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Community Medical Centers Tackles Substance-Use Disorders

Community Medical Centers is turning to the spoken word, storytelling, art and paper making to raise awareness of the dangers of substance-use disorder and to encourage members of San Joaquin County’s diverse communities to seek treatment and counseling if needed. The project will be highlighted by a #WordsOutspoken Live virtual summit Aug. 15.

#WordsOutspoken, in partnership with The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, aims to reduce stigmatization and strengthen prevention and education. Community Medical Centers is partnering on the project with Stockton poet laureate Tama Brisbane, founder of With Our Words, a nonprofit specializing in spoken word and youth engagement; and with Paula Sheil, founder of The Write Place-Tuleburg Press, a nonprofit whose offerings include classes in journaling, memoir writing and paper making.

“This program will demonstrate the ways that the written word and art can be used as healing tools for people in our community who are struggling with addiction,” CMC Chief Executive Officer Christine Noguera said. “Our hope is that it will give members of our community an outlet for healing, guide those who are struggling with addiction to the help they need, and reduce the stigma attached to seeking treatment for addiction and substance-use disorder.”

Program participants currently are working on a variety of endeavors involving art and the spoken word/poetry. On Aug. 15, the #WordsOutspoken Live summit will provide a platform for #WordsOutspoken participants to share what they have created. The event will be shown live on the #WordsOutspoken Facebook page.

#WordsOutspoken Live will include a performance by Stockton spoken-word artist Brandon Leake, who recently had a successful appearance on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Also included will be a discussion about the therapeutic benefits of artistic creation, and an opportunity for #WordsOutspoken Live viewers who feel they need help to learn about seeking treatment at Community Medical Centers. Additionally, college assistance will be awarded to some #WordsOutspoken participants.

“I just want #WordsOutspoken to do what the art of poetry does: open the doorways of shared experiences that lead to the pathways of healing,” Brisbane said. “There’s a reason we always call the mic ‘vertical therapy.’ ”

Sheil added, “We need creative outlets. This project allows our minds to focus and settle on the tactile process of paper making. Like weaving or knitting, or throwing a clay pot, the hands focus the mind. The projects help people turn pain into art, to move trauma out of the body and into something expressive that can be shared, a burden that moves from the individual into a supportive community.”

CMC is one of 55 community-based organizations in California to receive funding from The Center at Sierra Health Foundation’s $10 million Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Access Points Project.

Community Medical Centers is a network of neighborhood health centers serving over 100,000 patients in San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo counties. They offer integrated medical, dental, behavioral health, and supportive services, all using a model that puts the patient at the center of the care team. To learn more about CMC, visit