Mark Martz, Axiom Community of Recovery’s new Executive Director, discusses strategic planning, the future of Axiom Community of Recovery, and why he’s passionate about Arizona’s Recovery Community. Martz officially took the reins of the day-to-day management for Axiom Community of Recovery on November 28, 2022. Shannon Egan, ACR’s Project Manager, interviewed Martz on April 28, 2023 – the five-month anniversary of his first day in this new role. The following are excerpts from the interview.
What is your previous career experience?
Immediately before joining ACR, I was the Director of the Arizona Center for Tobacco Cessation at the University of Arizona for over 3.5 years. Before moving into that role, I served for 5 years in various positions with the Arizona Department of Health Services. I spent time as a policy consultant, program manager, and Office Chief, Tobacco Prevention & Cessation.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Flagstaff, AZ, and moved to Wichita, KS, when I was young. I returned to Arizona in 2007 to pursue a doctorate in public administration and policy at ASU.
You’ve been on the job for five months now. What’s your impression of ACR and its mission so far?
I am very impressed! ACR’s roots are deeply connected to providing comprehensive services to the most vulnerable as they begin their road to recovery from substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. Being able to work with the ACR Board, community partners, and ACR’s for-profit counterpart, Axiom Care, to move this most critical work forward is a real gift.
Why did you change jobs and begin working for a Recovery Community Organization?
While at the UofA, the state-funded contracts that supported the work I was leading at the Center for Tobacco Cessation were awarded to an out-of-state service provider. As a result, I lost over 95% of the money supporting me and my team, requiring us to look for new opportunities. For my next professional step, I wanted to continue my commitment to serving in the public/nonprofit space in a meaningful and impactful way. Once I connected with the CEO of Axiom Care to discuss the Executive Director position, I knew I had found the best place to continue mission-driven work to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families, and their communities of care.
Do you have a personal story about your recovery journey that may help inspire those still suffering in silence?
Historically, I have kept my recovery journey in the background, but now see a real opportunity to share my experience in recovery with others so that collectively we can reduce the stigma around substance use disorders and support anyone who is suffering from addiction to find the care they need to achieve sobriety and live the life they desire to live. Having over 23 years of lived experience in recovery, I can weave my story with others’ experiences and translate them into ways we can best serve anyone who suffers from substance use, seeks treatment, and experiences the multitude of benefits that may come with recovery.
Why are you passionate about the work of Recovery Community Organizations?
One incredibly unique thing to Recovery Care Organizations is that they are led and governed by individuals with lived experience, i.e., peers. The peer element ensures services and supports that are developed and delivered align with the needs of the individuals and communities they are designed to help. Peer leaders may have direct experience in substance use, treatment, and recovery. Peers can also be family members or advocates who have experienced first-hand how addiction and recovery of loved ones have shaped their lives and motivated them to do what they can to support their peers in navigating the long-term recovery of those they care for.
What are some gaps in peer services in Arizona that you’ve discovered so far, and how do you plan to address those gaps?
Securing recovery and long-term housing for individuals in recovery is a big gap- especially for anyone with a criminal justice background and/or a co-occurring mental health condition. For these folks, finding housing that is affordable, accessible, and has rights of tenancy can be exceedingly difficult.
When you were interviewing for the job, you talked about strategic planning. What goals would you like to accomplish for ACR over the next two years?
As a nonprofit organization, securing a diversified funding portfolio to grow and sustain ACR over time is paramount. Our top mission goal is to develop and deliver impactful long-term recovery services to support the unique needs of the inclusive populations we serve. Being accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS) and recognized nationally by the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) as an official RCO are two big goals that would be fantastic to achieve in the coming years.
Where do you envision ACR being five years from now?
Working with the ACR Board and our community partners, I would like to see ACR as an accredited, nationally recognized leading voice and mover in the long-term recovery space, constantly finding new and innovative ways to provide services that continuously flex to the needs of our clients.
What key activities will you implement to get the organization where you envision it?
Working with the Board and partners to align ACR's day-to-day operations to the mission and vision of ACR is top of mind. Second, building the revenue portfolio. Third, creating new and cultivating existing partnerships. And fourth, investing in robust evaluation and reporting to ensure our work produces relevant and meaningful impact.
What plans do you have for enhancing ACR’s community member base and overall impact on Arizona’s recovery community members?
Lots of community outreach and engagement events, leveraging social media channels. Plus, sharing lessons learned and practice-based evidence with funders, partners, and champions.
What advocacy initiatives do you have in mind for ACR down the road?
Housing, housing, and more housing. Reducing employers' administrative burden to take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to support hiring folks with a justice background.
How will you measure your success in terms of your management of ACR a year or two from now?
Positive stories and feedback from our clients and partners represent the true measures of success for me. Implementing programs and having a solid balance sheet are essential indicators of success. However, to me, it’s the real impact we are having in the lives of our clients that means the most to me.
Any last words? ;-)