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Together we thrive: C4’s first Recovery Fest

C4’s Substance Use & Recovery department put on its first public event last Thursday to bring the community out for a Recovery Month celebration. 


Recovery Month, observed each September, celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. This observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover. 


Recovery Fest brought C4’s SUR services to the community’s attention, along with food, music provided by C4’s own DJ Tree, and the chance to learn more about harm reduction. Guests talked to staff members, connected with the Chicago Department of Public Health and C4 partner Riveredge Hospital, picked up harm reduction supplies such as Narcan and fentanyl testing strips, and participated in a memorial art activity. 


A Recovery Fest attendee shows off the art piece they created during the event.


Attendees were a mix of North Center locals and current and prospective clients, many of whom arrived on a bus from Mercy Housing, a partner organization of C4’s that empowers at-risk individuals to obtain and maintain housing. Recovery Fest aimed to both make harm reduction information and supplies available to the community and raise awareness, especially as C4’s SUR program ramps up and fills a service gap in the area. 


“We have recognized in doing our research as a community mental health organization that this part of the city is a substance use and recovery desert, which means that folks that are using substances in these areas have to travel pretty extensively to find safe use supplies, harm reduction supplies, and access to treatment and care,” said Kelsey DiPirro, Director of Substance Use & Recovery. “We really want to promote to the community that we’re here as a harm reduction organization to support folks in safe use and staying alive.” 


Harm reduction, the cornerstone of C4’s SUR programming, is an evidence-based and pragmatic approach that aims to minimize the negative consequences of substance use without requiring abstinence as a goal. Interventions can include encouraging safe use through the distribution of supplies – such as Narcan, testing strips, and sterile needles – as well as reducing the dangers of withdrawal through medication-assisted recovery plans. Harm reduction is proven to be effective against deaths from overdose, preventing the transmission of infectious disease, and reduces the strain on first responders and emergency departments by emphasizing self-determination, safety, and health and well-being during active drug use. 


At the midpoint of the event, DiPirro gave a speech on harm reduction followed by a moment of silence for those who lost their lives pursuing recovery. 


“I know that I’m not alone in having lost several in that journey,” she said. “I’d like to take a moment today in honor of National Recovery Month to honor those that are no longer with us and no longer fighting.” 


Director of Substance Use & Recovery Kelsey DiPirro gives a speech in North Center Square.


Recovery Fest marks the first of what C4 hopes will be at least semi-annual community-facing events that will raise awareness of harm reduction and equip individuals and communities to pursue recovery and support their loved ones in doing the same.  


“It’s important to keep in connection with our community; it’s a good way to let folks know that we’re here,” said Neftali Marcano, SUR Supervisor. “But even more important is promoting harm reduction. With deaths totaling millions – millions of folks have died from this – it’s a head start. There’s a lot of work to do, but it starts with connecting with the community.”