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David Whitesock is the Chief Innovation Officer of Face It TOGETHER headquartered in Denver CO. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube and learn more at wefaceittogether.org.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
Face It TOGETHER’s mission is to get people with addiction and their loved ones well. We offer professional, science-based peer coaching to help people navigate the challenges of this disease and find a path to wellness. All of our work is data-driven, and we’ve invested significant resources in offering an experience that is unlike anything else in the addiction care space.
I Iead the design and development of our peer coaching programs. This includes the application of the latest science and behavior change practices and the use of digital technology and data to the work our peer coaches do every day as they guide people through a process to wellness. I also lead our work to craft a meaningful care experience through physical space and digital engagement that sparks healing and sustains wellbeing.
I do this work because the system and care options available to me 15 years ago have essentially remained unchanged through today, and they almost killed me. I struggled with addiction for many years and it was so difficult for me to get well. The barriers to getting good care are tremendous, and then once you’re in the system, many get stuck in sub-standard care that isn’t science-based or person-focused. We need a completely reimagined approach that isn’t built on the premise that your pain is inevitable and must become so intense or destructive before a quality system of care is available and accessible.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY DOES THE WORLD NEED YOU?
Our mission is simple – it’s to get people with addiction and their loved ones well. But the problem we’re tackling is highly complex. About 20 million Americans suffer from addiction. Almost 90% of them are missed every year by today’s system. The human and financial consequences are enormous, affecting every sector of society.
Moreover, drug and alcohol addiction is at the root of a wide range of challenging social problems and is inextricably linked to our quality of life, the strength of our economy and the safety of our communities.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Through Face It TOGETHER and our talented team with wildly diverse backgrounds, we’re doing something completely different in the addiction care space. The people we are fortunate to serve demonstrably see their lives improve beyond just being sober. Some get their kids back. Others get promotions at work. Relationships blossom. And some completely reinvent their lives. This individual change – really, it’s a transformation – is beginning to compound and the impact of that change on entire communities is starting to emerge. It’s exciting to be a part of that.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
There’s a small group of family and friends that never gave up on me. A judge and a professor motivated me to accomplish the seemingly impossible, like going to law school and becoming a lawyer. All of that is a strong source of motivation and responsibility. But each day I am continually inspired by two things: Kevin Kirby, our CEO and co-founder. As I was rebuilding my life, I was a resident in Kevin’s sober home. That period of time was instrumental to everything that followed. Now today, I get to be intimately involved in helping his vision become reality. I am also continually inspired by Robert Kennedy’s “ripple of hope” speech. If each of us brings to our world even the smallest splash of good for others, the net effect will be more good for more people.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM, FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Addiction and its complex web of symptoms impact tens of millions of people – either directly or as a close loved one reeling from the devastating effects of the disease. Sadly, a lot of effort must be focused on improving access to a far better approach for getting people well. In the not-too-distant future, my dream is that we’re scaling an approach that normalizes mental fitness into the human journey from the moment of birth. This will require significant shifts in culture and even how we design the environments we live in. But I believe that is possible through the long arc of our work at Face It TOGETHER.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THAT DREAM COME TRUE?
Our work and its inherent complexity require broad and diverse partnerships. Communications and technology are intense resource needs. In order to scale deeper and wider in our current locations and quickly beyond that footprint, we need significant growth and support for marketing and technology. Building a network effect of change, however, is possible through partnerships with employers. Engaging employees and their family members long before significant illness reduces costs to employers, builds stronger and healthier workplaces, and send a ripple of wellness throughout communities.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
There is a deep stigma associated with addiction. That has been and will continue to be a challenge. But the biggest challenge is an over-abundance of misplaced dialogue about the “addiction crisis” today and potential solutions. There are so many voices in the ether and a lot of noise around the problem. Much of this noise feeds the confusion and misperceptions on what the real, fundamental issues are. The roots of the problem go much deeper than a specific substance, like opioids, or a knee-jerk reaction that more of the same is needed in terms of treatment. The real focus should be on system-wide change and a fundamental rethinking of how we deal with – and prevent – this chronic disease.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Your cause or mission might feel urgent. And some solutions or ideas are born out of immediacy. But my advice, which I’ve learned from our co-founders, is to be deliberate and diligent. If you are working on an enormous problem, it will not get solved overnight. If you can bottle your passion into well-thought ideas and disciplined execution, your impact will be deeper and wider over time.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THE IMPORTANT WORK YOU’RE DOING?
We’re transforming lives in ways that we can see and measure. Our coaching is making a difference in areas that go far beyond whether someone is using a substance or not. We can see, through our measurement tools, how people are making progress in everything from mental and emotional wellbeing to their job performance. This is exciting because we’re not only getting people well but we’re pioneering a whole new generation of addiction science.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Our cause affects more families than probably any other in America, but the stigma and pain associated with addiction can make it challenging to rally people behind it. Every single person knows someone affected by addiction. Talk to them and support them the way you would for anyone facing down a life-threatening illness. We need to bring addiction into the open. And I encourage anyone who is struggling to visit our website at wefaceittogether.org to learn more about how we can help. Our data prove that we’re transforming lives in tremendously profound ways.
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