Nearly 108,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control reported this weekbreaking previous records and highlighting a public health crisis spurred to new levels by the COVID pandemic.
But while there’s been no shortage of grim milestones lately, Denver nonprofit The Phoenix sees hope as it seeks to expand its sober community to meet people where they are. happen to be – in this case, at concerts.
“We believe the community heals,” said Jacki Hillios, deputy executive director of The Phoenix and Ph.D. clinician who previously worked with families dealing with mental health and substance use disorders. “Fitness, yoga and the things that we usually do attract a lot of people. But this (drug overdose) problem is so out of control that we had to step back and reconsider.
Phoenix, 16, with its flagship Denver location at 2223 Champa St., has traditionally focused on activities such as group hikes, Crossfit training and other “transformational” programs that help people with ailments. alcoholism and drug addiction and substance use disorders. , the latter being a more contemporary term.
The cost to join one of its programs is 48 hours of sobriety, and the company boasts of having served approximately 77,000 members in 36 states. Adding music to its lineup was a “no-brainer,” Hillios said.
Phoenix’s new program, Phoenix Music, includes a partnership with the existing Send Me a Friend platform, which connects music fans and musicians virtually and in person to strengthen bonds between at-risk groups, Hillios said. This even extends to music industry professionals, who can find sober “friends” while touring with sober and sober-curious music fans at live events seeking safe spaces, meetings and support.
The program will launch on Sunday, May 15, with an invitation-only concert by Anders Osborne & Friends at The Soiled Dove, which will be followed by other public events with major acts at larger local venues, according to a spokesperson. , some of them arriving as early as July.
“There’s a wealth of literature on music as a cure for anxiety and depression and for people in recovery, but the flip side is that it can be really scary going to a concert,” Hillios said. “Alcohol and drugs are extremely prevalent in this culture, so how do you make sober music cool?”
The issue has gained momentum lately as sober and sober-curious bars and restaurants have opened in Denver and across the country, catering to a market looking for a less intimidating social environment — or at least just without alcohol. The dry January has seeped into the rest of the year, supporters say, as people move away from alcohol in favor of less harmful substances and traditional party activities.
Last year, Sundown Colorado debuted as the state’s first sober music festival, while multi-day events such as Denver’s Underground Music Showcase pledged “sober bars and other resources for Artists Struggling with Substance Abuse,” among other recent initiatives.
Denver veteran singer-songwriter Jen Korte launched her in April “Clear heads” program at the trendy Fort Greene bar in Globeville, dubbing it “a booze-free place” made possible by support from the Denver Music Advancement Fund. It offers curated cocktails, coffee drinks, and kombuchas, as well as food trucks, local vendors, live music, and most importantly, “a safe, alcohol-free space where you can just be… (or for ) those who just want to go to a bar (and) dancing, without alcohol”, according to a promotional video.
Phoenix Music will debut in Denver, with smaller pilot locations planned in Milwaukee, Boston and other markets, Hillios said. Fans of sober music will be able to activate their phone’s geolocator “to find Phoenix people and get together, big or small.”
The program draws inspiration from niche sober bands dedicated to unique bands or genres, such as the Yellow Balloon movement of the jam-band scene, which organizes 12-step meetings at concerts. But unlike Alcoholics Anonymous or other mainstream groups, Phoenix believes there is more than one way for people to get well. Its organizers aren’t afraid to reach the communities that need it most, serving the homeless population concentrated around its Denver location.
“We’re not here to compete with other programs, but we want to provide broader access to this community,” said Hillios, who gave the keynote address this week at the Colorado Springs Multiple Pathways to Recovery Conference. “There is a moral obligation.”
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