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Talking and Listening

Talking and Listening

20171122_103634-300x225 Talking and Listening

Recently, the CEO of Harbor Hall, Pat McGinn had an opportunity to record a podcast with the News-Review Podcast. So much more can be conveyed about our organization through the spoken word to an active listener. We are grateful for the chance to tell our story and share our mission. A big thanks to Matt Mikus who facilitated this for us, and for asking some really great questions about our organization.

Photo: Harbor Hall CEO, Pat McGinn (right) during a recent recording of a podcast with Matt Mikus (left) from the News-Review.

Harbor Hall Joins Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care Network

PCN-Member-LOGO-300x86 Harbor Hall Joins Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care NetworkPetoskey, Mich. (Nov. 16, 2017) – The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation welcomes Harbor Hall Inc. as the newest member of its innovative Patient Care Network.

“Our Patient Care Network allows us to team up with other leading-edge health care providers like Harbor Hall to help more people and better meet the needs of today’s changing health care world,” said Bob Poznanovich, executive director of business development and community outreach for the national nonprofit addiction treatment provider Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “It takes the best of what we do and who we are and shares it with like-minded organizations that have the same philosophy and commitment to treating patients and improving outcomes.”

Pat McGinn, CEO of Harbor Hall notes, “The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is the gold standard for addiction recovery. We are grateful for this important opportunity to join the Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care Network, which will allow us to build upon what we already do and give us more tools to confront addiction in the state of Michigan.”

“Although our organizations differ in size and scope, our mission and clinical practices have philosophically aligned for years,” continued McGinn. “We view this new alliance as validation of our high-quality care for our patients. Being a part of the Patient Care Network, we have an opportunity to connect more people to addiction recovery services and support systems in the state of Michigan.”

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has mobilized its entire organization to confront the opioid crisis across the country. Part of that effort is building collaborative partnerships like this with providers and health care systems to expand the reach of its “COR-12” – Comprehensive Opioid Response with the Twelve Steps – opioid addiction treatment programming.

Last week, McGinn and key leaders of Harbor Hall, including Medical Director Dr. Guy Golembiewski, joined a COR-12 leadership training at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s headquarters in Center City, Minn.

“The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has a long history and culture of knowledge-sharing with individuals and organizations,” said Poznanovich. “Leading healthcare organizations like Harbor Hall that share our philosophy and pursuit of excellence are perfect partners for us as we work together to implement the strategies and systems needed to address this most pervasive of health conditions.”

“This exciting new affiliation with Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a direct result of the dedication and compassion of our Harbor Hall staff. The Patient Care Network provides the support and clinical tools needed for proactive care for our community,” said Harbor Hall Board President Larry Rochon. “It is an honor that Harbor Hall was selected by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. We look forward to sharing experiences, strengths and hope among colleagues and residents throughout Michigan.”

Harbor Hall Foundation Board President Tim Kepford added, “The Harbor Hall Foundation embraces the relationship with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Harbor Hall has proven itself as a first-class treatment facility and the association with Hazelden is evidence that Northern Michigan has the finest substance use treatment venue available. Harbor Hall is a real treasure and one that makes our community a better place.”

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation launched its Patient Care Network – the first of its kind in the addiction treatment industry – this fall. Members gain access to tools, resources and collaborative consultation for their organization’s leadership, staff, patients, families and communities. The initiative has been especially timely given the added pressures that the nation’s opioid crisis is placing on individuals, families and communities. To learn more, visit www.hazeldenbettyford.org/professionals/patient-care-network.

About Harbor Hall
For over 43 years, Harbor Hall has served individuals who are struggling with addiction. Treatment programs offered include withdrawal management, residential and transitional living for men, as well as an array of outpatient services for men, women and adolescents. Accredited by CARF International, Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, Recovery Centers of Michigan and a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, Harbor Hall operates with a passion for helping individuals and their families start on the path to recovery from substance use disorders.  The Harbor Hall Foundation was established in 1978 for the exclusive purpose of raising funds so that Harbor Hall treatment centers have sufficient financial resources. If you would like more information about Harbor Hall Inc., please visit www.harborhall.com. For information about the Harbor Hall Foundation, please visit www.harborhallfoundation.org.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It is the nation’s leading nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 17 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and Texas, the Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care to help youth and adults reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. It includes the largest recovery publishing house in the country, a fully accredited graduate school of addiction studies, an addiction research center, an education arm for medical professionals and a unique children’s program, and is the nation’s leader in advocacy and policy for treatment and recovery. Learn more at HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter at @hazldnbettyford.

 

Media Contacts:
Jeremiah Gardner, 651.213.4231, jjgardner@hazeldenbettyford.org

Catherine Sommerfeldt, 231-347-5511, hhmarketing@harborhall.com

Why is prescription drug abuse so dangerous?

stylefinest.co-1-200x300 Why is prescription drug abuse so dangerous?Prescription painkillers are powerful drugs.  They interfere with the transmission of nerve signals that perceive pain.  They also produce a euphoric effect that is associated with a “high” feeling.  The most powerful of these prescription drugs are called opioids.  Some common names of prescription opioids are Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin,  Lorcet, Lortab, Percocet, Vicodin.  They are all narcotics and highly addictive.

Use of prescription painkillers can lead to physical dependence (addiction).  The body adapts to the presence of the chemical and if a person stops taking the drug abruptly, withdrawal symptoms occur.  Additionally, the body can build up a tolerance to the drug, meaning that it takes more of the chemical to achieve the desired effects.  Many heroin users didn’t start with heroin, their addiction journey started with prescription narcotics.  More often than not, a person addicted to prescription opiates switch to heroin because heroin is cheaper and easier to get.  Last year at Harbor Hall 37.34% of admissions identified Prescription Opiates as the primary drug of choice with 12.65% Heroin as the primary drug of choice.  Alcohol fell to number 2 for the first time ever at 37% of all admissions.

Some common misconceptions about prescription opiates:

Myth: “These drugs are “safe and OK to use, because a doctor prescribes them.”

Fact:  There are regulations that controls who can prescribe these drugs and when.  The reason is to protect the public because they are not always safe to use.

Myth: “They helped my friend’s pain. There is nothing wrong with me borrowing a few to help my pain.”

Fact:  By sharing a medication prescribed for someone else, you may actually be worsening a health condition.  Also, it is illegal to take medications prescribed for someone else.

Myth: “It’s no big deal.”

Fact: It is important to know that even a single use can be dangerous.  Use can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Myth:  “If a little bit helps make me feel good than more will make me feel even better.”

Fact:  The physician prescribes the right amount to help you.  Taking more can increase the potential for side effects and can be dangerous even deadly.

The bottom line is that prescription opiate addiction is rising at an alarming rate.

If you have prescription narcotics in your home, there are some common sense things that you can do to keep them safe:

  1.  Always keep your prescription narcotics under lock and key.
  2.  Do not keep them where children and teens can get at them.
  3. Talk to your teens about prescription drug abuse.

Why Giving Back to the Community is Important

 From the Desk of the CEO, Patrick McGinn, MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

“We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.” Sir Winston Churchill

We-also-acknowledge-the-sacrifices-made-for-some-teams-to-300x251 Why Giving Back to the Community is ImportantRecovery is about new opportunities, to discover one’s true potential.  Residents at Harbor Hall often have questions concerning how to connect, fit-in and contribute to self and others.  Part of the recovery program at harbor Hall is to provide opportunities to become involved in some manner. Being involved may include doing tasks such as house chores, volunteering in the community or seeking paid work.  Through our treatment program, the residents gain a sense of pride, self-worth and accountability that may have been lost in active addiction.  Our clients learn that they DO have something to contribute and that their contributions matter. Learning this and engaging in the community is all part of effectively managing one’s life in recovery.

Local Impact of Service Work

The residents of Harbor Hall have been actively involved in the local community for as long as I have been at Harbor Hall, over 18 years.  They are taught that service and servant-hood are key ingredients in living a life in recovery and obtaining sobriety.

Here is a list of how the Harbor Hall residents are taught to give back.  This list is in no particular order of importance.  Below is a list of community partners and service work where the residents of Harbor Hall regularly give of themselves:

  • Women’s Resource Center: Gold Mine Resale Store
    • Two times a week, helping with the heavy lifting and moving of donated items.
  • Salvation Army
    • Two times a week working in the resale shop and bell ringing over the holidays.
  • Manna Food Project
    • Weekly volunteer opportunities.
  • Project Connect
    • Set up and tear down for the event.
  • Camp Daggett
    • Spring and fall clean-up and maple syrup cooking.
  • Speaking events at schools in Petoskey and Charlevoix.
  • Petoskey Chamber of Commerce
    • Volunteers for a variety of events like decorating downtown Petoskey for the Fall Harvest Festival.
  • Set up for several local AA/NA meetings in Petoskey.
  • Provide a great car wash every week during the warm months.
  • Maintain the Harbor Hall campus in pristine condition.

Why Giving Back is Important in Addiction Recovery

Most people in active addiction are takers.  They are self-centered and ego driven.  The actions above are all selfless, and help the recovery process by building a sense of community, self-worth, humility and recovery capitol.  It is critical that people in early recovery learn it is very important to serve their community.  The person in recovery greatly benefits from serving the community and individuals, as service brings about a new humbleness.  The action of giving brings about positive thinking and feeling for everyone, but most importantly for the person in recovery. Thoughts and feelings that were once driven by egos and self-centered behavior, are replaced with a positive sense of self, the ability to care for others, and the desire to serve.  I believe that the benefit to the community is apparent to each of the above actions.  Thank you to all who have participated in these events and for your support of our mission.

“For it is in giving that we receive” – St. Francis of Assisi

 

THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC – WHAT WE SEE

headache-pain-pills-medication-159211-300x200 THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC – WHAT WE SEEArticle By: Chief Executive Officer – Patrick McGinn – MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

Our society is in the middle of an extraordinary opioid epidemic which has been described as a crisis.  Odds are, any time you read the news, there is something mentioned about this issue. More people have died (6 out of 10 overdose deaths) from opioid over doses than in any other period of our history.

How did we get here?

A brief history of pain management.

Pain is an element of the human condition. Our understanding of pain has varied over the centuries. What was once considered a philosophical interpretation that men, women, and children endured physical suffering was inevitable; the meaning, rather than the fact of pain, was what mattered to leading a good life, to a medical/neurobiological understanding of pain lead by research and scientific discovery. Progress made on the study of human biology and recognizing the brain’s role in interpreting pain, lead to an entirely new way of thinking about pain management. https://www.opioids.com/pain-management/history.html

The science of administering drugs for pain has been advancing for centuries, as well as our societies desire to feel instant relief from the discomfort caused by pain. Prescription drug manufacturing companies are driving this idea among the medical community and the general public, developing products that will meet the desires of their customers. As a result of the availability of these ‘good’ drugs, doctors have been over prescribing pain pills without realizing the ‘bad’ impact this was having on their patients.   In their efforts to help people with chronic pain, many doctors overestimated the benefits of prescription opiates, while underestimating the risks of potential addiction problems.

Many Drugs Contribute to Today’s Health Epidemic

Economic-impact-1-2-120x300 THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC – WHAT WE SEERecently, the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health (2016) was released. This report discusses the struggles across the US of all substance use problems in terms of cost to society, rising health care costs, lost productivity, the devastating effects on lives, future plans and lost lives.  Below is an excerpt from that report:

“Over 175 million persons aged 12 and older (65.7 percent of this population) reported alcohol use in the past year, with over 66 million (24.9 percent) reporting binge drinking in the past month. More than 36 million (13.5 percent) reported using marijuana in the past year, 12.5 million reported misusing prescription pain relievers, and over 300,000 reported using heroin in the past year. Almost 8 percent of the population met diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder for alcohol or illicit. Although 20.8 million people (7.8 percent of the population) met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder in 2015, only 2.2 million individuals (10.4 percent) received any type of treatment. Of those treated, 63.7 percent received treatment in specialty substance use disorder treatment programs.”

What Action is Being Taken?

There is an opportunity to bring substance use disorder treatment and mainstream health care systems into alignment so that they can address a person’s overall health rather than treating one or the other in isolation from each other. This discussion is on the agendas of both the Federal government and Michigan legislature.

The initiative is based on Section 298 in the Public Act 268 of 2016.  The Section 298 Initiative is a statewide effort to improve the coordination of physical health services and behavioral health services in Michigan.

This is a statewide effort is to “improve the coordination of behavioral and physical health services for individuals with mental illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders.”

Addressing the Issue on a Regional Level

This initiative has spurred the on-going conversation at Harbor Hall board meetings as to how to meet the changing practice polices as directed by the State of Michigan and the Federal government and to address to the best of our ability the ongoing opioid crisis.  Harbor Hall has always recognized that integrating substance use disorder services with primary care and mental health treatment as being essential in successful recovery for many years. We cannot however, deny the facts that with the ongoing opioid crisis, the publication of the Surgeon Generals’ report and the State of Michigan 298 initiative, this treatment philosophy has become more relevant than ever to the services we provide in northern Michigan.

What Our Research Shows

In conducting our own research internally of the people who receive treatment services at Harbor Hall facilities, we have recognized some trends in Northern Michigan.  Below is a synopsis of actual data as derived from information gathered at Harbor Hall over the past 3 years.

Primary Drug 2014 2015 2016
Alcohol 37.34% 39.34% 44.5%
Heroin 12.65% 14.65% 28.7%
Prescription Opiates 37.34% 32.34% 16.8%
Cocaine/Crack 3.61% 4.61% 1.4%
Methamphetamine 5.42% 6.42% 5.9%
Poly dep/abuse* 88.9% 90.1% 92.3%

When combined, all opiates (prescription/heroin) in 2014 represented 50% of all admissions, in 2015 this decreased to 47% of all admissions and in 2016 it’s even lower: 46% of all admissions.  We believe it is very clear that as prescribing practices of opiate type medications has changed (2016), and there has been a significant shift from prescription opiate addiction to heroin addiction. *  (Poly abuse is abusing more than one drug at the same time, i.e. alcohol and opiates and cocaine.)

Alcohol is Still the Leading Drug of Choice

With this data, alcohol admission numbers are just as alarming as the prescription opioid/heroin numbers.  Our statistics shown above only addresses the clients’ primary drug of choice.  Most people who have sought treatment at Harbor Hall are using more than one substance when they are admitted.

While the national spotlight seems to be shining on prescription opioids, we cannot ignore the years of data we have collected. This data matches what is happening nationally, however, our approach to this issue is to be pro-active, not reactive. The treatment methodologies at Harbor Hall have evolved with science, as science has changed the way we think about addiction.

Stigma of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Article by: Chief Executive Officer – Patrick McGinn – MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

Webster dictionary defines stigma as a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people use as a mark of disgrace with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  “The stigma of having addiction will always be with me.”

Synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2012): “stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights.  When a person experiences stigma they are seen as less than because of their real or perceived health status.  Stigma is rarely based on facts but rather on assumptions, preconceptions, and generalizations.  Stigma results in prejudice, avoidance, rejection and discrimination. Family, friends and the general public can carry negative feelings about drug use or behavior. They may even use derogatory terms such as “junkie,” “drunk,” “crackhead”, “criminal”, “thief”, “scum”, “gutter bum” and many more.  These thoughts, feelings, and labels can create and perpetuate stigma.”

Unfortunately people who experience stigma regarding their addiction or negative behaviors are less likely to seek treatment services.  Perceived stigma in hospitals or doctors’ offices discourage people from accessing needed health care services.

Neuroplasticity-2-120x300 Stigma of Substance Abuse and AddictionAddiction, unlike any other public health concern, is viewed as a moral issue and not a health issue.  Also, addiction, unlike any other public health concern creates antisocial behaviors.  Antisocial behavior patterns are a common characteristic of addiction.  With the brain hijacked from the drugs, the addicted person will regularly make bad choices, of which many are calculated.  Addicts make many bad choices that cause pain for those around them.  The research is clear that the active addict will continue to take a drug despite the negative consequences involved.  They know that family, social and career are disrupted by their drug abuse, but they cannot stop.

Neuroplasticity

A term that has become a recognized term in addiction treatment is neuroplasticity.  Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.  This however takes time.  This process of “rewiring” the brain from addiction to more socially adaptive behaviors can take from 12 months to 3 years and in some instances even longer.

When thinking about addiction we must be careful not to simply reduce the addict simply to moral failure.

Treatment at Harbor Hall extends beyond abstinence or symptom management by helping people achieve a full, meaningful life in the community. Prior treatment, legal history, medication assisted treatment, or other pathways are not viewed as a predictor of poor treatment outcomes and is not used as grounds for denial of treatment. Post treatment continuing care services are an integrated part of the service continuum rather than an afterthought. Focus is on all aspects of the individual and the environment, using a strength-based perspective and emphasizing assessment of recovery capital.

The Pipe Exercise

By: Patrick McGinn, CEO

Today I asked a group of clients to participate in an exercise that I call it the pipe exercise.  The groups are given a kit of PCV pipes cut to a variety of different lengths along with a variety of connectors, elbows, and types with an end cap.  The task is to construct a design using all of the pieces.  Sounds simple enough… but this is not a simple task at all.

Varied Paths and Varied Results

20160209_133054-300x169 The Pipe ExerciseAs I watched the groups struggle, I observed some interesting things.  First were the roles that individuals in the group took on.  There were at least 2 people in each group that jumped right in and took the lead.  Others stayed back and would observe and then eventually start to give input, there were also people that I would describe as “cheer leaders”. They would encourage their team members, cheering for their success.  And in each group, there was one person that did not participate at all.

Each group floundered at the beginning: starting, stopping, taking apart, and starting over.  At approximately 20 minutes into the project I whispered a hint to success into the ear of one member in each group.  This is the point when all the groups basically stopped and start over.  Within about 30 minutes the first group completed the task.  They were quite proud of themselves.  I instructed the other groups to continue until they were finished.  5 minutes later the next group completed then shortly after that the third group finished.

20160209_133441-300x169 The Pipe ExerciseThe forth group continued to struggle.  They were beginning to give up.  I heard statements like, “what’s the use, we are in last”, “this is stupid”, and “we should just give up”.  All the while the others were jeering and poking fun at their lack of success.  Then the leader of the last group asked the group who finished first if they would help them figure it out.  The response was very interesting as one or two from each group got up and went over to that group to help and within 5 minutes they were done.  The whole room erupted with cheers at the success.

The four designs were very different from one another.  They were not even close to looking alike, but each accomplished the task.

This Process Looks a lot Like Recovery…

The varied paths and mixed results is very much how recovery looks in real life.  The task of getting clean and sober is usually very difficult for most people, especially at the beginning.  We are given minimal instruction and expected to complete the sober task successfully.  If it was as simple as “one size fits all”, there would be no need for treatment centers.  For many people there are starts and stops. Sometimes you just have to take apart and rebuild all over and look for a different way.  Some people may get ridiculed or made fun of or looked at differently if they “do not get it” the first time around.  This is also true in the recovery community, where some people may be ostracized because they relapsed.  This attitude may send some people further into the spiral of addiction as they may not seek help a second or third time.

Sober Success is the Goal – No Matter the Path

Many people come into treatment in despair and are ready for change, but they do not know how the recovery pieces fit together. Attending lectures, groups, going to doctor appointments,  one-on-one sessions, skill building activities etc. all are pieces that may be put together differently for each individual.  Success for me may not be the same as success for you.  Each person needs to decide how to put the pieces together that work the best for them.  We know for sure that sober success does not happen in a vacuum. We need the input of other people. “I can get this, with a little help from my friends”

Mustang Wendy’s Cask & Cuisine helps Harbor Hall’s residential treatment program

Mustang Wendy’s Cask & Cuisine in Harbor Springs is donating a portion of their proceeds from next week’s sales to Harbor Hall’s Residential Recovery Program. Their address is 129 E. Bay Street, Harbor Springs, MI  49740.
Click here to Download their lunch and dinner flyers for the WENDYPALOOZA and their menus.
Please consider a lunch or dinner out next week at Mustang Wendy’s – good food and donation to Harbor Hall.

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The Election Reminds Us That Our Political System Is Failing Addicted and Mentally Ill Individuals

by David Sack, M.D.

The hot-button topic in our current election cycle is the economy. Basically, finances seem to be the sole focus of nearly every campaign. And why not? With unemployment rates hovering in the 8 percent range, our nation’s financial situation is a major issue. But almost as many Americans suffer from a serious mental illness as are unemployed, and there are many more people dealing with addiction than are unemployed. Even in an economy-driven election — perhaps especially in an economy-driven election — politicians should be paying attention to these facts. After all, whether it is a debilitating mental illness such as bipolar disorder or a mind-addling addiction to prescription medications, these issues cost our nation serious money. And the amount increases when the problems are left untreated or passed off to the criminal justice system.The simple fact is that just about everyone knows someone — a loved one, a friend, a co-worker — with a mental health or addiction issue. Nevertheless, politicians routinely ignore the need to treat these populations. Perhaps this neglect stems from the fact that addiction and mental illness have historically been viewed as moral failings as opposed to treatable illnesses. Alcoholics were seen as hopeless bums and a drain on society, drug addicts were degenerate criminals to be feared and thrown in jail, and the mentally ill were unfortunate creatures best hidden away in locked rooms or placed in asylums “for their own good.” Sadly, even though the medical and scientific communities now possess considerable evidence indicating these once-upon-a-time “facts” have little, if anything, to do with the reality of alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness, our socio-political system continues to wallow in the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil dark ages. Rather than dealing with these problems head on, we choose to either ignore them or use the judicial system to sweep them under the rug.This unhelpful attitude has, over the last several decades, led to a bevy of unfortunate, expensive and wildly unsuccessful federal, state and local policies focused on interdiction and punishment rather than treatment. And in most respects these moth-eaten “contain and control” strategies persist despite the ever-growing mountain of evidence clearly demonstrating their abysmal inadequacy. Consider, for instance, the tried and truly failed idea that we can “arrest” our way to a drug-free America. Today, there are more than seven million Americans under the supervision of the criminal justice system, with a large percentage of that number in on drug offenses. Yet more people than ever are dying drug-related deaths. However many people we lock up, the ravages of addiction continue unabated.

If we look at the matter objectively, we see clearly that the war on drugs is over, and everybody lost. So why do we continue to address the “addiction problem” primarily through the criminal justice system? Rather than dumping countless billions into a quagmire of policies that we know don’t work, couldn’t we refocus our efforts and funnel these same resources into improving our treatment methodologies and making that treatment affordable, accessible and without stigma?

One common argument against the above idea is that federal and state governments should not be throwing their limited financial resources at a tiny segment of the population when so many larger, more pressing issues (i.e., the economy) need to be addressed. Of course, this argument fails to recognize that arresting and incarcerating drug users, oftentimes repeatedly, without addressing their underlying issues costs, over time, significantly more money than helping those individuals identify and overcome their problems through proper treatment. And the financial costs don’t end with arrest and incarceration! The number of work-days lost to addiction is incalculable, costing employers millions, perhaps even billions. And what about the healthcare system? Medical expenses for an untreated alcoholic are triple those of a nonalcoholic.

Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, addicted and/or mentally ill people are hardly a “tiny segment” of the U.S. population. It is thought that approximately 12 percent of Americans suffer from alcohol or drug addiction, and approximately 5 percent suffer from a serious mental illness. (A “serious mental illness” is an emotional or psychological disorder resulting in a functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.) And these numbers take into account only the individuals directly affected by the disorder. We should also consider the millions of children, spouses, parents and friends who are indirectly affected.

Nevertheless, most jurisdictions determinedly perpetuate policies of interdiction, arrest and incarceration — probably because seeming “soft on crime” is a good way to lose votes. Thus, resources for dealing with addiction and mental illness have become highly politicized, with policies that sound good to the voting population winning out despite their well-documented lack of success.
Happily, not all is doom and gloom on the political front. Earlier this year, in April, the Obama administration released its thoughtful, informed, and progressive 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, building nicely on the president’s initial Drug Control Strategy introduced in 2010. Basically, the administration’s policy is grounded in three research-based premises that are now widely accepted in the addiction treatment community:

1) Drug addiction is not a moral failing; rather, it is a preventable and treatable chronic brain disease.

2) People can and do recover from addiction.

3) Criminal justice reforms are needed if we truly want to stop the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, release, more drug use, and re-arrest.

In part, the president’s policy focuses on the two most current drug-related challenges: the prescription drug epidemic, and the millions of people who need substance abuse treatment but do not receive it. If it is followed through — and that’s still a big if — the new approach will respond to the aforementioned two challenges by diverting nonviolent drug offenders into treatment, and expanding overall access to treatment. For instance, the Affordable Care Act will force insurers to cover drug addiction treatment as they would any other chronic disease. Overall, the new policy is a revolutionary and long-overdue shift in the federal approach.

Unfortunately, addiction and mental illness have (as usual) been placed on a back burner in the current presidential election, with state and local races following suit. Campaign speeches and advertisements are focused on the economy, while the ongoing issue of treating rather than ignoring and/or incarcerating a large, constantly growing and needful segment of our population remains unaddressed. Until this attitude of political neglect changes, we’re likely stuck with the current jumble of antiquated laws that do more harm than good. Thus, the individual suffering of millions of people — not to mention their friends and families — will continue, as will the unwarranted funding of numerous failed drug control strategies. Yes, the new National Drug Control Policy is a significant step in the right direction, but at the moment it’s a lone beacon of light that most politicians are choosing to ignore in favor of “vote grabbing” topics.

David Sack, M.D., is board certified in addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. As CEO of Elements Behavioral Health he oversees a network of addiction treatment centers that include Promises, The Ranch, The Recovery Place, and The Sexual Recovery Institute.

Even though the elections are over, this article is still relevant with facts pertaining to current drug control strategies.

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Spirituality in Recovery

Dan Thompson, MA writes on the importance of spirituality in recovery.

What does spirituality have to do with recovery at Harbor Hall?  Everything!  At our Residential Treatment Center, we concur with 12 Step writings, on page 83, “The Spiritual life is not a theory, we have to live it.”  There is another phrase we identify with that reminds us: “we are spiritual people on a human journey”.

Our understanding of spirituality is that it is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning or purpose, and the way we experience sacred or holy connection to the moment, to self, to others, to our environment, to a Higher Power, or to God (as we understood Him).

In our care, you will be welcomed and accepted wherever you are at spiritually and/or religiously.  Whether or not you refer to a Higher Power, to God, or regardless how you assign yourself as perhaps atheist, agnostic, theist, or deist, you will be welcomed and treated fairly and justly.

We believe in the power of the human spirit that exists within each of us, and that with proper help can be relieved, revived, and/or restored.  Our core teaching on spirituality promotes a kind of lifestyle practice that is honorable, whereby the basic spiritual habits which reflect our pursuit of transformation involves discipline, accountability, servant hood, humility, and safety.   We also refer back to our lifestyle that resisted change, where we dishonored our self and others with habits influenced with bitterness, arrogance, danger, lawlessness, and self-centeredness.

As it states on page 110 of Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, our effort with clients is fueled by the hope and truth that the “eyes of men and women open with wonder as they move from darkness into light, to see their lives quickly fill with new purpose and meaning, to see whole families reassembled, to see the alcoholic/addict outcast received back into his/her community in full citizenship, and above all to watch these people awaken to the presence of a loving Presence or Higher Power in their lives”.

In our recovery treatment program, spirituality has everything to do with our sanity, serenity, trust, respect, and joy.  These are the results we strive for and believe can occur in treatment under the professional, clinical, and spiritual care that is offered through our program.

Blessings to you

 

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