lived Experience Council, which will now meet virtually on a monthly basis, was formed to bring together inspirational individuals who have been affected by substance use disorder but may not have access to decision-making surrounding the epidemic.
PAARI staff members recognized a gap in their process to form new initiatives and believe that utilizing the opinions and judgment of those directly affected by substance use disorder will strengthen the success of current programs and those yet to come. The council will be built into PAARI’s leadership and decision-making structure to help give a voice to those closest to the problem, and to find effective and long-term solutions.
“You are going to be a sounding board. Your opinion will matter,” said Steve Jesi, while addressing the group last night.
At this first meeting, participants were able to share their personal stories and their inspiration behind getting involved in the council. Many of the attendees have been fighting this epidemic for years, and PAARI is extremely grateful for their participation and willingness to continue to fight on behalf of themselves and their loved ones.
“I am here to learn and to be in the same group as grieving families. I am here to fight this,” said one participant after introducing themselves and declaring their reason for joining the council.
Because of the overwhelming response PAARI received to a call for council applicants, they have reworked the format. If a participant attends 7 out of 12 total monthly council meetings on a rolling basis, they will be considered an official member of the Lived Experience Council. As the meetings progress, members will potentially have the opportunity to join in on PAARI Board meetings and PAARI’s existing Public Safety Council, which is composed of leaders in law enforcement that are tackling diversion and deflection programs in their communities.
We believe those closest to a problem sometimes have the best solutions. If you are interested in applying to join the council, apply at: https://bit.ly/livedexperiencecouncil
Written by: Isabella Nowak