The Other Hillbilly Elegy

Promoting Empathy, Harm Reduction & Hope for Appalachia.

J.D. Vance’s best-selling work, Hillbilly Elegy (HarperCollins, 2016), has been both highly praised and harshly criticized as a way to understand our most recent presidential election.  Substance use is one of the themes included in his book.  Kevin Gillespie, who grew up in an Appalachian community just down the road from Mr. Vance, will share with 2018 National Harm Reduction Conference participants an alternative view, by relating the Appalachian experience to core principles of harm reduction.  Kevin will present a perspective on culture and people living in economically-marginalized communities that is substantially different from that of Mr. Vance.  Collaborating partner, Dr. Andrew Tatarsky, will join Kevin to help describe real life experiences they have shared in designing and building, from the ground up, an Integrated Recovery Network that broadly serves the rural Appalachian hill country region of Ohio.  Local communities, professional colleagues and thought leaders from across the nation are working together to create a relationship-centered, science-based harm reduction alternative for Appalachia.

An important part of our work is focused on moving community preoccupation regarding harmful substance use away from the criminal justice system toward a clearer focus on people’s health and healthcare systems.  In so doing, we work closely with primary care physicians and nurses to help integrate behavioral health harm reduction methods into everyday primary care practice.  But that is not nearly enough.  If we really want to help people to self-manage their own substance use behaviors, we must also work broadly to ensure safe, affordable housing, easy access to healthy, locally-sourced food and opportunities for employment and other purposeful community life experiences.  So, our creative development team is also engaged broadly across these sectors, all in the name of healthy people and strong Appalachian communities.  You really can’t have one without the other.

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