Layla Wright attends White House meeting

3:03 pm | January 4, 2013

Elizabethton native Layla Wright, co-founder of Red Legacy Recovery, was selected to attend a Dec. 5 meeting with the White House Office of Public Engagement and President Barack Obama’s senior staff.

Wright was invited to the meeting because of her role in executing grassroots organizations, making positive change in Appalachia and being a voice for women. The White House Office of Public Engagement initiative included a roundtable conversation with Tennessee’s leadership team entitled, “Working Together to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff.”

There were representatives and critical stakeholders from the federal, private, association, creative and grassroots sectors. The meeting included a tour of the White House as well as a briefing at the Center for American Progress and a Roundtable discussion in the Eisenhower Executive Building. The concerns of the group were shared with President Obama’s senior staff and top officials.

Wright is one of the co-founders of Red Legacy Recovery along with Angelee Murray, whose mission is to empower women in East Tennessee with the skills they need to begin a new life in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The programs and workshops offered provide each woman with the tools to be self-sufficient, self-confident, and employed. The workshops include core “life-skills” training and the focus areas include teaching women how to manage a household and be self-sufficient, money management skills; how to develop and maintain self-confidence and self-esteem; job interview skills; dressing for success; vision-casting/goal-setting seminars; and how to manage day-to-day stress.

These workshops are provided in the Carter County Jail, as well as to the women referred by Appalachia Recovery Houses.

Red Legacy is introducing a new networking group for women, Legacy Women Appalachia. The purpose of the group is to provide “aspiring” professionals with the opportunity to be mentored and connect with other women who are successful and independent.

Wright said she was honored to be involved, especially that these political issues affect substance abuse, prevention and treatment related research. She noted that the Obama administration is committed to restoring balance to U.S. drug-control efforts by coordinating an unprecedented government-wide public health and public safety approach to reduce drug use and its consequences.

Led by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, this effort includes a renewed emphasis on community-based prevention programs, early intervention programs in healthcare settings, aligning criminal justice policies and public health systems to divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail; funding scientific research on drug use; and, through the Affordable Care Act, expanding access to substance abuse treatment.

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in March 2010, includes substance use disorders as one of the 10 elements of essential health benefits. This is significant because it means that all health insurance sold on Health Insurance Exchanges or provided by Medicaid to certain newly eligible adults starting in 2014 must include services for substance abuse disorders.

The Obama administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, charted a new course in efforts to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences in the United States.

Local legislators are preparing for the 2012-2013 legislative session, when they will be tackling issues at the forefront of the nation’s and state’s agenda. including the drug epidemic in East Tennessee.

State Rep. Tony Shipley and Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes will hold a press conference at the start of the new year to set into motion stronger support for recovery programs and statewide collaboration.

“Substance abuse and addiction is no longer something that can be ignored,” Mathes said. “It is found in all communities, among all races and within all socio-economic backgrounds. Its presence in Appalachia and more specifically, East Tennessee, is devastating to our region as our inmate population continues to rise.”

Mathes said he believes more than 80 percent of Carter County inmates are directly or indirectly incarcerated because of a substance abuse related issue.

He added that the Carter County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to announce a partnership with Red Legacy Recovery.

“This is a first step in combating addiction and Red Legacy programs are teaching women comprehensive life skills and equipping them with the tools they need to re-enter society as sober individuals,” Mathes said. “Red Legacy Recovery brings added hope for our community.”

According to Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Shipley’s legislation dealing with synthetic drugs is recognized as the national standard and is used across the United States.

“I applaud Ms. Wright’s efforts with Red Legacy in supporting women’s transition back into society and the workforce, expanding resources including transitional housing and building community support for recovering women in East Tennessee,” Shipley said.

“The opportunities to make change and empower women in recovery in East Tennessee are expanding,” Wright said. “The continued communication with the White House concerning issues affecting America and Appalachia will provide the support and solutions to build stronger and healthier communities.”

Wright noted that, in terms of making history as a woman and as an American, she has followed her heart to alleviate some of the pain for struggling women.

“I have achieved this,” she said. “Not only have my efforts opened doors and windows where previously there had been none, my aspirations have fueled the flame for other women to jump in and help. My hands have delivered hope, promise and legacy.”

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