Starting the Year on Roads to Recovery

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Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

Substance abuse – drug and alcohol addiction – has created many headlines over the last few years in our community. Citizens cannot be blamed for thinking it is all bad news.

This heightened awareness, however, has made a difference and created results worth reporting.

The Jamestown Gazette, in response to January’s national drive for public awareness about substance abuse, set out to report some of those results. The concerned public should be made aware of positive outcomes based on their community’s ongoing and new programs for treatment, recovery and education.

“Addiction is a treatable disease…[with] evidence-based interventions that help people stop abusing drugs and resume productive lives,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

From Old to New
In traditional healthcare highly trained professionals diagnose and treat patients. Mental health and addiction care has added another model. It is care based on “The Shared Personal Experience” paradigm. New York Certified Peer Specialists are qualified professionals who have personally recovered from addictions themselves. The Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County (MHA), located at 31 Water Street in Jamestown, has helped bring attention to this relatively new evidence based style of practice.

Kia Briggs, the new Executive Director at MHA said, “People have now become more aware of the problem than ever. I haven’t seen people work together like this in a long time. It’s very encouraging.” As an example of their work at MHA, within a recent 6-month period 211 participants, including 140 unique, new individuals, were provided with assistance by a recovery coach/peer specialist and gained access to outpatient, inpatient, and detox services. Forty-seven also gained or maintained employment.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all subject any more,” said a Jamestown addiction counselor who asked to remain nameless for the sake of her clients. “People are all different and their ways into addictions differ. Their ways out can differ, too.” Traditional 12-step programs have helped millions, and continue to do so locally, but some people find different approaches more appropriate.

Old addiction recovery models, for example 28-day plans, are being widely reexamined. Diana Porebski, Director of Chemical Dependency and Behavioral Health Services, now under expansion at WCA-UPMC, recently told a group of Jamestown community leaders that specific treatment plans and longer care options will be developed for each individual to better re-integrate with the community. Research shows that when people are closer to their community, the chances for success are greater.

Virtual Good Neighbor
The U.S. government expanded the Medicare program in 2015 to create virtual visiting nurses who call patients regularly by phone (monthly, weekly, etc.), check on them for any concerns, symptoms and medication compliance, then notify their doctor immediately if needed.

Patients in this community program (including recovering addicts) can join in an integrated doctor-nurse-patient care team right at home. Currently, Family Health Medical Services in Jamestown has partnered with Signalamp Health to provide this virtual visiting nurse service.

Connections
“We see a lot of long-term addiction recovery happening in Jamestown, but it does not get as much press as the problems do,” said Stephen Cobb, a social worker and group facilitator for Refuge Recovery, a group which meets at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown at 7 o’clock on Wednesday evenings. Cobb also works at MHA and facilitates a Refuge Recovery group there as well, on Tuesdays at 9:00 a.m. For confidentiality, some community members prefer to meet at a church rather than a recognized treatment center.

Refuge Recovery is inspired by four concepts: “Mindfulness, Generosity, Compassion and Forgiveness,” Cobb said. “We believe the opposite of addiction is connection. People who become connected to others find new levels of mental and spiritual health, where addictive substances may no longer be needed. St. Luke’s Rev. Luke Fodor cites his church’s mission to “Connect all people…” as being in good agreement with Refuge Recovery’s aims.

Programs in the church are not run by the church but reflect the church’s open-door policy in support of mental, spiritual, and physical wellness and recovery throughout the community.

“We want our church to be a safe place to talk, pray and counsel together,” Rev. Fodor said. “Everything and everyone here is accepted in total confidence and without judgment. The Bible says that once we have overcome something we should help others with the same problem, not judge them.”

Fresh Starts
“We are constantly seeing people doing life very well and well into in recovery,” said Kim Carlson, echoing Cobb’s observations. Carlson, the mother of Alex, a young man who lost his own life to an opioid overdose, is the founder of Fresh Start, a recovery program that also meets at St Luke’s, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Fresh Start is engaged in a number of initiatives in the field of substance abuse prevention and recovery for addicts and their families.

Fresh Start emphasizes mentoring and support. One of Carlson’s key projects currently is the soon-to-be-announced opening of an Oxford House for women in Jamestown, modelled on the two Oxford Houses already open for men in Jamestown and the 2,500 others dotted across the United States.

An Oxford House is a self-supporting community residence for people well into recovery but still in need of mutual support from others on the same journey. It is a clean and sober home for long-term recovery. Research indicates that after an 18-month Oxford House residence, chances of staying in life-long recovery are very high.

More Roads to Recovery
This is only a sampling of active, successful prevention and treatment programs. With apologies to those not mentioned here, these all represent positive results of the new, widespread recognition of substance abuse issues in Chautauqua County. It is by far not all bad news.

Other important local programs include:
Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) has been a regional mainstay in the field since 1974. CASAC adds prevention and treatment for compulsive gambling to the list of destructive behaviors that can accompany addiction to alcohol and drugs in the community.

CASAC describes its prevention strategies as taking aim at how people think, feel, and act by focusing messages and activities on areas of influence such as the individual, family, and the community.

SPOA, Chautauqua County’s Single Point of Access for Adults eighteen years or older, describes its services as: “…providing a centralized intake system whose focus is on improving and enhancing the capacity of the mental health system… to ensure that referred individuals will be matched to the appropriate levels of service based on need.” Substance abuse and mental health issues are often closely linked.

There is also good news in the field of local law enforcement and the court system.

The Jamestown City Treatment Court (JCTC) expedites case processing for non-violent, substance-abusing defendants to encourage treatment and supervision. JCTC established the first Drug Court and the first Mental Health Court in Chautauqua County in February 2000.

CASAC – 664-3608
http://www.casacweb.org/

Fresh Start
https://afreshstartny.org/contact-afs/

Fresh Start – Alex House
https://afreshstartny.org/alex-house/

MHA – 661-9044
http://www.mhachautauqua.org/

SPOA Jamestown – 483-1194

SPOA Dunkirk – 672-6117

http://chautauqua.ny.us/665/Adult-SPOA

St Luke’s – 483-6405

WCA-UPMC
Alcohol Information Line (716) 664-8620
Chemical Dependency – Outpatient (716) 664-8625

Jamestown City Treatment Court also includes a Young Adult Drug Court Part (added in October 2006) and a Mental Health Court Part (added in November 2007). Preferred provider relationships include Chautauqua County Mental Hygiene, WCA Healthcare System and TLC Behavioral Health. Other services include Chautauqua County Chapter of National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), peer advocacy services offered by Chautauqua County Mental Health Association, and housing and vocational training through Southern Tier Environments for Living (STEL).

Statistics recorded as of August, 2016, indicate that JCTC programs had served a total of 362 individuals. Of these, 84 remained actively involved in programming, and 143 successfully graduated from the Treatment Court programs. Successful graduation from the program generally required a minimum of 1 year sobriety, completion of the 12th grade or a GED, and obtainment of full-time work. Another proud achievement of the program includes the birth of 11 drug-free babies.

One young person dropped from the Drug Courts program for returning to drug use and subsequently jailed for 30 days, returned to one of the drug court’s judges many years later. She was now clean, sober and employed, and thanked him for jailing her. It showed her the road she was on and set her straight.

Learn More
The Jamestown Gazette is proud to report that the battle is on against addiction and substance abuse in Chautauqua County and Greater Jamestown. There is much good news among the bad and there is hope and help of many kinds. Awareness that leads to action is the key.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.