For the October edition of our AveaCares Lunch & Learn series, we had the pleasure of hosting Tony Vezina, executive director of 4th Dimension Recovery Center, a Portland-based nonprofit organization that operates under the peer service model.
"4D is a group of young people in recovery who mentor other young people seeking recovery," Tony said. "A lot of young people in recovery have a skepticism toward institutions. They know [at 4D] we’re also in recovery, and that we're not a part of that."
Founded in 2012, 4D provides services for over 600 individuals on a monthly basis, all of whom come to the center voluntarily. Ranging from adolescence up to age 35, young people come to 4D not only to participate in support groups and youth leadership programs, but also to take part in social activities like dances and karaoke nights with others in recovery.
Tony's own experiences helped inspire his decision to found 4D and become a certified recovery mentor.
"Five years ago, I was a heroin user who committed petty crimes. I was the person on the street you may have thought was schizophrenic, begging for money and holding a sign. Then I went to residential treatment and Portland Community College, where I started a recovery club and got involved in student government. I learned how to use my voice, and how to increase my self-efficacy through practical experience."
Tony and 4D are also involved with Oregon Recovers, "a new statewide campaign to take Oregon from last to first in access to addiction treatment and recovery support services."
"When I was strung out on the street, I often wanted to get clean," Tony said. "I would try to get into treatment, but they’d be like, 'Sure, we can get you in in three weeks. Can you make it to 17 different appointments and talk to 15 different people?' And I'd say, 'No! I’m shooting heroin on the street and barely surviving…I need to get in right now!'"
Currently, Oregon is ranked 51st in providing access to addiction treatment. The Oregon Recovers campaign hopes to shift this ranking with a two-pronged strategy that engages state government on one hand, and the grassroots recovery community on the other.
"It’s not too much to ask to have these services available immediately, like they offer in emergency rooms," Tony said. "If you’re having a heart attack, you don’t have to schedule an appointment for two weeks down the road to see somebody. You go to the emergency room and they help you. That’s what we’re saying needs to happen with behavioral health, specifically addictions treatment."
Tony concluded by emphasizing the vital role centers like 4D play in helping young people along the road to recovery.
"The power of peer services is instilling hope through our own stories. I’m lucky to have a job that’s spiritually fulfilling. I encourage people to do whatever it is they like to do. It’s about supporting people’s motivation to change. That's what 4D's all about."
On Thursday, November 30th, Avea Solutions will be hosting Talk! About It, a fundraising event for 4D in conjunction with Willamette Week's 2017 Give!Guide. Tony will be a featured speaker, as well as Oregon Recovers co-founders Mike Marshall and Brent Canode. Admission for the event is $20, payable at the door or via 4D's page on the Give!Guide website.