“Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising up every time we fall.”Oliver Goldsmith
On Sept. 29, Newman University senior Jacob Kresky participated in a press conference with Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, who declared September “Recovery Month” for Wichita.
Kresky, a social work student with a concentration on substance abuse, delivered the proclamation to the Wichita community and spoke about his efforts to complete the work. The press conference was held at 13th and West Street, home of the temporary Fire Station 23.
The proclamation read, “Recovery Month celebrates those who have made a journey towards improving their lives and brings awareness to the many options available to those who wish to embark on a healthier, rewarding and fulfilling life.”
Referenced in the proclamation was a statistic from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: “16,985,000 adults have co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illnesses.”
“Thankfully, our local legislators have worked to combat the number of emergency room visits for overdose and overdose deaths,” Kresky said. “They’ve equipped police with Narcan and they’re working on changing penalties for the fentanyl testing strips as well.”
Still, there is work to be done.
“In order to save lives, meeting members of the public where they’re at and treating them with dignity is paramount,” Kresky said. “It’s that dignity and self-worth that we have to make sure we provide to everybody with substance use disorder. And I think that’s what we forget.”
Wichita provides more than 20 different recovery options for those who suffer from co-occurring substance use disorders, from in-patient and out-patient care to businesses and sober living communities.
“If somebody needs treatment, there really is no better time because Wichita has the resources. Take advantage of it,” Kresky said.
Establishing ‘Recovery Month’ in Wichita
National Recovery Month was established in 1989 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is an observance held every September to increase public awareness surrounding mental health and addiction recovery.
Though it is nationally recognized each year, September 2022 marks Wichita’s first participation in “Recovery Month,” Kresky said. The idea for writing a proclamation came to Kresky as he worked on his learning agreement for his field practicum placement at Mirror Inc.
Anyone can write a proclamation, but in order for it to become an official public announcement, it must be signed and issued by federal officials such as governors, state legislatures, mayors or other government officials at the local level.
Kresky said he was up for the challenge — especially if it meant raising awareness about an issue he is passionate about. He wrote a letter to the City Council, mayor and vice mayor, and asked several key players across social work sectors both at Newman and in Wichita to sign the document. In less than a week, the letter was signed and sent to Whipple’s office.
Anyone who knows someone with addiction, who has had “a brush with addiction” or who has become addicted themselves has a powerful story, Kresky said.
“I think that’s often something that we overlook and miss when we talk about addiction,” he continued. “What’s behind addiction is not necessarily a criminal component, but oftentimes one of trauma, which makes it more of a major health care crisis than a criminal crisis.”
Yelando Johnson, associate professor of social work, interim director of the master of social work program and division chair of social work at Newman, said it was Kresky’s “heartfelt compassion” that led to action.
“We are so proud of Jacob for the work he did to make this proclamation of recovery month declared by the city of Wichita,” Johnson said.
“Drug abuse is often accompanied by a devastating social impact on community life and it can affect people from all walks of life,” she continued. “Jacob’s action was guided by a desire to see change, compassion for others and a focus on the inherent dignity and worth of all people who may be affected by substance abuse.”
Transforming society through service and purpose
Kresky credits Newman’s small class sizes and one-on-one attention for allowing him to expand his thinking and confidence in bringing Wichita’s first “Recovery Month” to fruition.
“I think the student experience at Newman has helped us expand what we’re capable of doing, and we might not have gotten that elsewhere,” Kresky said.
Newman social work students enter the workforce with real-world skills and experience from their field practicum placements.
“The social work program at Newman instills the importance of social justice, and allows students to lead and become a part of something greater than themselves,” Johnson added.
For Kresky, working at the outpatient clinic at Mirror Inc. introduced him to a field that he’s fallen in love with.
Mirror Inc., one of the largest providers of substance abuse and addiction treatment in Kansas, was founded in 1972 with the belief that people can and do change. According to its website, Mirror’s mission is to “strengthen people and communities by helping individuals cultivate hope and redefine their lives.”
“I have a great set of people to learn from,” Kresky said. One such leader is Newman elementary education alumna Emily Inkelaar ‘14, who completed the Master of Social Work program at Newman in 2022.
As a Newman student, Kresky is no stranger to the importance of service work. He regularly volunteers with Safe Streets Wichita, a coalition of people with a focus on substance abuse prevention, awareness and harm reduction. The group even distributes Naloxone, also known as Narcan, which can reverse an opioid overdose in an emergency situation.
“I worked for many years down at a church at 13th and Broadway, and I felt drawn to helping people as I worked more and more with the local population there,” Kresky said.
He added, “(At Safe Streets) we’ve got everyone from practicing clinicians and pharmacists to doctors, politicians and people with lived experiences who have been through addiction themselves. Anybody who wants to make a difference in the field is invited to be a part of Safe Streets Wichita.”
Kresky plans to take his education to the next level and will pursue his master’s in social work from Newman following his graduation in May 2023.
Earn a degree in social work
Social work is not just a job, it is a helping profession rooted in dedicating oneself to continuous growth, learning, change and becoming the best version of yourself.