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With drug and alcohol abuse now considered the top health issue in Oklahoma, a new organization has developed a 12-step plan that involves the community in the fight to prevent abuse and help people who are addicted to find a lasting recovery.
Research conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that Oklahoma has ranked at or above national levels for illicit substance abuse during all the years surveys have been conducted, said Holli Witherington, executive director of the Brandon Whitten Institute for Addiction and Recovery based at East Central University in Ada.
“It takes social and community support – not just more will power on the part of an addicted person – to achieve noticeable and lasting advances in addiction and recovery efforts,” Witherington said.
The institute created “12 Steps for Communities,” a plan that can be used as a tool with community groups such as the Pontotoc County Drug-Free Coalition, to begin taking action against substance abuse.  
In the 12 steps, adapted from the original 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and summarized here, communities:
Admit that addiction affects us all and recognize it is a growing concern.
Come to realize that a combined effort is necessary to restore us to a healthier way of living.
Decide to accept help from the community and each other to promote recovery from addiction.
Make an honest and thorough inventory (assessment) of community needs relating to addiction.
Admit to the community, ourselves and others the exact nature of our community needs.
Admit we are entirely ready for a collaborative community effort to address these needs.
Humbly ask for help from our community as a whole.
Make a list of the consequences we face as a community as a result of any previous inaction or denial and become willing to work on these issues.
Directly address these consequences as a community whenever possible, unless to do so would cause harm.
Continue to take thorough community inventories/assessments and promptly address community needs.
Seek through community cohesiveness and the spirit of unity to improve our conscious contact with all community members, seeking only actions for the good of our community and the ability to carry out those actions.
After having a community change and awakening as a result of these steps, try to carry this message to other communities and practice these principles in all our affairs.
One of the community efforts in Ada will be “Step Out of the Darkness” on Sept. 17 [SATURDAY], a day focusing on prevention and recovery from addiction. The Pontotoc County Drug Free Coalition will host a Pontotoc County Prayer March at 10 a.m. along Main Street to the ECU campus with stops at designated locations for times of prayer. The first 500 walkers will receive a free t-shirt. For complete details, visit or call 580-559-5815.
A rally at ECU’s Centennial Plaza at approximately 11:30 a.m. will promote awareness of prevention and recovery. The BWI will host Food, Fun and Facts at noon, with activities for family fun and information booths.
The BWI was established at ECU by Reggie Whitten, an Oklahoma City attorney, and named for his son, Brandon, who became addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol and died in a motorcycle crash in 2002 at age 25.
The BWI works to assist both campus and community individuals, groups and agencies by providing quality addiction and recovery services through education, collaboration and scholarship.
Whitten, who has told his son’s story to college students across Oklahoma in the last few years, also co-founded the Whitten-Newman Foundation to work with youngsters to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and FATE (Fighting Addiction Through Education), both in Oklahoma City.

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