Is This the Future of Treatment in America?
The only way the United States is going to recover from our collective addiction to painkillers and heroin is through some drastic action. Lighthouse Recovery Institute firmly believes this and stands behind anyone who offers change.
That’s why we were so excited to read this interview between New Hampshire Public Radio and Tym Rourk. Rourk holds the title of Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery.
That’s quite a mouthful. In addition to his work on the Governor’s Commission, he does other recovery advocacy work at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. They’re an organization that’s dedicated to improving the quality of life in New Hampshire.
Okay, enough about Mr. Rourk. What’s New Hampshire currently doing, and what measures are they considering, to cut down on opioid substance abuse? Find out below!
Innovative Recovery Services
According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, in 2013 alone there were 1,540 people admitted to state-funded treatment programs for heroin abuse. There were another 1,297 admitted for painkiller abuse.
According to the Union Leader, in 2014 alone approximately 320 people died of drug related causes. 97 of those deaths were due to a heroin overdose, 143 were related to fentanyl, and 39 were due to heroin and fentanyl.
Both of which are long ways to tell a short story – New Hampshire is caught in the midst of the larger opioid epidemic sweeping across America. Guess what though? NH is fighting back!
Two private treatment centers opened their doors this year. That’s in addition to the numerous state-funded programs and privately owned sober living residences. Not to mention the laws New Hampshire has recently passed.
These include a Good Samaritan law that protects individuals who call police, EMTs, or other first responders and increasing public access to Narcan (naloxone). Like their southern neighbor Massachusetts, NH has made Narcan widely available to both first responders and substance abuse patients and their families.
As Rourk is quick to point out, however, Narcan isn’t a silver bullet. “This is a rescue drug that can save someone from an overdose. It is not treatment. It does not support long-term recovery” (NHPR).
So, what about treatment and long-term recovery?
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Expand Medicaid to Cover Treatment
One of the areas that recovery advocates are trying to expand is the scope of Medicaid coverage at treatment centers.
New Hampshire’s version of Medicaid is called the Health Protection Program. It’s currently available to around 40,000 individuals. According to Rourk, the Health Protection Program allowed 1,800 people to attend a treatment center they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford during the seven-month period between September 2014 and March 2015.
Even accounting for relapses following primary treatment, that’s a lot of saved lives!
In an unfortunate twist of fate, it looks like the Health Protection Plan is going to expire in December of 2016. Its continued funding remains uncertain and is one of the many reasons for New Hampshire’s recent budget predicament.
Without Medicaid, without a state backed guarantee of payment, it becomes difficult for many treatment centers to help low-income individuals. It isn’t impossible, of course, but it does complicate the situation.
In the absence of treatment centers, more traditional recovery options, like AA and NA, become vital.
The Difference Between Treatment & Recovery
Make no mistake, there’s a very large difference between treatment and recovery. While recovery encompasses the entire and life-long process of sobriety, treatment is only the first step.
So, while treatment centers play a vital role in giving people access to recovery, they’re not the only way someone can get better.
Melissa Silvey, Director of Public Health and Substance Misuse Prevention at Goodwin Community Health, a NH community health center, hit on the increasingly public role people in long-term recovery are stepping into,
“The recovery community has always been kind of in the church basement, but they’re coming out loud and strong and they’re not scared to mention their name” (Union Leader).
This type of personal approach, this one-on-one fight against addiction, may very well be the future of treatment in America.
When asked about the difference between treatment and recovery, Tym Rourk responded with an absolutely amazing statement. More than simply answering the question, he summed up what recovery is all about.
I’ve excerpted Rourk’s remark here in its entirety. It’s a bit long, but well worth the read. It’s a great way to sum up the focus of this article and the larger focus of New Hampshire’s substance abuse prevention efforts.
“The way I like to phrase it is that treatment is really a clinical intervention. This is a healthcare, medical model where someone who is diagnosed with a substance use disorder receives specialized care from a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, perhaps a psychiatrist, a mental health counselor, or social worker. Recovery is really about how people live with a chronic illness. Once that treatment ends, for those who need that kind of clinical intervention…addiction is a chronic illness. There is no cure for it. People don’t recover in treatment. They find recovery in treatment, but they really recover in community. So recovery is programs and it’s about how we build social supports and ongoing peer-based services that allow people in recovery to connect with a positive, healthy community that can sustain their sobriety over the rest of their life” (NHPR.org).