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Local unity event recognizes recovery
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Unify North Georgia
What: Recovery Month Celebration
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Laurel Park on Lake Lanier, 3100 Old Cleveland Highway, Gainesville
Cost: Free
More info: Cindy Driggers, 404-938-7843

The public is invited to celebrate the benefits of treating mental illness and substance abuse in a free event called Unify North Georgia.

In recognition of National Recovery Month, Unify North Georgia will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Laurel Park on Lake Lanier as a community effort hosted by the Collaborative Recovery Committee, according to Cindy Driggers, regional director for Benchmark Human Services.

Driggers said Benchmark is funded by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and is required to hold a community collaborative with area behavioral health agencies.

“This is our community collaborative,” Driggers said. “... We’ve got lots and lots of people who are involved in making this happen.”

Jose Galaviz, with the Benchmark mobile crisis team, said the event is designed to increase public understanding of recovery services.

“The purpose is to make people more aware and provide education about people who are recovering from substance abuse or mental health issues,” Galaviz said.

The event will include recovery stories and discussions with experts, as well as attractions for the rest of the family including a bounce house, live music, face painting and free hot dogs and chips.

Galaviz said Benchmark works with the Georgia Crisis Access line to respond to calls of emotional distress, a service provided by the state.

“It is for people who are thinking about suicide or just need assistance, those kinds of emotional issues,” he said. “They dispatch us and we go and meet with the individual wherever they are.”

Benchmark workers recommend treatment in many cases, depending on the individual’s need, be it counseling or therapeutic services, according to Galaviz.

Driggers said the event is meant to shed light on suicide, mental health issues, substance abuse issues and recovery from such issues.

“I think we’ve accepted that there is recovery for people with substance abuse, but recovery for people with mental illness is a whole new concept,” she said. “For a lot of people, they think once you are mentally ill there is no chance for a good life. But actually at Benchmark, I employ certified peer specialists, or people who are in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse.”

Galaviz said he encourages everyone in the community to attend the event to be educated on local recovery services and the good they do in the community. He said it is also important for people to know there is help available for everyone in the state, regardless of insurance or income.

“We have agencies here in Georgia that provide to individuals even if they don’t have insurance or income,” he said. “It’s very accessible.”

Driggers said she hopes for a big turnout because Benchmark wants to “give people hope” through the event.

“We want to give people hope and we want to educate, because there’s just a lack of education on the subject,” she said.

Regional events