Drug overdoses killed nearly 108,000 people in 2021, the Centers for Disease Control reported this week, breaking previous records and highlighting a public health crisis spurred by the COVID pandemic to new levels.
But while grim milestones haven’t been in short supply lately, Denver nonprofit Phoenix sees hope as it seeks to expand its quiet community to meet people—in this case, at concerts.
“We believe the community is healing,” said Jackie Helios, deputy executive director of The Phoenix and a Ph.D. Therapists who previously worked with families dealing with mental illness and substance use disorders. “Fitness and yoga and the things we do in general attract a large number of people. But this (drug overdose) problem is so out of control that we had to step back and reconsider.
Phoenix, 16, with her Denver prime location at 2223 Champa St., has traditionally focused on activities such as group hikes, CrossFit training, and other “transformative” programming that help people with alcohol and drug addictions. are and use disorder. , the latter is a more contemporary term.
The cost to join any of its programs is 48 hours of abstinence, and the company claims to serve approximately 77,000 members in 36 states. Adding music to its programming was a “no brainer”, Helios 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 personally to strengthen connections between at-risk groups, Helios said. This also extends to music industry professionals, who can find cool “friends” when touring with cool and quiet-curious music fans at live events in search of safe places, meet-and-greets, and support.
The event will begin on Sunday, May 15, at the invite-only Anders Osborne & Friends concert at The Sold Dove, according to a spokesperson, followed by more public events with major acts at larger local venues, some of them arriving as early as July. in.
“There is extensive literature on music for healing anxiety and depression and people who are recovering, but the flip side of this is that going to concerts can be really scary,” Hilios said. “Alcohol and drugs are extremely prevalent in that culture, so how do we find calming music?”
The question has recently gained new momentum as cool and cool-curious bars and restaurants have opened up in Denver and across the country, seeking a market that is less intimidating – or at least just alcohol-free – social environment. fulfills. Dry January has leaked into the rest of the year, proponents say, as people turn 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 have launched “cool bars and other events for artists struggling with substance abuse,” among other recent initiatives. resources”.
Veteran Denver singer-songwriter Jen Corte debuted her “Clearheads” program at Globeville’s hip Fort Greene bar in April, dubbing it “a booze-free hang out” with support from the Denver Music Advancement Fund. It’s home to food trucks, local vendors, live music and most importantly, “a safe, alcohol-free place where you can just be a bar (and) dance without alcohol,” according to a promotional video.
Phoenix Music will begin in Denver, with smaller pilot locations planned in Milwaukee, Boston and other markets, Helios said. Sober music fans will be able to turn on their phone’s geolocator to “find Phoenix people and find crowds big or small.”
The program takes cues from specific cool groups dedicated to solo bands or genres, such as the yellow balloon movement of the jam-band scene, which consists of 12-stage gatherings at concerts. But unlike Alcoholics Anonymous or other traditional groups, Phoenix believes there is more than one way for people to recover. Its organizers are afraid to reach the communities that need them most, serving the homeless population centered around their Denver location.
“We’re not here to compete with other programs, but we want to provide access to this community more widely,” said Hilios, who delivered the keynote address at the Multiple Paths to Recovery conference in Colorado Springs this week. . “There is a moral obligation.”
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