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LGBTQ centered substance abuse recovery group launches in Mansfield

a pride flag
Elizabeth Winterbourne
The first substance abuse recovery group centered on the LGBTQ community in Mansfield is launching this week.

A community health center is starting the first LGBTQ substance abuse recovery group in the Mansfield area.

Third Street Family Health Services is hosting the peer lead recovery group called Proud Sobriety.

Meri McCann with Third Street is helping to facilitate the group. It’s important for the LGBTQ community to have a safe space to recover from substance abuse, she said, especially since it’s more prevalent in their community.

“Studies have shown they’re about four times as likely to deal with substance use disorders," McCann said.

According to Mental Health America, more than 39% of the LGBTQ community reports dealing with a mental illness.

"A lot of times people who deal with depression and anxiety they're also at higher risk for developing substance use disorders," McCann said.

The group will begin meeting on Fridays starting this week at Grace Episcopal Church. The group will support anyone at any stage of their sobriety journey, McCann said.

“We support all paths to recovery, and it’s not faith based even though it’s happening in a church," McCann said.

Although there are other recovery services members of the LGBTQ community can access, they may not be the best choice for everyone.

“Services are open to members of the LGBTQ community," McCann said. "They’re available, but the thing is: are people comfortable? You know, are members of the LGBTQ comfortable accessing these?”

For McCann, this designated space is integral to members of the LGBTQ community struggling with substance abuse.

"I feel like it's important with this to open it up and say, 'We welcome you. We want you to come here. This is for you,'" McCann said.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, members of the LGBTQ community are almost twice as likely to suffer from a substance abuse disorder.

This approach is unique for an area like Mansfield, Ohio Peer Recovery Organizations Executive Director Michael Krause said.

"Lots of communities have LGBTQ 12-step meetings, but what's happening in Mansfield is certainly more unique," Krause said.

He's heard of similar support groups starting in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland but not in smaller communities like Mansfield.

"This is certainly unique especially given the size of Mansfield," Krause said.

This support is definitely needed for the LGBTQ community across the state, he said.

"There are pockets of similar programs across the state but probably a much greater need for them exists," Krause said.

A strong support system is the key to recovery from substance abuse, McCann said, and she hopes she can facilitate that for her community.

"It's just so important that we help them to build that network that they need so that they can achieve whatever goals they have," McCann said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please call the addiction recovery hotline: 1-877-275-6364.

Updated: January 25, 2023 at 2:54 PM EST
This story has been updated to include additional information from Ohio Peer Recovery Organizations.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.