On Monday nearly 500 people attended the 6th annual Black Monday presented by the Las Vegas chapter of There Is No Hero In Heroin. The event provided individuals and families struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues with resources, support services and specialized trainings.
UFC sponsored the event, which featured a keynote address from college and NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf as well as a panel of doctors, recovery advocates and more.
Last year UFC joined the fight against opioid abuse by launching a public service campaign in conjunction with the White House, known as the SUPPORT For Patients And Communities Act. The founder of the Las Vegas TINHIH chapter, Joe Engle believes that events such as this one truly can benefit the community.
“We are here to bring help and hope,” Engle said. “You cannot put a face on substance abuse, but when you have events such as this one it touches a chord with the community. It reminds them that they are not alone, there is community involvement and that there are community friendly treatments systems.”
Engle and his organization focus on providing resources for recovery and education, while making sure to honor all phases of addiction. Engle was quick to draw attention to the fact that there is no cure for substance abuse and that ending the stigma around it is a step in the right direction.
“Substance abuse disorder effects every single neighborhood,” Engle said. “The stigma about substance abuse is that it’s that homeless person in the alley when in reality, substance abuse has no zip code or social economic status.”
While there has been growth in support, awareness and community involvement, there has also been an increase in overdoses. The number of overdose related deaths in the United States was over 72,000 in 2017, an all-time high.
Leaf hopes that events such as Black Monday shine a light on not only substance abuse, but mental health and domestic violence.
The Focused Intensity Foundation, on which Leaf is Chairman, is a non-profit foundation that provides treatment scholarships for people that can’t afford the proper resources they need to battle substance abuse and mental health.
“We’re here to remind people that they are not alone,” Leaf said. “No matter the illness or issue. If we can remove the stigma and inform those struggling that they can ask for help, then we can prevent them from dying in the darkness."
Steps to prevention include proper education, such as harm reduction trainings and overdose prevention trainings. It’s also critical for loved ones to know that there is a safe space to grieve. These are just a few of the services that the Las Vegas chapter of TINHIH have provided since 2012.
Leaf, who trains MMA in his downtime also offered a unique perspective into how substance abuse can effect professional athletes.
“It’s important for athletes to be truthful with their doctor. Pain management medication was designed to deal with acute pain,” Leaf said. “All it takes is one round of substances to form an addiction. Fighters have injuries and surgeries that present the opportunity to become affiliated with these drugs. It’s important that they look for other alternatives rather than use pain medication as a crutch.”
Leaf aims to educate by relaying the importance of transparency and accountability. That accountability applies to organizations that undoubtedly have employees dealing with one or all of the issues associated with substance abuse.
“It’s great that UFC is involved with this,” Leaf said. “MMA is a sport that brings tons of people together and with the UFC’s global reach, there is an opportunity to make a huge impact.”
For more information on TINHIH click here.
Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCnews.