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Author: Shernide Delva
The narrative of the orphan child has never been a positive one. We’ve all seen movies about it. Abandoned children struggle with mental illness, emotional distress and sadly, many fall into addiction. The nation’s drug-addiction epidemic is excelling the number of children enter foster care. Many states must take urgent steps to care for neglected children. Unfortunately, there are too many and the numbers only continue to rise.
The problem is addicts often neglect, abandon or mistreat their children. Several states such as New Hampshire and Vermont made laws to make it possible to pull children out of homes with addicted parents, or states increased budgets to hire more social workers to deal with the emerging crisis.
Other states like Alaska, Kansas and Ohio have issued emergency pleas for more people to foster neglected children, many of them infants, into their homes.
“We’re definitely in a crisis, and we don’t see an end in sight any time soon,” said Angela Sausser, executive director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, a coalition of public child safety agencies in the state.
Life as a Child in Foster Care
Sadly, these children grow up and have a high risk of having a drug addiction. According to a 2016 study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 35% of older youth in foster care have a substance use disorder.
While there is no universally accepted cause of drug addiction, one theory commonly accepted is a relief from physical, mental, and emotional pain. There are emotions foster youth feel on a regular basis. Foster youth are ripped from their families and put into state care due to neglect or abuse. Those two words—neglect, abuse—result in an array of emotional and physical realities. These realities must be addressed.
Lisa Marie Basile was a foster youth from age 14 to 19. She is a successful edited and writer in New York who wrote the poetry book Apocryphal. She discussed her thoughts in an interview in The Fix:
“The narrative of the foster youth has been hijacked by this idea that foster youth are just losers. Like it’s inherent, expected. The thing is, something has been done to them. I wish more people understood the loneliness,” she explained.
The Numbers Are Now Increasing
For a while, the number of children in foster care was decreasing. The enormous increase in parental drug abuse is driving the number of foster care youth up at an incredible pace. As of 2014, the number was at 3.5%. In San Diego, more and more babies are in need of foster care placement, and many infants are born addicted to drug. Not only are these babies born experiencing withdrawals, they also have a long-term risk for medical, developmental, emotional and behavioral hardship. Furthermore, they are an extremely high risk for addiction.
There are programs out there to help these children, but they have to reach out for it. The first step is admitting the addiction. This is the exact reason why many addicts are stuck. Lisa Basile says she made her way through foster care without using, however once she reached college, she began to overindulge in drinking.
“I drank a lot more than most college students. And that behavior—day drunk, wine for lunch—stayed with me for a while after college. It became less about partying and way more about numbing everything out so I could get through college without facing my tragedies.”
The Emotional Aftermath
The issue lies in the emotional toll the foster care process can have on these children. The National Institute of Mental Health states that that foster youth have a high risk conduct disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Youth with PTSD or conduct disorder are found to have the “the “highest risk for substance use and disorder.”
What is PTSD? PTSD is defined by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as “requir[ing] that children have experienced, witnessed, or learned of a traumatic event, defined as one that is terrifying, shocking, and potentially threatening to life, safety, or physical integrity of self or others.”
It is clear by this definition why foster children are likely PTSD sufferers and why they are more at risk for addiction rather than just drug experimentation. Foster children are often born in situations where their basis needs are ignored and where their emotional wounds remained unhealed.
There is Hope
With the right resources, children in these situations can be granted the opportunity to change their future. Everyone involved plays a role. From teachers, therapists, volunteers and neighbor, the right person providing the right connection can turn things around.
Foster children and addiction may go hand in hand, but that does not mean anyone’s situation is hopeless. There is not an excuse for changing your future. If you were brought up in an unfortunate situation, there is still time to shift the direction of your life. If you or anyone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
The opioid crisis is pinpointed to a variety of sources, yet those blamed the most are doctors. Doctors are criticized for their generous prescribing of prescription painkillers that led to patients developing an addiction to the drug. Drugs like oxycodone were for a long time easily prescribed until recently. Once the prescription drugs became more difficult to obtain, addicts turns to heroin thus resulting in the shocking epidemic we are in today.
However, there is more to the story. Turns out, patient satisfaction surveys may be another major part of the puzzle. These surveys continue to influence doctors today. To understand the problem, you have to understand the influence these surveys have. Doctors incomes are based on survey scores, and patients who are not given a desired prescription leave doctors a low score on their satisfaction surveys.
The Opioid Crisis: Behind the Scenes
An article published in The Fix explained the behind the scenes in hospital emergency rooms. ER doctor of osteopathic medicine Gerald O’Malley opened up about what he considers to be the biggest culprit in the opioid crisis. With over 25 year of experience, he understands the depth of the epidemic from a medical point of view.
The culprit is the hospital satisfaction surveys mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is a government organization that dictates payment for medical surveys and sets the agenda for the entire insurance industry.
The problem with these surveys is that they contradict the doctor-patient relationship dynamic. Instead of the relationship being about trust and integrity, it becomes about the doctor pleasing the patient for improved survey scores. The physician no longer is an adviser, but a corporate spokesperson. Hospital administrations hand out scripts to memorize and recite.
“We were told to say, ‘Hi, my name is So and So, and I’ll be your doctor today,’ and ‘Please let me know if there’s anything we can do to make your experience here more pleasant.’ It was incredibly insulting to me, and what you’d expect from a waiter or electronics salesman,” said O’Malley. “I like to treat people as individuals, not somebody who came to the ER to spend money.”
At Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, O’Malley described a common scenario where staff were routinely lectured by the department chairperson. They were told their survey scores would be judged and to be aware of the consequences of low performance.
“Then, just to be dramatic, I guess, the chair quoted a line from The Godfather,” said O’Malley. “He said, ‘This is the business we’ve chosen.’ Which meant, if you don’t like it, get out.”
What the Surveys Require:
The expectations to earn a high score on these surveys have little to do with a doctor’s ability to take care of a patient.
“It had nothing to do with medical care,” said O’Malley.
Instead, the surveys instill behaviors such as having staff knock on doors and introduce themselves. Doctors also must accommodate the requests of their patients.
“We had to allow as many people into the room if they requested it. One time there were five family members; two in wheelchairs. There was literally no way for me to get to the bed. I had to play traffic cop and say, ‘I’m sorry, I understand you all want to be here but I need to perform an exam so some of you have to leave.’
Seems like an appropriate request from a doctor attempting to do their job, however administration does not see it that way.
“That kind of honest, blunt conversation was frowned upon by the administration. They don’t practice medicine so they don’t understand that it’s fucking impossible to try to talk to someone about anything sensitive. They may not want their family members to know what drugs they’ve taken. But asking everybody to leave is uncomfortable.”
In addition, these surveys request that medical personnel sit during consultations. Studies show that sitting down makes customers feel like their physician is with them longer. That sounds manipulative because it is, but O’Malley says the point is to give customers the perception of good care. Moods matter too. Medical personnel are to maintain their energetic demeanor despite physical exhaustion from working long hours.
Drug Abusers: Doctors Struggle to Do the Right Thing
When it comes to patients seeking narcotics, their opinion of their doctor will largely relate to whether they leave with a prescription. Unfortunately, doing the right thing in this situation can negatively affect a doctor’s survey results and stir up conflict.
“They’d walk in and say, ‘I need two milligrams of Dilaudid 4 with 25 milligrams of Phenergan,’ and, ‘Come on, chop, chop, let’s go. Snap to it.’ Or they’d say, ‘I’m going home now, so I need a prescription for 50 tablets of oxycodone.’ After looking up their records in the computer, I’d have to say, ‘Hang on, you just got a prescription for 50 tablets of oxycodone last week.’
“Then suddenly, you’re in a confrontation. The patient is yelling ‘I want to speak to your boss!’ If it’s 2:30 in the morning, I was the most senior person there. In those circumstances I knew this was somebody abusing oxycodone or selling it in a school playground somewhere. So then it’s ‘What do I do now?’ Did I really want to deal with this for the next two weeks, having to explain why this guy got so pissed off and gave me bad survey numbers?”
In situations like these, doing the right things becomes a difficult decision. It is easy to see why doctors sometimes choose the easier route of prescribing the requested meds. Emergency room visits are skyrocketing because of lack of healthcare. Many addicts go to ERS because they are open 24 hours.
“I had a guy show up at three in the morning with a herpes outbreak. He said, ‘I need Acyclovir and Zovirax cream.’ Okay, that made sense. But then he said, ‘I need something for the pain—Percocet or Vicodin or Dilaudid.’ I go, ‘Dude, you’ve got herpes. It’s not like a broken leg.’”
Making Difficult Decisions
When the patient is denied their prescription, they may soar into a roaring fit, demanding to speak to higher authority and provoking further conflict. Sadly, it is easier for some doctors to decide to not do what is right, but what is easier. After all, their survey scores are sent to the CMS who use those scores to distribute reimbursements.
“Look,” said O’Malley, “we have certain metrics we have to meet. If CMS doesn’t like our scores, then, guess what? They’re not going to reimburse us. We’re going to be out money.”
Even when doctors tighten up on prescribing painkillers, it leaves behind those who need them most: chronic pain sufferers. Dr. O’Malley admits when a chronic pain sufferer comes into the ER late at night requesting a prescription for an opioid, it puts him in a difficult position.
“I’ve never seen them before. I don’t know if the stuff they’re saying is true. I don’t want to see people in pain but I have a social responsibility not to contribute to this opioid epidemic. They say, ‘I don’t care about your social responsibility. I want my narcotics NOW! If I don’t get them I’m going to slam you on your evaluation.’”
When it comes to administering Narcan (naloxone), Dr. O’Malley sees the increase availability of Narcan as a positive force in the opioid epidemic. When doctors revive patients, they often become belligerent with medical personnel.
“They jump off the bed, and run out of the ER. That is terrifying. Narcan is only going to last 20 to 30 minutes. If they overdosed on opioids like methadone or oxycodone they’re going to go back into respiratory arrest, or pass out at the top of a staircase, or get behind the wheel of a car.”
Sadly, the epidemic is only getting worse. The worse part, O’Malley says, is having to tell families their children have died because of an overdose. Therefore, despite the consequences of bad survey scores, it is important all doctors take a stand in preventing the amount of overdoses reported annually in the United States. They must do the right thing.
Every 19 minutes, someone dies from opioids alone. The opioid crisis is complex and it may take time to figure out the right solution; however that does not mean you should give up. Treatment is critical and if you or someone you know is currently struggling, the time is now to seek treatment. Do not wait. Seek treatment today.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Tis’ the season for a lot of holiday celebrations. This time of year is always full of family, fun and fellowship, with the year 2016 coming to a close only days away. Considering so many parts of the country a plagued with harsh weather during winter, and so many people are out celebrating, it only makes sense that extra attention be brought to the need for safe traveling. The importance of which is definitely emphasized in the movement against drunk and drugged driving. While most of us know December as a holiday season for many reasons, it is also National Impaired Driving Prevention Month!
From the White House
Back in 2012 President Barrack Obama made a statement announcing National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, stating:
“As Americans gather with friends and family to share in the holiday season, National Impaired Driving Prevention Month reminds us of the importance of celebrating safely. Every year, accidents involving drunk, drugged, or distracted driving claim thousands of lives, leaving families to face the heartbreak of losing a loved one. We stand with all those who have known the tragic consequences of drugged or drunk driving, and we rededicate ourselves to preventing it this December and throughout the year.”
In these efforts the President and his administration invite families, educators, health care providers, and community leaders to promote responsible decision-making, and also to inspire young people to live free of drugs and alcohol. In the description of impaired driving the movement is not limited to alcohol. It includes:
- Distracted driving, such as driving tired or while texting
- Drugged driving
- Drunk driving
Understanding the Impact
This observation in so important, and several agencies encourage people to recognize and understand the impact, including:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- U.S. Department of Transportation,
- The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
To put the importance of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month into perspective, in an average year:
- 30 million Americans drive drunk
- 10 million Americans drive impaired by illicit drugs
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a study in 2010, which showed:
- 2% of people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol
- 3% drove under the influence of illicit drugs
- 8% of drunk drivers were 26 and older
- 5% of drunk drivers were 16 to 25 years old
- 8% of the older group drove drugged
- 4% of younger drivers drove under the influence of drugs
Again, the month of December makes plenty of sense for the National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, considering traffic fatalities involving impaired drivers increase significantly during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods. In fact, in December of 2010:
- 25 people on average were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes per day!
- Drivers 21 to 34 years old were alcohol impaired and involved in fatal crashes at a higher percentage than any other age group
Do Your Part this December
This National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, we have to keep in mind we should be doing our best to take care of each other. Spread good will and compassion to others with December. People are encouraged to always drive responsibly, and to be observant of each other on the roads. While reporting an impaired driver might not be the holiday present they want, but it could save their life and the lives of others. If you have a friend or relative who is impaired, don’t let them get behind the wheel.
Many people who struggle with alcohol or drug use disorders don’t even realize the severity of their problem until it is too late. Frequently driving impaired is often a warning sign of a deeper issue. Anyone who finds themselves driving impaired too often may want to seek help.
Sadly, fatal accidents happen across the country every year, claiming thousands of innocent lives as a result of impaired driving. Driving drugged, drunk or distracted is critically dangerous, and always avoidable. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Around the country there is a wave a new and progressive initiatives changing the relationship between law enforcement and drug users. Government officials now lobby in support of such programs, and millions of dollars are being allocated to similar responses to a nationwide addiction epidemic. Probably one of the most famous of these revolutionary programs is one of the first; the PAARI program.
The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) encourages police departments to abandon the old model of arresting and prosecuting people struggling with substance use disorder. Instead, the program encourages police to help people struggling with addiction seek help.
Now we have the first annual report from the PAARI program, and the numbers are pretty impressive.
Taking Pride in PAARI Program Progress
In the PAARI program first year report the numbers include detailed financial inventory. The 501(c)3 non-profit believes in the transparency of their progress, and is proud of the success to far. Of course, with such a groundbreaking and inspirational initiative, who wouldn’t want to show off?
To update anyone who doesn’t know- the PAARI began in Gloucester, Massachusetts, after the local police department announced on June 1, 2015 that anyone who walked into the police department and turned in either drugs or paraphernalia would not be arrested. The announcement told the citizens that instead any individual willing to seek help would be sent to treatment. This is the response from law enforcement in the wake of a spike in overdose rates in the area.
The report now boasts an amazing impact on the community. In the first year of the PAARI program, just Gloucester Police Department alone helped more than 400 people enter treatment!
Spreading the Message
That 400+ count doesn’t even scratch the thousands more being helped across the country due to the establishment of similar programs. The initial response from the Gloucester community was incredibly enthusiastic. This helped spread the concept of the PAARI program, as they moved to help other police departments implement similar programs. According to the report, the PAARI program helped train 143 police departments in 27 states.
- Augusta, Maine began training volunteers last November before implementing their own program.
- This summer Newark, Ohio, began its program. Officials said they felt driven to try something new once they were receiving at least one overdose call per day.
- According to the report, the PAARI program has partnered with 300 treatment centers in 20 states
- The PAARI program also secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to help people access the treatment they need.
- Distributed more than 5,000 doses of nasal Naloxone, the opiate overdose antidote.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this progressive approach. Some still believe that criminal justice is an appropriate response to drug use. Cape Cod, Massachusetts police department chose not to implement their own program because they didn’t agree with diverting the focus away from criminalizing active users. Some still think that shifting this perspective is somehow promoting drug use or giving permission.
Reinventing Police Intervention
Last April the Obama administration praised the Angel Program and PAARI program, siting that they reduced “crime and costs associated with substance use disorders in Gloucester” and rebuilding “trust between the police and the community.”
The first annual report makes a very exciting statement, saying:
“Communities that have joined PAARI have observed as much as a 25% reduction in crimes associated with addiction, cost savings by diverting people into treatment rather than triggering the criminal justice system, as well as an enormous increase in trust from their communities.”
Participants in the program speak in heavy praise of its methods and compassion for those it exists to assist. Even insurance companies contribute to the progress in the direction of compassionate and effective change.
Without question, these numbers are a new hope to so many. Over 400 lives in just one area over a year may have been saved thanks to PAARI. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the point; to protect and to serve all lives? The hope is that more programs like this can shatter the stigma of addiction, while simultaneously bridging the gap between the disenfranchised and the established authority to create a community that is better and brighter for both sides.
Drugs and alcohol have torn apart too many communities. Now the time has come for better treatment options and more compassionate health care. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, do not wait. Please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
With the release of the United States Surgeon General report this month came the historical declaration that substance abuse is a public health disorder. While many have insisted upon this perspective in the past, it is the first time anyone holding the office of U.S. surgeon general has made the statement. In this groundbreaking report, Vivek Murthy described substance abuse stating,
“Not as a moral failing, but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”
This revelation is a long-awaited victory for the countless advocates who have been hoping to change the way the world sees substance abuse and addiction.
Along with this statement, there comes a conversation about how to shift the strategies used to address addiction. Along with that comes the possibility for vast change and reform in the realm of criminal justice. How big is the impact of criminal justice on the addiction issue, and how could a change in perspective change everything?
Current View of Criminal Justice
The big thing here is that for years people have pushed for the world to see substance abuse and addiction as a health issue, both physical and mental. Changing the view from stigma and punishment to treatment ultimately means giving people struggling a better shot at recovery.
The failed War on Drugs has definitely put addiction and substance abuse in a place it doesn’t necessarily belong. Murthy’s report provides an update on drug and alcohol users in the country. According to its figures, in the last year alone:
- About 48 million Americans used or abused illegal or prescription drugs
- 28 million drove under the influence
- 21 million Americans currently suffer from addiction (substance-use disorder)
- Out of an estimated 2 million inmates in the nation, 65% “meet the criteria for substance-abuse addiction” according to a new study
- According to thePrison Policy Initiative, over 300,000 inmates currently in state and federal prisons are for convictions related to drugs.
These statistics place a severe strain on the criminal justice system far beyond federal prisons.
- Local and county jails have held thousands of these same individuals
- Tens of thousands lost driving privileges due to drunk driving
- Millions served time and were put on probation
- Millions became repeat offenders and cycled back through the system
The long and short of it is that in fact, the current system is not anything close to fixing the problem. And at $442 billion dollars spent annually on health-care and criminal justice for substance-use disorder, that is a VERY expensive failure to repeat over and over.
Reforming Criminal Justice
There are many variables that come into play when you discuss reforming criminal justice to be more effective for helping addicts. Some of these include:
- Ending the tactic of using fear of prison to keep people “in line”
- Reforming treatment programs through criminal justice system that rely on harsh penalties
- Ending unnecessarily punitive federal sentencing guidelines
A hard truth is the criminal-justice system is often the first to be in contact with struggling addicts. Thus many people only receive treatment once they are already involved in the criminal justice system, which often locks them into a cycle of failed attempts to clean up and repeated arrests.
Many would say it would be ideal to not have addicts and those battling substance abuse go through the criminal justice system at all; specifically for non-violent, drug-related offenses. They would rather individuals be directly diverted to a system that relies on medical and therapeutic rehabilitation.
The fact remains; even if state and federal governments begin addressing addiction as a health crisis, any reforms to the existing criminal-justice system will come with their own burdens. This kind of power-shift would have instantaneous economic effects due largely to institutional competition. The massive industrial prison system that has thrived for decades would of course fight to keep its funding if the government tried to divert those funds to healthcare programs.
The surgeon general’s report is a refreshing perspective and a much needed statement. But there is still money to move and the need for playing politics. Despite the fact that most believe mental health and public health institutions are better suited to treat addiction than prisons, some say they do not have the seniority or the political juice to make a claim on the resources to do so.
In the end, setting up an approach on the state or national level that would send addicts to treatment instead of jails and prisons would be an enormous task that we cannot logically expect to happen all too soon. Yet, there is hope. Many states now have more compassionate and treatment-based programs with law enforcement. Crisis-intervention training and other methods have reduced arrests and housing costs in many areas. It does make a difference.
The real difference to reforming the criminal justice system will come when more officials recognize that substance abuse and addiction are health issues and not moral ones, especially officials at the federal level.
Never forget that every day we all have the chance to influence change. Maybe we can’t change the criminal justice system over night, but we can make decisions that make a difference. Understanding addiction and fighting back is a victory itself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call our toll-free number now to speak with an specialist. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135