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Could Mental Health Security System be the Future of Public Safety?

Could Mental Health Security System be the Future of Public Safety?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

If there are any other nerds out there like me, you may have come across an abstract animated series called Psycho-pass that rose in popularity a few years back in 2012. The show’s name fits firmly into the primary premise of the show, an authoritarian future dystopia, where omnipresent public sensors ceaselessly scan the mental states of every passing citizen. In the TV show, collected data on both present mentality and aggregated personality data is used to gauge the probability of an individual committing a crime, the rating referred to as that citizen’s Psycho-Pass. Law enforcement and public security utilizes technology tracking mental health of citizens in order to premeditate possible threats. The characters chase criminals who the system deems emotionally or psychologically at risk, and the show adds a few good twists of suspense and philosophical paradox.

Needless to say, I am a big fan of the series.

So of course, seeing a headline explaining a new research project that could make this kind of system a reality, it stirs up some curiosity. This abstract concept of machines reading the psychological profiles of everyday people as a security measure has jumped right out of the world of scifi-fantasy and could soon be another innovation that changes our world.

Could a mental health security system for the future of public safety?

How the Mental Health Security System Works

According to a new piece of research, published in the International Journal of Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, a mental health security system is being developed that gives an analyses of the user’s brainwaves.

Most modern security systems require a PIN or password. Other biometric-based systems require a fingerprint or scans of an iris or retina. We have already seen this kind of stuff in the movies; voice-activated locks, palm-print thermal safes and other cool high-tech gadgets. Now, Violeta Tulceanu of the University of Iasi is adding a truly unique aspect to security; the emotion detector.

Upon reading the brainwaves the system is designed to automatically determine whether the user is in a fit mental state. After the test is complete the system will grant access to resources, but only if deemed appropriate.

Violeta Tulceanu states:

“The true engine of motivation is our capacity to perceive pleasure and fear pain, and thus, reward and punishment,”

“Our ability to react to dangerous situations is directly related to our capacity to relate to our environment, and our sense of self-preservation.”

In the new approach, Tulceanu trains the system to recognize a user’s “emotional fingerprint” using the patterns of electrical brainwaves. The system measures the brainwaves they generate in the presence of specific, evocative stimuli. The system has to have a baseline mental signature to cross-reference. Each emotional response is matched to a given pattern and these are then associated with particular configurations of the mental health security system. So someone mentally stable will set the standard for their future readings.

Once the profile is complete it can allow or preclude access to given resources. So the next time someone tries to get access, the system simply measures the current electrical brain activity and if the result of processing the credentials matches the “emotional fingerprint” access is granted or refused accordingly.

This is amazing because it not just recognizes brainwaves to allow authorized access, but it also determines whether or not someone’s current mental health should keep them from having access.

Why a Mental Health Security System Could Matter

Based on the core concept, this could all matter a great deal to public safety. If someone is in a well-balanced emotional state, when faced with external factors they probably react according to:

  • Context
  • Group expectations
  • Education
  • Cultural background
  • Social norms
  • Personal inclinations

However, humans are emotional. We feel. Some of us more intensely, but all of us included. So our decisions can be subject to:

  • Our wants/desires
  • Lust
  • Greed
  • Happiness
  • Sadness

We can even be influenced by psychoactive chemicals that might make particular resources inappropriate or hazardous. Perhaps a safe with a gun locked inside should only be accessible by someone of a stable mental and emotional state.

With this kind of mental health security system there could be another step to control:

  • Entry to a building
  • Access to computer resources
  • Even the withdrawal of money from ATMs

The research actually indicates this mental health security system could also have applications in:

  • Military
  • Electronic learning
  • Healthcare

What Could the Mental Health Security System Change?

Many may not notice at first, but this is a huge deal and if it gained momentum it could change a lot about our world. Thinking about it, anyone can suffer from depression, stress, or anxiety, as well as substance abuse. Some of us may not even be aware of our own issues with mental health until something devastating has happened. We all have the capacity to make detrimental decisions, and sometimes we also have the capacity to do so while accessing sensitive resources.

Let us look at just a few ways this could be a really big deal.

  • Public Safety

In the interest of public safety, we could consider access to an airport or a school. With the history of shootings and other attacks on citizens being perpetrated by people deemed to be in the grips of mental illness, could this new technology have the capacity to save lives by blocking off those who it perceives to be a threat?

Tulceanu suggests this mental health security system could ensure the safety and security of individuals and those around them that might be at risk if access is granted to particular resources.

  • Anti-theft

The mental health security system might be able to assess whether a person is acting responsibly and of their own accord. So if someone is being forced to access something, the security system could measure this emotional response as well and act further on the behalf of someone who could be being robbed or held hostage.

Is a Mental Health Security System Morally Just?

Here comes the philosophical debate. When looking at the possibilities of this technology, we also have to ask ourselves the same questions that crop up in the scifi stories; is this moral? Specifically, if it became a government tool, does it violate privacy or civil rights? Really ask yourself- is this a brighter, safer future? Or could it be misused for subliminal, psychological oppression?

Seriously, this is a tough call. It does sound like it could save a lot of lives. But some would ask- who has the right to say whether or not I’m mentally or emotionally stable enough to get my own money from the bank? Or to get on a plane? Who decides when you are too emotionally or mentally compromised to go to work? What if years from now you aren’t allowed to live in a certain neighborhood because of your place on the brainwave scale?

Would this kind of restriction on people based on an analyses of mental health be reinforcing the stigmas attached to mental health? If so, would people be discriminated against for mental health issues? In the TV show I referenced earlier, people with moderately risky mental health ratings were lawfully mandated to therapy; would that become part of the normal practice if a more comprehensive mental health security system was put into place?

These days, modern research techniques show that far from being indefinable, emotion is completely neurological. Emotion lives at the core of all learning mechanisms. This makes it possible to treat emotion more objectively. All this new research is extremely fascinating. Without being too sure which way to lean, I simply wonder what the world would think of a mental health security system.

The importance of mental health care and substance abuse treatment is paramount. As technology grows so does our understanding of how complex and critical these issues are. There is help for those who are struggling with dual diagnosis, and holistic healing is an empowering way to make a transformation that could change everything.

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Super Bowl LI Commercials Tackle Teenage Drug Overdose

Super Bowl LI Commercials Tackle Teenage Drug Overdose

Author: Justin Mckibben

Every year as Super Bowl Sunday strikes the public is privy to a brand new batch of clever and powerful commercials. Some of us don’t even bother to watch the game, but we make sure to check in for those ads that are often unique and creative ways to grab their audience. This year the 2017 Super Bowl LI commercials ranged from political and controversial, to hysterical or inspirational. The depictions accompanying the game seem to have made varied impressions, but one topic stood out in a different way than others of its kind.

The Super Bowl LI commercials included PSAs that set out to target and tackle the details of drug overdose with teens. Two heart-breaking ads were presented by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) in which the narrative concentrated on the likelihood of overdoses with teenagers; specifically prescription drugs.

NCADA is a St. Louis-based charity which aims to prevent substance abuse and overdose. They do so by offering drug education programs in schools and working to increase awareness of addiction.

Super Bowl LI Commercials: “Safe”

The first PSA was entitled “Safe.” It begins with a father talking about his belief in the second amendment right to bear arms. He tells us about his family’s history with guns and respect for gun safety. They show images of a family hunting together, and a happy daughter with a rifle her father bought her. He emphasizes the fact the family always locks their guns in the safe.

Then, in a tragic turn, he tells the viewer about the overdose death of his 17 year old daughter. He shows the empty pill bottle and says the fire department found it in his daughters hand, followed in an incredibly heart-wrenching way saying-

“I didn’t lock it up.”

The closing credits to the ad include the hard statistic:

Teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than gun fire.

Lock up your prescription medication. Dispose of unused medication properly.

This gripping story only took one minute of halftime Super Bowl LI commercials, but it was a meaningful minute.

Super Bowl LI Commercials: “Smart Phone”

The second PSA of the Super Bowl LI commercials was titled “Smart Phone” and depicted a mother who describes her strict demands for her daughter not to text or use her smart phone and drive. The mother begins with telling about how her daughter was so excited for the phone, and how excited the young woman was to get a license.

The mother insists she was clear about the phone being locked in the glove box while driving, but she trails of into a tear-jerking moment where she asks,

“How could I be so stupid? I put the one thing in her hand that she couldn’t control- painkillers.”

The distraught mother holds up the empty pill bottle to the camera. Throughout the narrative, we are given glimpses of a young girl with her friends. Then the woman portraying the mother delivers a line that makes this message devastating.

“There is nothing in the world that will take this pain away. Ever.”

The commercial closes with the statistic stating:

Teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than texting and driving.

Lock up your prescription medication. Dispose of unused medication properly.

Both of these quick stories are so painfully portrayed by the actors that you can’t help but feel a strong emotional response to the faces and voices in the videos. The fact these ads made their message unexpected at first only adds to the impact.

Getting the Message Across

With these Super Bowl LI commercials the tactic of the twist ending is powerful. Schupp Consulting directed the PSAs and Mark Schupp shared this idea saying,

“There’s a spin to these that I think is very effective,”…”And when we showed them to a (preview) group, they were stunned.”

You may remember that last year NCADA aired another dramatic and compelling Super Bowl commercial called “All America Girl” that told of a young cheerleader turned heroin addict.

The year prior the 2015 PSA featured a mother finding her son overdosed on heroin. Consistently the organization has worked to get a very real, very personal message across.

Yet, some reports show that Schupp thinks this year’s Super Bowl LI commercials are the most powerful. Some might say “powerful” is an understatement. These ads have so much feeling it is hard for many to imagine the reality of them; that these stories come true all over the nation.

The Super Bowl LI commercials reminded us of a lot of things this year. They spoke to us about more than products; they spoke to us about who we are as a nation and where we are in terms of dealing with the adversities we face. Prescription drug abuse and the stigma surrounding addiction is one of the hurdles we know we face, and one that we need to work together to overcome. Recovery is full of champions. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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A Powerful Story from the Face of Addiction

A Powerful Story from the Face of Addiction

Author: Justin Mckibben

Wednesday evening, 9 Frederick County residents in Area 31 in downtown Frederick went in front of a camera. But this wasn’t any ordinary photo shoot. Not some promotion for a new shoe or the next big diet plan. These 9 brave individuals went under the spotlight to divulge some of their darkest memories of addiction, to spread home for recovery.

The filming is for a new video on recovery awareness. Stories like these of struggles and survival are incredibly powerful.

The Face of Addiction

The project has the title “I Am the Face of Addiction.” This in-depth film is intended to showcase progressive and empowering narratives from individuals in recovery. Ultimately, the hope is to inspire other residents of the area struggling with substance abuse.

The dream behind the film and a lot of the work put into it comes from Pam Knight, a Libertytown resident. When talking about how the project came to be, Knight stated:

“We just want to break the stigma of the term ‘drug addict,’…This is a major epidemic, but there are still so many people who are too ashamed or too embarrassed to admit ‘my life is out of control.’”

Knight, a former special education teaching assistant at Linganore High School, has her own history with addiction. That history puts her in a unique position to know the power of perspective.

Accidentally Addicted

In active addiction, at face-value Knight’s life seemed flawless. Her husband, Daniel, owns a successful hair salon in Frederick. The couple has three adult children and three grandchildren. To some this sounds like the American dream, but many wouldn’t know there could be nightmares behind the scenes.

Under it all, Knight was hid a pill addiction for years. She says it began in 2011 after falling off the bleachers at her son’s high school football game. After she was prescribed Vicodin for pain, she began taking more and more. While in the beginning she said the pills made her feel “like Superwoman,” she later describes the experience of addiction as “purgatory.” Knight stated,

“Towards the end, there was no high anymore. You have to have it to make your brain feel normal. The first thing I would do in the morning is pop my pills.”

It didn’t take long before Knight graduated from Vicodin to Percocet. After experimenting with opiates she began doctor-shopping to obtain prescriptions. She admits that her final years of addiction she found herself buying pills off the street.

Her drug of choice was Roxicodone — known as “Roxys” on the street — an opioid-based painkiller. She would purchase quantities of 30 milligram tablets and take multiple doses at a time. Knight said,

“If I didn’t have them, I would get horrible shakes.”

Seeing the Signs

Knight’s husband and her oldest daughter, Loren Maxwell, admit that Knight’s gradual descent into addiction was easy to brush off in the beginning. The signs were somewhat there, but not easy for her family to see for what they were.

Her husband Daniel said he would notice days when she seemed especially manic or sweaty, but Knight always had an explanation.

Maxwell said her mother’s ability to function made her addiction harder to spot. Many people don’t acknowledge the dangers of ‘functioning addiction’ because they don’t understand it.

During this time the family said the signs were simple to dismiss unknowingly or miss altogether. Now that Pam Knight has gone through recovery, Daniel Knight said,

“I see them everywhere.”

Family Fight Knight

Like many people have experienced, the fight with addiction can often be a family affair.

Knight’s youngest son, Connor, was also struggling with addiction at the same time as his mother. Like Pam Knight, Connor said his problems started with the opioid painkillers prescribed for his football injuries. His struggles with opiates graduated much quicker. At 17 years old, Connor first snorted heroin with a bandmate, and his progressive addiction took off.

After years, both Pam and Connor finally found a new chance through rehabilitation at treatment centers in Florida.

Pam has been sober for three years; Connor for 11 months.

Inspiring Others

Pam Knight’s motivation for sharing the gritty details of her experience for this film is to show that recovery is possible. Knight currently speaks in Frederick County Public Schools as an advocate for addiction recovery. She says she hopes to screen the finished video for these audiences to spread more of this story.

Other participants in the film also hope their contribution will inspire recovering addicts. A huge part of inspiring others is to help overcome addiction stigma. Statistically we know that far too many addicts prolong their suffering and lose their lives because they don’t know of a better option, or because they are afraid of the assumptions and stereotypes attached to addiction. Breaking those stereotypes is exactly why we need such powerful stories, such as Pam Knights. A mother, a wife and a miracle who has persevered through a great deal of difficulty. We celebrate her and the others involved in this project helping to reach out and change lives by showing people the true face of addiction is not always what you would expect.

Sharing your story isn’t always easy, but once you have a chance to rewrite your story it can be more powerful than you can imagine. It isn’t always easy to change that story, but it is always possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

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Wisconsin Governor Asking Trump to Help Drug Testing for Food Stamps

Wisconsin Governor Asking Trump to Help Drug Testing for Food Stamps

Author: Justin Mckibben

Drug testing for food stamps and other welfare benefits is a debate people seem to never get tired of having. Over the past few years there have been many state trying to use this kind of restriction in order to save money on benefits, but ironically these programs seem to have a history of being ineffective and actually costing the states money. Money which taxpayers provide. Even though the effort seems like a lost cause, many are not yet convinced.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, apparently has no intention of giving up his mission to drug test welfare and food stamp recipients. Despite the continuous failures of such initiatives, the governor is persistent. Now, Walker has gone so far as to write a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, asking him to give his state permission to begin drug-testing residents who collect food stamps.

Dear Mr. Trump

In the letter Governor Walker wrote Trump on Tuesday, December 20, Walker echoed his desire to require that all able-bodied adults applying for food stamps have to submit to a drug tested, among other requests. Reports state that Walker’s letter said that states can

“-effectively develop and deliver initiatives that align with your goal to make America great again.”

Walker told the Associated Press that he was optimistic that President-Elect Trump would respond quickly once he has taken office. Governor Walker also released a statement reinstating his position regarding a state’s rights. He wrote that,

“Too often, states have become mere administrative provinces of an all-powerful federal government in Washington. Now is the time to reverse that trend. These requests are the first of many my administration will make as Wisconsin leads the effort to restore balance between state and federal government.”

Apparently Governor Walker adamantly rejects the idea that drug testing for welfare is discrimination. He seems committed to this cause, regardless of what the federal government or statistics have told him.

The Failure of Drug-Testing for Food Stamps

As it stands now, federal law prohibits mandatory drug tests for food stamp recipients. Still, that doesn’t seem to bother Walker, who sued the federal government last year for the right to drug test food stamp recipients and those who receive unemployment benefits. In this campaign for a stricter policy, Walker claimed the drug testing was to be if there was “reasonable suspicion” of drug use. However, the suit was never able to gain any traction.

The kicker is, even if Walker were able to make his plan for drug testing for food stamps a reality, these kinds of programs have proven time and time again to be an excessive waste of money and resources.

Some of the States that Tried Drug Testing for Food Stamps

  • In 2009, Arizona claimed that it would save $1.7 million annually by drug-testing welfare applicants. Yet after 6 years it had only saved approximately $4,000
  • In 2013, Missouri spent $493,000 on similar testing, butrecorded just 20 positive results.
  • In 2014, Mississippi launched a program drug testing for food stamps. Out of the first 5 months, only 38 people out of 3,656 were tested, and only 2 tested positive.
  • Tennessee had a drug testing for food stamps program, but it only ended up denying 30 people out of 28,559 applicants. Again, the cost of testing outweighed the cost of benefits saved.
  • Florida lost out BIG with their drug testing for food stamps program. The state recorded a loss of $45,780… after only a four-month period from July to October 2012!

Not to mention it was later revealed by the American Civil Liberties Union that Scott had spent $400,000 in taxpayer money to defend his program and appeal the court rulings that it was unconstitutional, a fight which he inevitably had to give up.

These are just a few examples of failed initiatives requiring drug testing for food stamps.

The Problem in the Programs

In a serious shade-throwing piece regarding Wisconsin’s run for drug testing for welfare, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated last year,

“Governor Walker hasn’t read the law. It’s always a good idea before you start litigation to understand what the law is.”

In a similar discussion in 2014, the USDA told the state of Georgia,

“Requiring SNAP applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits would constitute an additional condition of eligibility, and therefore, is not allowable under law.”

This debate always comes to the argument of “if someone has to drug test to have a job, others should have to drug test to get taxpayer money in the form of welfare.” The reality is, not everyone has to drug test in order to get a job. Clearly, as these past few years we have seen a massive hike in drug abuse, overdose and drug-related fatalities. To insinuate that all these people are unemployed is just ridiculous.

My favorite idea was to require drug testing for the wealthy to receive tax breaks, but that idea didn’t get quite as much support from government officials for some weird reason.

Another side of that implication is why many are offended by these programs, because they believe it assumes everyone who is poor and needs government assistance is a drug user. Even beyond that, others say it is harsh to deny those who could possibly be struggling with drugs and condemn them to a cycle of crime and abuse.

Either way, Wisconsin’s governor seems pretty confident that the way to “Make America Great Again” is by drug testing for food stamps, no matter how many times it has been ineffective or far too expensive to justify.

An addict isn’t ‘scared straight’ by these kinds of tactics, and our country is seeing the importance of treatment instead of punishment. There is a way out, and Palm Partners is here to provide effective treatment for those willing to seek help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free  now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Author: Justin Mckibben

As much as I love where I come from, Columbus, Ohio has been through a lot recently. Ohio in general has seen some of the worst addiction and overdose rates in its history, and the state was actually sited as being #1 in opioid overdose deaths in the country. So of course there are very strong opinions about the devastation caused by substance abuse. Having grown up in Columbus, it is sad to see how the community is suffering. It is even more disturbing to see how some are reacting. When I came across this headline and saw the comments being made, not just by the store but from people in support of their remarks, it disturbed me deeply.

Now many across the state are in an uproar about the controversy that has been brought on by one convenience store in Columbus, Ohio. The owners posted hand-written messages around the store that are appallingly indifferent to the pain of the people in their neighborhood.

The signs of stigma…

West Broad Street in Columbus is a side of town I’m pretty familiar with, especially while in active addiction, so I’m sure that plenty of people have seen these signs. The Save Way Mini Mart on West Broad Street displayed the two notes that they hoped would dismay customers from stealing, but some patrons have found it insulting and offensive.

One sign, near the front door, says:

“Keep bags up front. Don’t stink! Take showers. Take care of your kids. Stay sober don’t OD. Nothing is free.”

The second sign was placed above a shelf holding cases of tin foil. Some will use tin foil to cook whatever substance, often heroin but not exclusively, before smoking or injecting it. This one states:

“Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you.”

Yes, let this all sink in for a moment. Not just the fact that the word “junkie” is so destructive, but the content that follows is callous.

First thing is first, this is inexplicably ignorant to the reality that is shaking the world right now. With more people across America than ever being hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol, and higher rates of overdose deaths than ever in our nation’s history, how can people still believe these kinds of stigma?

According to WSYX/WTTE, a local news source, the store’s management would not speak on camera, but they told the news station they meant no offense, but also said the signs will not be taken down.

Really, no offense?

What is wrong with this picture…

This is wrong on so many levels, and I can’t believe I actually have to explain to some people why, but just in case I’ll give it a shot.

These signs insinuate statements that are so incredibly wrong on so many levels. To sum it up, these signs say:

  • All addicts stink/don’t shower
  • All addicts don’t take care of their children
  • All addicts are thieves
  • If you are an addict, you deserve to overdose (OD)

These are all equally as stigmatic and offensive, but that last part is just disgusting. The amount of indifference toward those in pain must be pretty intense for someone to willfully wish overdose onto someone else. To mock the despair and hardship of some while essentially telling them, and promoting to others, the idea that addicts deserve to overdose. Shrugging off the death of people who battle an insidious illness every day because they are “junkies” is repulsive.

Beyond that, the fact is these signs ignore what statistics have been telling us about addiction being more than just something impacting a certain demographic. These stereotypes are a huge part of the reason why it is taking us so long as a society to move forward.

Not all addicts are homeless! Not all addicts are absentee parents! Not all addicts are poor! Addiction touches the CEOs and stock brokers the same way it touches the unemployed and criminal. When we make such harsh generalizations of people who need our compassion we marginalize people who already often feel chastised, misunderstood or hopeless.

To those who comment…

Now as I said, when I first saw this story, the signs themselves we incredibly shameful, but the comments it received in support of this message and ridiculing addicts only compounded the issue. People who say that people ‘choose’ to be addicts and that they ‘choose’ to do drugs and ruin their lives.

It is baffling how some people still insist addiction is a choice. Even when the medical community recognizes it as a medical condition, people adamantly deny that it is a disease; when many regard it as a brain disorder, consisting of various psychological and physical factors. Yet people still go on about how it is the addicts fault because they chose that life.

Sure, people choose to do drugs, but we don’t choose to become addicted. That isn’t up to use. How many people drink and do drugs in their lifetime and don’t become addicts? More than anyone will ever know. A lot of you have probably had your share of experiments. So count yourself lucky, you didn’t have to walk the path many of us do. Stop being self-righteous; try being grateful.

The stigma is killing us…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimates that 91 Americans are dying of an opioid overdose every day! A true tragedy is that many people struggling with drug addiction never seek help because of the judgment they could face. They prolong their suffering as a result of blatant and baseless stigma, which can have a lasting impact. People are actually dying every day because stigma can discourage people from seeking help.

How many parents avoid getting help because of people who think addiction makes them horrible caregivers, or neglectful and absent? How many families are torn apart because the fear of how it looks to the world to be an addict? How many have died before they could get treatment?

Some people want to treat actions like this as no big deal. This writer thinks this is a pretty big problem. To suggest that a heroin addict, or any addict, deserves to overdose, or even die, for stealing tin foil… is insanely irresponsible and inconsiderate to the wellbeing of not just the afflicted individual, but the community.

Don’t let the stigma block you or your loved ones off from the solution. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are no alone.

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