Recovery Czar Michael Botticelli Honors Champions Of Change At The White House

By John Lavitt 05/02/16

The Addict's Mom founder Barbara Theodosiou was among those honored for leadership, vision and advocacy in the face of the opioid epidemic.

Recovery Czar Michael Botticelli Honors Champions Of Change At The White House
Recovery Czar Michael Botticelli introducing the Champions Of Change Photo credit: John Lavitt

On Friday, the Obama Administration honored 10 individuals from across the country as “White House Champions of Change” for their leadership in preventing prescription drug and heroin abuse, increasing access to treatment, and supporting the millions of Americans in recovery. The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Led by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli, Friday’s event featured two past Fix interview subjects, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello and Barbara Theodosiou, founder of The Addict’s Mom. 

Barbara Theodosiou with Justin Luke Riley at Champions of Change (Photo Credit: John Lavitt)

The work being done by the honorees amid the ongoing challenge of the opioid epidemic is impressive, and personal. "Today’s event is the culmination of years of work on the parts of our champions," said Recovery Czar Botticelli. "I have had the privilege of traveling around the country, talking with people about their struggles with substance use and seeing the innovative solutions and the compassion and the humanity and the ideas being used to address it, many of which are led by the champions here."

Seated next to Justin Luke Riley, the president and CEO of Young People in Recovery, was Barbara Theodosiou. Riley is about the same age as her son, who she lost to addiction in 2015. The Addict’s Mom captured the moment:

“I lost my son over a year ago. I didn’t know that I would lose a child, but I did know that there had to be thousands, tens of thousands, if not millions of mothers across this country just like me. I didn’t know where to turn. I want every mother that’s an addict’s mom to understand that you matter, that you’re important … Whether your child is going through this horrible disease of addiction, whether they’re getting better of they’re not, it’s important that you take care of yourself. You’re not alone. I’m an addict’s mom, and I’m not ashamed … I am not a champion. I am part of a group of amazing champions.”

The question is whether the Champions of Change, despite all of their efforts and despite being united together, can overcome the institutionalized bureaucracy of the insurance companies, the treatment industry, the prison system, and law enforcement. Chief Campanello expressed this difficulty in terms of police across the nation, saying, “Taking the bold move of addressing law enforcement in the country, if you continue to do what you do, you’re going to continue to get the same results, which is death, stigmatization, and more and more people addicted.”

For a full list of the 10 Champions of Change and their incredible accomplishments, please check out this ONDCP White House press release

Check out the Champions of Change ceremony below: 

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.