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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.

    CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

How Criminal Justice VS Addiction Recovery Could Change

How Criminal Justice VS Addiction Recovery Could Change

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.

Playing Politics

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

America VS Big Pharma: Fighting for Naloxone Funding

America VS Big Pharma: Fighting for Naloxone Funding

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in 1971 the brand name Narcan, generic- Naloxone, was introduced to the world. The opiate overdose antidote has become a popular topic of discussion in our world today. With heroin, fentanyl and other dangerous opioid drugs feeding the opiate epidemic and overdose outbreak, these medications are sought after as the life-line pulling addicts back from deaths door.

With the rise in opiate abuse came the rise in demand, and with the rise in demand we were shown a side of Big Pharma that has many in an uproar. Since 1971 the price for Narcan has grown 4,000 percent! Yes, 4 with 3 zeros after it!

I’ve written before about this trend; something I consider to be a disheartening injustice and abuse of power. Today I want to re-emphasize the point by looking into some specifics about the lengths many have to go to in order to provide this life-saving medicine to their citizens. Let’s talk about America VS Big Pharma and the fight for Naloxone funding.

Baltimore’s Battle for Naloxone

In 2014 Baltimore, Maryland was referred to as “Heroin Capital of America” with an estimated 60,000 heroin addicts out of a population of 645,000. While Baltimore may no longer be one of the top states in overdose deaths, the state’s budget shows:

  • $33,540 on Naloxone in 2014
  • $118,236 on Naloxone for the fiscal year of 2016

So in two years, Baltimore has more than tripled the amount of money spent on Naloxone. Baltimore’s Health Commissioner Leana Wen continues to work at sounding the alarm across the country for Naloxone price gouging since stepping into the position in 2015. In March she called on Congress to enact price controls on the drug in the interest of public safety. In her plea Wen stated,

“The cost of naloxone skyrocketing means that we can only save a fraction of the lives we were able to before… Manufacturers have claimed that this price increase is related to increased demand. However, it is unclear why the cost of a generic medication that is available for much lower costs in other countries will be suddenly so expensive.”

Pennsylvania in Pain

In Pennsylvania drug overdoses tied to opioids rose nearly a quarter last year, yet these communities are still dependent on the goodwill of charitable organizations and health insurance companies. These resources are meaningful, but don’t go far enough!

  • Pittsburgh-based Highmark Foundation donated $50,000 in the first quarter of last year to purchase Naloxone to local law enforcement agencies. But it didn’t renew the grant this year.
  • Health insurers contributed a total of $500,000 in Pennsylvania alone to fund naloxone distribution.
  • Cigna Foundation donated $50,000 this year to fund Naloxone access
  • Independence Blue Cross joined the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association in a providing $50,000 to provide Naloxone to first responders

But most patrol officers still don’t have it! As of 2016 Naloxone kits have only been distributed to about 15% of Philadelphia police officers!

Delaware County has taken extra measures. Officials made it so money seized during drug investigations under asset forfeiture laws could be used to support its Naloxone program.

In case you didn’t know, Pittsburgh doesn’t play either. In July one judge ordered two convicted drug dealers to throw in almost $4,000 for Naloxone funding. Now that is a new brand of justice.

Rhode Island’s Settlement Savings

This was a desperate move indeed, as Rhode Island reached into the $230 million settlement with Google for $40 million to help keep its program alive. This settlement is from when Google facilitated the illegal online exchange of prescription drugs from Canada.

5 Government Interventions

  1. Big Pharma Letters

In June Senate Special Committee on Aging addressed a letter to five leading naloxone manufactures requesting an explanation for increasing drug costs. These companies are:

  • Amphaster Pharmaceuticals

Amphaster Pharma’s price went from $12 in 2012 to $41 a dose as of 2015.

  • Pfizer
  • Adapt Pharmaceuticals

Adapt’s Narcan nasal spray costs $63 each dose. Although it does cut price in half for government agencies, community organizations, and patients without insurance

  • Kaleo Pharma

Price went from $375 in November 2015 to $1,875 in February 2016. Now, only 7 months later, it’s up to $2,250 for a single-dose injector!

  • Mylan Inc.

Most of these companies claimed the price hikes are due to additional burdens they face to meet the exponential demands. Yet, this excuse isn’t flying with many healthcare advocates. The executive director of the Chicago Recovery Alliance, Dan Bigg, has said in response,

“We’re not talking about a limited commodity. Naloxone is a medicine that is almost as cheap as sterile sodium chloride—salt water,”

As far as more help from the powers that be, many state and local governments are reaching into emergency funding to provide Naloxone to first responders. Other government programs have been put in a position to help, but is that help enough?

  1. Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal Grant Program

The Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal Grant Program distributes $1.5 million from government funding, but it had to be split between 15 communities. This has helped some, but left many officials scavenging for financing to be prepared for 2017. Many are calling on the government to assume even more costs.

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block Grants

States do have authorization to draw on these funds to subsidize Naloxone purchases. However, in the words or Peter Luongo, executive director of the Institute for Research, Education & Training in the Addictions, “That’s not new money.”

What this means is that officials must now move the money out of other programs for addiction prevention and treatment. So instead of getting more help, they are having to pick-and-choose which help is more necessary.

  1. Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)

This summer President Obama signed for this initiative. It means to call for expanding first-responder access to Naloxone. However, the fact remains that CARA funding has not yet been established by Congress.

  1. Department of Health and Human Services

Supposedly starting this month this office will be providing up to $11 million to fund Naloxone distribution. However even this great contribution will only apply to a dozen states.

The Overdose Oligopoly

The reality is this is a fight we need to talk more about. Despite all these government interventions, why is it we still cannot keep up with Big Pharma pricing?

So far nothing seems to justify the monopolizing and exploitation of the opiate epidemic by Big Pharma. These companies are actively increasing the price of a life-saving medication by over 1,000% in many cases during a period in which tens of thousands of people all over the country are dying!

Whether you know all that much about economics, Big Pharma is making millions upon millions of dollars off of these medications. They claim to be trying to keep up with costs, yet continue to show increasing profit. Call it what it is- extortion via oligopoly.

Naloxone and Narcan may not be the miracle cure for opiate addiction, but for many it is the only reason they are alive. So, how many can say the lack of access is the only reason their loved one is not? Surely, Naloxone access expansion is taking off in a new way. CVS stores, schools and all types of venues are providing kits, training and other resources. The only problem is, they are struggling to maintain those resources.

We, as a nation, should expect better than this.

A bigger part of getting better is beyond the medication used to preserve life. Real recovery begins with the process of working to change a life. Holistic addiction treatment allows people who were once hopeless build the foundation of hope again. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call Palm Partners. You are not alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Passes Senate

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Passes Senate

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in March we talked about the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and how Republicans had been less than willing to vote for additional funds to be added to the legislation. In the face of an overwhelming outbreak of heroin and opiate addiction some would say it still falls short. However, as of Wednesday the Senate will advance the legislation forward.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) is a critical piece of policy for fighting addiction in America. While it may still be an imperfect reform, it is still something to work with. Thankfully, life is about progress not perfection.

A Victory for Fighting Addiction  

Some of the primary purposes of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act are to:

The whole intention, as we have stated before, was to formally authorize the federal government to utilize a more compassionate response system in address addiction. This would replace relying on prison and a cycle of punishment that only feeds into the problems so closely connected to drug abuse such as poverty. The bill is a product of:

  • Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio
  • Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island

Despite concerns over funding, Democrats in the Senate decided not to block the measure. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed with a rousing 90 votes for and only 2 against.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, stated:

“By increasing prevention, treatment, recovery and law enforcement tools, CARA can help prevent more people from struggling with addiction to begin with, and it can help foster long-term healing for those already struggling with addiction,”

It is more than logical to attack the issue with addiction on the back-end while also address the root causes. Hopefully this new legislation can follow through.

Money Makers Make It

As far as objections go, there were plenty despite the Democrats being willing to pass the act anyway. When the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act had pushed through the House last week in a nearly unanimous decision there was already concern. Democrats had offered up and amendment to provide $920 million to fighting opioid abuse. Republicans shot this proposal down. The emergency funding provision would have allocated additional financial backing for various innovative programs including:

  • $230 million to law enforcement initiatives, including treatment alternatives to incarceration
  • $10 million would have gone to state and local law enforcement units that oversee communities with high levels of drug use
  • $300 million for state programs focused on prevention, treatment and recovery, and for improving treatment for pregnant and postpartum women dealing with heroin or opioid addiction.

Consider all the work that needs to be done in order to support these initiatives. Why doesn’t more money make it through? Regardless, Democrats recognized the severity of the situation and voted to pass the bill. During the floor debate in the Senate it was noted that more money is needed to provide support for:

  • Mental health workers
  • Law enforcement
  • Addiction beds at addiction facilities

Still, there is some hope for more funding. Republicans have assured they will work to include additional funding in 2017 appropriations legislation. New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer stated,

“Until we pass the increase in resources for both law enforcement and treatment, we cannot say Congress has done what is necessary to solve and fight the opioid crisis,”

This is absolutely true. Without putting your money where your mouth is it will be far more difficult to fight this fight. Providing lasting and diverse support for addiction treatment means investing in it. With the prominence of addiction in this country, it is an investment in our own future.

Reforms aimed at addressing addiction and supporting recovery are no walk in the park, but the fact that addiction is being viewed as the health issue it is, not the moral failing people once assumed it was, shows progress. Hopefully support for addiction treatment will grow and more lives will be saved. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135  

California Joins States Considering Safe Injection Sites

California Joins States Considering Safe Injection Sites

Author: Justin Mckibben

Yes, I’m bringing this topic to the table once again because now the trend is starting to pick up the pace and it has me curious. The past two months I have written a few stories on how certain counties in New York and in Washington have law makers and law enforcement officials pushing for a some-what controversial tactic for attacking the heroin epidemic in their respective areas by creating safe injection sites for heroin users, or realistically anyone using an IV to ingest drugs, to safely use with medical staff on site and sterilized equipment.

Now California has joined the growing number of cities and states across the country that are actually considering the benefits of opening safe injection sites, so I find myself wondering if more and more people are changing their minds and opening up to the possibility of reducing the overdose death rates by instituting controlled and safe environments for addicts to use.

Around the world there are about 100 safe injection sites operating in various countries including:

  • Canada
  • Spain
  • Norway

Despite the seemingly growing popularity of the idea with some, there are currently no safe injection sites operating here in America. The whole goal of these safe injection sites is to provide a innocuous environment for injection drug users in order to keep them off the streets, while promoting safe injection practices and even providing addiction treatment resources.

Clinics in California

Just this past Tuesday Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman introduced a proposed legislation that rivals those of the other states pursuing safe injection sites. This new move would would make it legal for local and state health departments to allow the use of controlled substances in clinics. During a press conference Eggman stressed the severity of the situation with heroin and opiate abuse and how important it is that we as a nation start to fight addiction in a new way with a better understanding. She stated,

“Addiction is a health care issue, and I think it’s high time we started treating it as a public health issue, versus a criminal issue. This bill is one step to be able to address the heroin addiction and epidemic of overdoses that we’re having in our country.”

Eggman is now focusing on the success of North America’s only supervised injection facility in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has operated since 2003, much like the other times we have discussed this idea Eggman has pointed to the Insite facility as an inspiration for what some believe is possible for states in America to implement in order to save lives.

Canadian Sen. Larry Campbell joined Eggman at the press conference in Sacramento to support her proposal, being an experienced authority on the subject as the mayor of Vancouver during the time the Insite safe injection site was created. In his comments advocating the use of safe injection sites Campbell claimed,

“The drug is illegal, but the person who’s using the drug is suffering from a recognized medical disease. What this does is simply treat the addiction, keep somebody alive and keep them off the streets.”

This is a pretty strong statement from a former law enforcement officer who ran for mayor on the platform that he intended to open a safe injection site in Vancouver, explaining to the press that in his work in the community he saw firsthand the horrors of heroin addiction and overdose death, and that he was tired of watching the body count climb higher and higher and knew something had to be done. Since opening over 13 years ago Insite has seen not a single overdose fatality, and in its first year alone the safe injection site is estimated to have saved the state $1.5 million in health care costs.

Yet the new legislation for safe injection sites in California is nowhere near set in stone, much like any other similar proposal, and still faces stout opposition from local law enforcement. According to a spokesperson for the California State Sheriff’s Association, the safe injection sites bill “sends entirely the wrong message regarding drug use.” So far the voting by the committee has been postponed, which many would call a clear cut indication that lawmakers in California are hesitant to support the institution of safe injection sites.

Every time I bring up this topic we get a decent amount of feedback from people both supporting and opposing safe injection sites, so I guess I’m just wondering if we are set to see any drastic shift anytime soon.

As the death rate escalates in relation to heroin addiction and the infections caused by intravenous drug use, the nation may have to at least consider options that some may find controversial. Safe injection sites might not be the best answer, but it seems some are at least considering it as an option. Beyond the needle for a maintenance program, there is real lasting recovery in holistic healing. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-951-6135

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