Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
October 10, 2023
Ann Herbst | Young People in Recovery
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Ann Herbst and I’m the executive director of Young People in Recovery (YPR). YPR is a national, peer-led organization that serves youth and young adults in recovery from substance use disorder. YPR aims to improve access to resources such as housing, education, and employment that sustain long-term recovery. YPR envisions a world where all young people have the resources they need to thrive in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. YPR’s mission is to provide the life skills and peer supports to help young people recover from substance use disorder and reach their full potential.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
Drugs and alcohol have affected my family directly. Honestly, it’s hard to find a family these days that hasn’t been impacted by the substance use epidemic. I’d been working in the nonprofit space for many years and learned about YPR through a friend. We all know what active addiction looks like. But I hadn’t heard much about the idea of “active recovery.” Yet, it made so much sense: If we only focus on prevention and treatment, it’s like a two-legged stool. You need recovery support services to keep people strong, especially young people who are still finding their way in the world.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
In the time I’ve taken to write the answers to these questions, at least one person in this country has died from drugs or alcohol. That is just heartbreaking and completely unacceptable! As a mom and a citizen, I believe we must do better. We must provide young people – and all people– with high quality, affordable, and easily accessible mental and behavioral healthcare while reducing the risk factors that make people vulnerable to substance use disorder in the first place like trauma.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
YPR has nearly 60 chapters in 20 states nationwide. In 2023, we’re on track to provide over 85,000 individual services to youth and young adults, including special activities for LGBTQ+ young people in recovery, Spanish speakers who are looking for peer recovery support, and even parents who are struggling to find help for their kids.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
My family is my inspiration for everything I do. And then I think about the millions of families just like mine who need organizations like YPR. It is literally a matter of life and death. We can’t afford for anyone to sit on the sidelines.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
My dream is that whenever a young person, or an individual of any age, needs help for drugs or alcohol they can find high-quality, affordable treatment that very same day. And that when they’re ready to leave treatment, that every community in America will be ready to support them through housing, education, employment, and social opportunities so they can continue their journey towards health and wellness.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
The omnipresence of fentanyl in the illicit drug supply is causing so much death and suffering, despite real breakthroughs like naloxone (Narcan) becoming available over the counter. The pendulum is also swinging back towards a War on Drugs 2.0, with some lawmakers hoping they can arrest their way out of the problem, which didn’t work the first time and won’t work now. We also know that communities of color are being disproportionately impacted, both by the criminal justice system and the inequality of access to evidence-based care.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
Recovery is possible; recovery is real. Millions of people can and do recovery from substance use disorder every day.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
“Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.”– The Dalai Lama
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Check out our website and join a chapter event either in-person or online. Or start a chapter in your community if one isn’t there already. Recovery allies and parents are welcome to get involved!
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We help purpose-driven organizations transform their random acts of PR into a strategic, consistent approach that generates greater awareness and impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to email@example.com.