The toll addiction takes on a person’s life — family, friends, career, emotional and physical health, finances and personal safety — is staggering. Right now, more than 21 million Americans have some sort of substance abuse disorder. Despite the crushing effects addiction can have, only one person in every five of those suffering receives the help they need.
Fortunately, there are more reputable, quality organizations than ever before who are fighting this fight. They’re working hard every day to streamline access to treatment, to increase awareness about addiction and to support the families and communities who feel its impacts.
The following guide offers information about the best nonprofits that support addiction awareness and treatment throughout the U.S. and how to seek their help or join their efforts.
The Amy Winehouse Foundation
Named for the 27-year-old singer who tragically died in July 2011 from alcohol poisoning, The Amy Winehouse Foundation was founded by her family that same year to help other young people who are suffering with addiction. The organization works to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among young people through its Resilience Programme – an awareness and prevention program designed for schools to support vulnerable or at-risk populations through outreach efforts and music.
Other programs in the U.K. include a recovery and rehabilitation home, Amy’s Place, and a music studio, Amy’s Yard, where disadvantaged young people work one-on-one with a professional producer to nurture their talent. In the U.S., however, the foundation’s efforts focus primarily on drug prevention programs and rehabilitation services for children.
The foundation always needs volunteers to participate in its educational programs, to host fundraisers or simply to donate needed funds toward its cause. Whether you’re looking for help or want to get involved or contribute, the foundation’s website is a great place to start.
The Herren Project
Following NBA star Chris Herren’s life-threatening heroin overdose in 2008, he found himself without money or resources to help him overcome his addiction and restart his life. He regained his sobriety through support groups and a treatment program, and he became a lifeline for others coping with their own addictions. He founded The Herren Project in 2011 to answer the desperate call for assistance in taking those first steps toward recovery and sobriety.
The organization’s goals are to:
- Help addicts navigate the often confusing and overwhelming world of effective treatment through referrals and advocacy
- Educate youth and at-risk populations about healthy living and drug prevention
- Provide scholarships that give young people a head start toward healthy living and bright futures.
The Herren Project has several initiatives to accomplish these efforts, and they offer plenty of ways for anyone to get involved. They include:
- Project Purple: This initiative encourages people of all ages to “go purple” to stand up against drug and alcohol abuse, working to create a sober-friendly culture among youth by creating fun and sober events and parties. Anyone can start a Project Purple initiative in their community to spread the word about the importance of making good choices.
- Run for THP: The Herren Project sponsors a number of runs around the country to raise money for its various programs. Upon starting one in your community, The Herren Project will create a peer-to-peer website to support your efforts.
- Fundraising Events: Of course, individual donations of time and money are always welcome. However, anyone who wants to think bigger can work with The Herren Project on one of its many fundraising event ideas.
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
The focus of this organization is on helping families whose children are in the throes of substance abuse and preventing drug use among young people. It began as Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a public-service campaign formed in the 1980s by advertising professionals intent on “using their powers for good” by educating the public about the risks of drug use. Since then, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has not only grown its use of the media as a force for sharing powerful information about the ills of drug use, but it has also become one of the pre-eminent nonprofits that support addiction awareness and treatment.
Today, its efforts include connecting families with experts and treatment services, developing support groups where families share their struggles with abuse, conducting research-based education for youth and families, and doing advocacy work to improve treatment for and perceptions of addiction in this country. Its website offers valuable tools for families and mounds of valuable research and statistics about the effects of addiction on the brain and the resources that help.
You can get involved in a number of ways by:
- Signing a petition in support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)
- Making a donation to hosting a grassroots fundraiser
- Making connections to others in similar situations or to experts who can help
- Volunteering to help the Partnership advocate for fairer laws or increased funding
The Brent Shapiro Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Awareness
Renowned litigator Robert Shapiro and his wife Linell founded this organization after losing their son, Brent, to a drug overdose when he was only The Brent Shapiro Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Awareness exists to conquer dependence on drugs and alcohol by raising awareness through education, removing the stigma associated with the disease, providing support to parents in how to communicate with children and others about drugs and alcohol, and creating educational tools for parents, teachers and communities to intervene with those at risk for dependence. The foundation was deeply involved in passing the 911 Good Samaritan legislation in California that protects witnesses of drug overdoses if they call 911 or get the victim help.
Other efforts have included the publication of two children’s books that start thoughtful dialogue about drugs and alcohol, fundraising events, and a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club — Brent’s Club — to create a safe, fun, sober environment for teens. The organization is always looking for involvement through donations or participation in safe and sober events or other fundraisers.
After Gary Mendell’s son, Brian, committed suicide following a long struggle with drug addiction, Mendell created an organization whose ambitious mission is to end addiction. By setting measurable goals for reducing the number of people addicted to drugs and alcohol, reducing drug and alcohol-related deaths, and reducing the societal costs of addiction, Shatterproof is working to educate people about addiction and address gaps in funding and resources for treating the disease of addiction through its many advocacy efforts.
Though its initiatives are indeed ambitious in nature (the “Over the Edge” experience, for example, calls for participants to rappel down the side of a building to raise funds for addiction research), individual donations of any size are always welcome. Mendell is passionate about expressing that anyone can support these efforts simply by creating dialogue, spreading the word that addiction is a disease, and subscribing to newsletters of organizations like Shatterproof and others to stay updated about advocacy efforts and new research.
The Rosecrance Foundation
Originally founded as an orphanage for boys in Chicago in 1916, Rosecrance has since grown into a nonprofit comprehensive behavioral health network serving children, youth, adults and families who are affected by addiction. The Rosecrance Foundation raises money to build adolescent and adult recovery homes, to support maternal/child programs, to establish teen programs, and to create endowments that help pay for needed treatment. The foundation encourages giving in the form of cash, stocks or bequests.
Angels at Risk
When Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl attended a summit for all schools in West Los Angeles in 1998, which highlighted the crisis of drug and alcohol use among area teens, a movement formed to open dialogue about the issue and harness the power of storytelling and education to head off addiction. The nonprofit Angels at Risk was formed in 2007 and is still primarily an LA-based organization, though its efforts have traveled across the country.
It has since gathered a cadre of celebrity supporters, including Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Tobey and Jennifer Maguire, Robyn Moore, Mel Gibson, and Robert Belushi. The organization provides teen assemblies and parent education meetings in schools as well as counseling and support groups. Funds also are earmarked for scholarships for counseling services. Donations help the nonprofit to spread its message and fund educational opportunities in schools and communities.
So many nonprofit organizations are founded following personal losses — Natural High is no different. Jon Sundt realized, after losing his two younger brothers to drugs, that many of the campaigns aimed at preventing youth drug abuse are ineffective. He set out to create a more powerful method to speaking to youth, which involves partnering with drug-free celebrity role models and having them share their stories of success. The goal of the organization is to encourage young people to identify and pursue their natural high and turn away from using substances.
The organization’s website offers a platform for young people to share their own natural highs and connect with others who are drug-free. It also provides free educational tools — videos and standards-based curriculum — for sparking discussion in the classroom and at home. Donations support and help grow these efforts, but they aren’t the only way to get involved. Sharing or passing along others’ stories helps to spread the word about the power of a natural high.
To Write Love on Her Arms
Though many of the organizations on this list directly target substance abuse prevention and addiction treatment, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is different. It was the brainchild of Jamie Tworkowski, who wrote a story entitled “To Write Love on Her Arms” about the five days he spent with friend Renee Yohe before she entered a drug rehab treatment center. She had been denied access because she had recently cut herself with a razor blade and had open wounds. He opted to open his home to her as a place to detox, and spent five days watching her cope with the anguish of detoxification, self-injury through cutting, self-loathing, and depression associated with her disease.
TWLOHA emerged as a nonprofit movement committed to helping people who struggle with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts by encouraging, informing, inspiring and investing in their treatment and recovery. It does this by responding to and sharing the inspiring and relatable stories of others, creating and distributing suicide prevention packs, donating money to treatment and recovery programs and funding counseling practices. When Renee Yohe was staying at Tworkowski’s home, he sold T-shirts to raise money for her treatment — today, TWLOHA still sells T-shirts to raise money for its programs.
You’re encouraged to share your own story on the website, bring a TWLOHA chapter to your community or arrange a speaker at an event, participate in one of its campaigns or fundraising events, start a fundraising campaign, or purchase a shirt, hat, jewelry or books through its online store.
Faces and Voices of Recovery
So often, the people most affected by alcohol and drug abuse problems are those absent from policy discussions. In 2001, a group of 200 people representing the national recovery community met at a summit in St. Paul, MN, and they became an advocacy force of people in long-term recovery from addiction, as well as their families, friends and allies. They solidified their efforts by forming Faces and Voices of Recovery, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting understanding about addiction and recovery, improving delivery of treatment services, streamlining access to needed resources, and addressing public policy to reduce discrimination associated with addiction and better support those affected by addiction.
The organization’s website suggests numerous personal, social or political ways to get involved in their efforts, including:
- Endorsing the Recovery Bill of Rights and committing to supporting the right to treatment and advocacy
- Hosting or attending a recovery message training in your community
- Learning about and signing the CARA
- Bringing Face & Voices content and messaging to existing events
- Attending rallies
- Submitting personal stories of recovery or reading the stories of others
- Donating to the organization
This innovative organization takes an unusual approach to the addiction recovery and rehabilitation process. Philadelphia-based Gearing Up provides women in transition from abuse, addiction and/or incarceration with the skills, tools and guidance they need to ride bikes safely for exercise, transportation or personal growth. By pedaling their way to empowerment, women grow healthier and more confident and discover new means by which to travel, connect with others, or gain the benefits of exercise.
By persisting in riding up tough hills, getting back on the bike after falling off, or following the rules of the road, participants learn to turn their unhealthy habits into healthy ones and gain skills that help them on their bikes and in life. Women who stay sober and pedal 100 miles earn their own bike and maintenance kit.
Donations are of course welcome, but getting involved doesn’t have to mean pulling out your wallet. It might mean volunteering time to participate in a group ride in and around the Philadelphia area or participating in one of the organization’s off-the-bike events or fundraisers. Or you could donate bikes or bicycle gear and clothing.
Legal Action Center
Even when a person has completed an addiction treatment plan and returned to sobriety, his or her battle may only just be beginning. The stigma associated with addiction to drugs or alcohol is an issue that not only prevents many sufferers from seeking treatment, but it may also prevent a successful return to life after treatment. This stigma is a public health issue, leading to prejudice, avoidance and discrimination. In fact, the public generally does not support measures that provide insurance, housing or employment for those suffering from addiction.
This discrimination and lack of supportive policies has been challenged for four decades by the Legal Action Center, the nation’s only nonprofit organization that works solely to advocate for and fight discrimination against people with addiction histories, HIV/AIDS or criminal records.
Overwhelmingly, LAC’s clients are low-income people of color who struggle with high rates of incarceration and punitive drug policies. The organization fights to present precedent-setting litigation and develop supportive policies, including numerous important legal protections for those with alcohol and drug histories as well as increased funding for addiction treatment, recovery and research. You can show your support for the LAC by making a donation or attending the Arthur Liman Public Interest Awards Benefit, which acknowledges superior achievement in addressing issues relating to addiction, criminal justice or HIV/AIDS.
While recovery often takes place in privately owned or corporate facilities, the Oxford House is a nonprofit organization that provides resources needed to start and operate a self-supporting, democratically run, drug-free home.
Residents range in number from six to 15, with some for men, some for women and some for women and children, all seeking self-help for sobriety. Through the supportive structure provided at an Oxford House, residents benefit from a low-cost, drug-free environment that helps stave off relapse and eases the transition into a healthy life.
There are currently more than 2,000 Oxford Houses in the U.S. today. Contributions support the existing network of houses, the telephone help line, or the efforts to provide alcoholics and those with drug addictions the opportunity to find a comfortable sobriety without relapse.
How Do You Find the Nonprofit That’s Right for You?
The number of nonprofit organizations working to aid those affected by drug or alcohol addiction is so numerous, there’s no way to list them all here. It’s important to find the organization whose mission and activities most closely align with your own.
Start your research by looking into the history and credibility of any organization you’re interested in with the following resources:
- Charity Navigator: Billing itself as “a guide to intelligent giving,” Charity Navigator provides extensive information into finances, transparency, programs, missions and more on thousands of charities nationwide.
- GuideStar: Acting as a comprehensive source of information about U.S. charities and nonprofits, GuideStar maintains a list of more than 8,000 nonprofits dedicated to addiction and substance abuse.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine: Sometimes it’s hard to know where to locate resources in your area, or who handles what types of issues or programs. The ASAM maintains a thorough list of resources that may be your go-to starting gate for information about organizations that handle advocacy and government relations, public policy, professional development, treatment and recovery, public education and more.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse or addiction, contact 12 Keys Rehab today to get help.