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Opioid Epidemic Declared a Public Health Emergency by Gov. Rick Scott

Opioid Epidemic Declared a Public Health Emergency by Gov. Rick Scott

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

Author: Shernide Delva

It’s the moment many were waiting for…

Today, May 3rd, Gov. Rick Scott issued a statewide public health emergency over the opioid epidemic. This declaration is in response to multiple requests from local officials and residents.  Furthermore, more than $27 million will be distributed immediately to communities throughout the state of Florida to reduce the devastation of the opioid epidemic.

In a press release, Governor Scott said,

“Today, I issued an executive order which allows the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding which will immediately be distributed to communities across the state to deal with the opioid epidemic. HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price awarded the Opioid State Targeted Response Grant to Florida, and I want to thank the Trump Administration for their focus on this national epidemic. I have also directed State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare a Public Health Emergency and issue a standing order for Naloxone in response to the opioid epidemic in Florida.”

Rick Scott initiated four opioid listening workshops that took place earlier this week.  The first workshop was held at West Palm Beach on May 1st. Three other opioid workshops were held later in the week in Manatee and Orange counties.

The Early Stages

Originally, Governor Rick Scott created the opioid workshops to gather information about the opioid epidemic on a more local level. Both public figures and members of the community joined to discuss potential plans of action.  The meetings were capped at 90-minutes. Those in attendance were uncertain of the action that would take place from those meetings.

Therefore, those in attendance called on the governor to declare the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency in order to expedite funding efforts.

Shortly after the Zika virus entered South Florida, it was declared a public health crisis, yet the opioid epidemic did not receive the same treatment, despite overdose fatalities reaching an all-time high.

“If we were able to move that quickly on (the Zika) issue, why can’t we move more quickly on this (heroin) issue?’’ Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinley stated during the opioid workshop held in West Palm Beach.

Now, upon hearing this news from Gov. Rick Scott,  McKinley feels a sense of relief.

“Today I feel relief. relief that the voices of so many were finally heard. For the pain of loss so many families have faced, to those struggling to overcome addiction,” she said.

“I am hopeful that the governor’s direction to declare a public health crisis in response to the opioid epidemic will open the door to a truly meaningful plan to fight this disease.”

The Palm Beach Post published an investigative report titled “Heroin: Killer of a Generation” in which they profiled all 216 people who died of an opioid overdose in its coverage are in 2015. The goal was to draw attention to the magnitude of the addiction epidemic in a way statistic simply could not do.

The Results:

Looking at the statement Gov. Rick Scott released, a few key things are happening:

  • More than $27 million in federal grant funding which will immediately be distributed to communities across the state to deal with the opioid epidemic.
  • Dr. Celeste Philip is ordered by Gov. Rick Scott to declare a Public Health Emergency.
  • Naloxone will receive a standing order in response to the opioid epidemic in Florida

The opioid epidemic is taking away lives throughout the nation. Every 15 hours last year, someone died of an opioid overdose in Palm Beach County. Is this a step in the right direction?  What should the next step be?


This epidemic does not discriminate. Everyone is affected. If you are struggling with addiction, please reach out. Do not wait. Your life depends on it. We are here to help. Call now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

TV Star Craig Ferguson Reflects on 25 Years Sober

 

TV Star Craig Ferguson Reflects on 25 Years Sober

Author: Shernide Delva

TV star Craig Ferguson recently celebrated 25 years of sobriety on February 18, 2017. He tweeted to his followers about his major milestone.

He said: “I’m 25 years sober and anyone who knew me back then would tell you how impossible that is. Thanks for the miracle.”

Craig Ferguson became a household name as the presenter of the Late Late Show which since has been taken over by James Corden.

In an interview, he acknowledged the start of his recovery journey:

“I got sober. I stopped killing myself with alcohol. I began to think: ‘Wait a minute – if I can stop doing this, what are the possibilities?’ And slowly it dawned on me that it was maybe worth the risk.”

During his years on the Late Late Show, Ferguson regularly discussed his days in active addiction in a humorous and commendable way.

For example, in 2007, when pop star Britney Spears was struggling with her own personal issues, Ferguson was one of the only late night hosts to not poke fun at her. That year, Spears was caught shaving her head and getting lips tattooed on her wrist. In case you do not remember, the media went berserk. Shortly after, Spears was checked into rehabilitation. At the time, Ferguson felt it was wrong to joke at another person’s expense.

“Now I’m not saying Britney is alcoholic, I don’t know what she is — alcoholic or not — but she clearly needs help,” he said.

Reflecting on Sobriety

In an interview to Times magazine in 2009, Ferguson explained that even if he was not an alcoholic, he would not drink. The concept of drinking without getting drunk simply does not interest him.

“The idea of having one or two drinks bores the ass out of me. If I’m going to drink, I’m going to do it to get drunk. If I’m not going to get drunk, I’m just not going to drink. It’s hard to explain. That isn’t necessarily what alcoholism is, I just tried to explain it as it manifested itself in me.”

Right getting sober, Ferguson admits alcohol saved him from committing suicide. In one of his most famous monologues, Ferguson talks about a weekend “all-night bender” that shifted the direction of his life. He woke up on Christmas morning covered in his own (or someone else’s) urine and miserable.

That morning, he decided he would commit suicide by swine-diving over the tower bridge in London.  He decided to stop by his favorite bar and that was when his bartender Tommy offered him a glass of cherry. One thing led to another and Ferguson says he forgot to kill himself that day.

“Here’s the important point: the alcohol saved my life. I was self-medicating. I’m an alcoholic.  I needed alcohol. I needed something…” he said.

After that day, he continued drinking heavily doing stand-ups and continuing his binge-drinking ways. Finally, on February 18, 1992, he called his sober friend seeking help and that friend helped him go to rehab.  After his 28 day stint in rehab, Ferguson says the work had just begun.

“I don’t have a drinking problem. I have a thinking problem.”

Ferguson finally understood his alcoholism and accepted that, for the rest of his life, he would have to stay sober.

“Certain types of people can’t drink. I’m one of them,” he said.

In the 2007 monologue, Ferguson concluded that the best way he copes with his alcoholism is through reaching out to others who have had similar experiences.

“I have found that the only way I can deal with [alcoholism] is to find other people who have similar experiences and talk to them. It doesn’t cost anything. And they’re very easy to find. They’re very near the front of the telephone book. Good luck,”  he said.

Now 25 years sober, Ferguson remains grateful for each day.

Ferguson’s Upbringing

Growing up, Craig Ferguson did not have the easiest childhood.  Born in 1962, he had the kind of dark childhood that often leads many to a career in comedy. He was chubby and bullied and he lived in Cumbernauld, 15 miles outside Glasgow.  Ferguson notes that his town was named the ­second-worst town in the United Kingdom, an appraisal he finds excessively flattering

Then, during a punk phase in the 80s, he played drums in a band called the Dreamboys. His band-mate, actor Peter Capaldi, convinced him to try comedy. He wrote about all of this in his memoir American on Purpose.

“Peter was the first person who told me that being funny was a gift and, when done well, was an art form,” he writes. “Up until this point, I had learned that being funny, particularly in school, was stupid and could get you physically injured.”

After a few false starts, Ferguson went back to the drawing board, inventing a character to play at a show in Glasgow. He decided to parody all the native über-patriot folk singers in Scotland and the act stuck. From that point, Ferguson was on his way.

Yet, as his career and comedy continued to climb, Ferguson’s alcoholism continued to drag him down. Ferguson spent his spare time draining himself with too many pints of alcohol. Finally, on that fateful day in 1992, Ferguson made the decision to get sober. That was just the beginning, and 25 years later, he understands his disease more than ever.

“I have an addictive personality,” he notes. “I’ll try anything a hundred times just to make sure I don’t like it.”

—-

Overall, Craig Ferguson exemplifies why one should never give up on their sobriety. Regardless of how deep into your addiction you believe you are, it is never too late to reach out for help. Do not wait. Call now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

New Florida Bills: One to Protect Addicts and One to Punish

New Florida Bills: One to Protect Addicts and One to Punish

Author: Justin Mckibben

Sometimes new policy can be good. Sometimes, not so much.

The opiate epidemic in America has hit some states with staggering rates of overdose and death. The paralyzing truth gripping the nation today is that more people are dying from drug overdose than homicides and car crashes. Heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers collectively decimate entire communities. People from all over are starting to push officials and lawmakers for more progressive and effective solutions.

Addiction has led to an overdose outbreak that shakes the country to the core, everywhere. Now, Florida lawmakers are pushing for new legislation to try and protect and serve those who suffer from an overdose. One of the first bills on the 2017 agenda is one that hopes to change how law enforcement treats overdose victims.

Although, another bill is trying to turn things in a very different direction.

Florida HB 61 Bill

Florida Representative Larry Lee, a Democrat from Port St. Lucie, has filed a proposal titled HB 61. If approved, this piece of reform would require several new policies for healthcare providers, starting with hospitals.

  • It would require hospitals to screen overdose victims to determine the need for additional health care services
  • Prohibits hospitals from discharging overdose patients to a detox or treatment facility until stabilized
  • Requires attending physician to attempt contact with patients primary care physician, or other treatment providers, who prescribe controlled substances to notify them of overdose
  • Requires hospital to inform medical director of treatment center (if patient is currently in treatment) of the overdose
  • Hospital must inform overdose victim’s family or emergency contact of overdose
  • Must inform contacts what drugs they suspect to have caused overdose
  • Attending physician must provide list of drug treatment providers and information about Florida’s Marchman act and Backer act in case the family or contact wishes to seek legal action to protect the addict

The Big Change in HB 61

Lastly, what is probably the most progressive part of this legislation, is the HB 61 bill would prohibit criminal charges from police officers and prosecutors against the overdose victim for possession of any drugs found on them during the incident.

This final aspect of HB 61 this writer thinks is a big deal, because from personal experience I have seen and heard many stories of individuals not calling for help in the event of an overdose out of fear of prosecution. In some cases people actually die because of the fear of criminal punishment. Adding this kind of measure to the bill is an attempt at eliminating the loss of life due to fear of discrimination. Even if it is not a perfect system, this kind of reform takes first responders and law enforcement a step closer to dealing with addicts who are fighting a fatal illness like sick people instead of criminals.

Florida SB 150 Bill Attacks Fentanyl

From across the aisle we see another push from Republican Senator Greg Steube from Sarasota. The question is, will this push go in the right direction? On December 12, he introduced bill SB 150. This is set to be a direct attack on fentanyl.

For those who are not yet familiar, fentanyl is an incredibly powerful, and lethal, opioid painkiller. It’s medical use is to sedate surgical patients and relieve chronic pain. However, being several times more powerful than heroin, it has crept into the illicit drug trade in various parts of the country. And with its arrival also came a horrifying increase in overdose and death.

This proposal means to make 4 grams or more of fentanyl a first-degree felony through:

  • Manufacturing
  • Selling
  • Buying

November 20, the Palm Beach Post released an analysis of people who died in 2015 from heroin-related overdoses. Out of the 216 individuals profiled in this report, 42% of the cases were found to involve fentanyl. So of course, with Steube coming from a district hit particularly hard by the opiate epidemic, it is logical to want to do everything you can to cut the flow of fentanyl off.

Yet, some say that this kind of strategy is too close to the concept of mandatory minimums.

Is SB 150 Too Close to Mandatory Minimums?

For those who need more clarification, mandatory minimum sentencing laws were a “one-size-fits-all” strategy implemented originally back in 1951 against marijuana, then repealed in the 1970s, and refined in 1986. In 1973, New York State enacted mandatory minimums of 15 years to life for possession of more than 4 ounces of any hard drug.

The idea is that regardless of the individual or the circumstances that a certain crime will have an inflexible punishment across the board. Ever since their introduction, criminal justice advocates have fought these laws, and they have always been surrounded by debate and controversy.

Essentially, some are already saying that SB 150 will ruthlessly make addicts into victims of the already overpopulated prison system. To be clear and fair- the bill does not seem to directly require a specific prison sentence like mandatory minimums, but it’s similar in that it treats every issue related to fentanyl the same.

The issue has already been argued time and time again that non-violent low-level drug offenders have spent excessive amounts of time in prison for possession of a substance. In some cases, an individual will do more time behind bars for possessing a large quantity of drugs than someone who has actually killed someone. Some have come to the conclusion that this tactic just doesn’t work.

The fear with SB 150 is not about the manufacturers or the dealers as much as it is for the consumers. Sometimes individuals purchase drugs on the street believing it to be heroin or another substance without even knowing there is fentanyl in it. So this bill would make first-degree felons out of desperate addicts?

What is Right?

The big question we all face at the end of the day is- what is the right thing to do? How is the best way to handle something that feels so utterly out of hand?

Well, it would seem like its time to finally let go of the archaic stigma. More states and law enforcement officials are turning to compassionate and supportive progress. Many places in America are starting to do everything they can to help people struggling with addiction to find help before it is too late. So why move backwards?

In my opinion, strictly based on what has been presented so far, SB 150 seems dangerous. There are countless advocates out there who say that intensifying the punishment is not how you deter the crime. Especially when it comes to addiction, because this kind of method still suggests it is a moral failing and not a psychological and physical illness.

HB 61 seems to be trying to call health care providers to action and add more accountability on the front lines in the fight against the overdose outbreak. At the same time it seems to move in the opposite direction of SB 150 by trying to limit the persecution of addicts. HB 61 makes more room to help preserve life and offer treatment and solutions. By now we should already know, the solution isn’t a War on Drugs, it is community and compassion.

These are some of the initial responses to recommendations recently made by the grand jury. Every day there are countless people suffering. And every day there are countless more recovering and fighting to help others recover. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Patrick Kennedy On Addiction, Mental Illness and Advocacy

Patrick Kennedy Talks Depression, Addiction And The Need for Funding

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

Author: Shernide Delva 

Recently, Patrick Kennedy opened up about depression, addiction and the dire need for funding when it comes to mental health. As a member of the famed Kennedy family, it should not surprise anyone that Patrick Kennedy has found a passion in politics.

Patrick Kennedy had his own personal struggles with addiction and mental illness. He was treated for cocaine addiction as a teenager and has been addicted to alcohol and OxyContin. In 2011, Kennedy made the decision to cease the abuse and become sober. He wrote about his past in the 2015 memoir, A Common Struggle, detailing his hardships overcoming depression and drugs.

After leaving the House of Representatives, Kennedy decided to be a voice for the voiceless through shedding light on mental illness and addiction. Patrick Kennedy has openly revealed his bipolar disorder in the past, so he knows firsthand how debilitating mental illnesses can be if left untreated.

Kennedy’s Plan for Advocacy

The former congressman told The Press of Atlantic City he is hoping to fight both mental disease and addiction. He was quoted stating,

“We have to flood the system with more money to build it up with more counselors, to build more facilities, get reimbursement for therapies, for treatment in schools, the criminal justice system, and the workforce. This thing has got to be a key part of us, as a nation, so that we can be all that we can be.”

Kennedy applauded Bruce Springsteen’s recent decision to open up about his depression in his memoir, Born to Run, that shows others what mental illness looks like. Kennedy believes public figures who come out about their mental health struggles are doing a great service in reducing the overall stigma in society.

With the upcoming election, Kennedy also praised Hilary Clinton for her strides in putting mental health issues on par with physical health. He states he wants health plans to cover mental health and addiction the way they would a physical illness like diabetes.

Mental Health = Physical Health

Kennedy added that the government does not currently fund mental health the same way that it supports physical health and this should change.

“If it’s good enough for cancer, it should be good enough for mental health and addiction,” Kennedy said. “When someone has diabetes or cancer, there’s chronic treatment, support for the family. You get everything you need to stay well, and we need that same approach to mental illness and addiction.”

Regarding his family, he said,

“I feel I’m more present in their lives when I take care of my mental health. I can pay more attention to them, which I think is key to their mental health. I can be expressive in my love for them and bring reassurance to them on how important they are to me.”

World Mental Health day fell on October 10th this year. So many public figures such as the royal family, Michelle Obama, and Zelda Williams came out promoting awareness of mental health. It is wonderful to see this message being spread by so many prominent members of society. No one should shy away from treatment because of fear.

Mental illness and addiction should be treated in the same way as other illnesses. There should be a continued effort to reduce the stigmas associated with these circumstances.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, please call toll-free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

The ‘Parenting is Prevention’ Billboard Controversy

Two Parents Hold Young Man's Arm From Reaching Syringe

Author: Shernide Delva

A billboard in Frederick, Maryland reads “Addiction is preventable. Parenting is Prevention.”

Parents were not happy with the message. The billboard has received tons attention for its controversial message.  After multiple complaints, the billboard was taken down.

Why?

A child’s death from any cause is devastating enough. When a parent loses a child to alcohol or drug use, additional layers of grief are present. Shock, guilt, anger, and depression are normal reactions. Substance-related deaths have unfortunately skyrocketed across the United States. There is currently a prescription painkiller epidemic across the globe. in the U.S, prescription medications are the leading cause of death where substances are a factor.

When it comes to addiction, parents are just as much affected as their child. It can be a long, arduous challenge for a parent to try and get treatment for their child. Even with that effort, it is up to the addict to finally make the choice to recover. Blaming the parents alone for the death of a child is unfactual and wrong.

Furthermore, the spokeswoman for the Frederick County Health Department, who created the billboard, stated they did not intend any harm when creating the advertisement. They were aiming to spread a message of prevention.

“We have heard your comments and concerns regarding the billboard message and, again, apologize for any hurt it may have unintentionally caused.”

Nevertheless, parents who have lost a child to substance abuse want to ensure the public knows there is more than parenting to blame for children who die from drug addiction.  Addiction is a disease that can destroy the lives of families. Blaming the addiction on families is a one-sided way of looking at the addiction crisis. Parents saw the ad as a stigmatizing sentiment. It left many parents wondering, “So, I need to parent better?” or “Is the death of my child all my fault?”

While we have touched on parent enabling and other behaviors that can hinder an addict from receiving treatment, no one should feel they are fully responsible for the outcome of this disease. The billboard continues the stigma that addiction is a crime, instead of a disease.

Controversy and Protests

As a result, a Change.org petition garnered 3,000 signatures in a few days to urge whoever created the billboard to take it down. Many of the signatures came from parents who had lost a child to an overdose. Brenda Steward, the founder of The Addict’s Parent United, was the creator.

Sadly, this is not the first time messages like this spread in the community. Back in 2013, Francis Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, wrote a blog post entitled “Parenting is Prevention.”

Parents responded in rage. Many expressed that they had done everything in their power to prevent losing their child. They felt stigmatized and hurt by these words.

“Wow, I never knew I had such power,” commented sarcastically by Martine Tate, “If I had that kind of power my daughter would still be alive.” Tate’s daughter, Valerie, died at the age of 36 from complications with substance use disorder.

In an interview with The Fix, Tate explained that the “Parenting is Prevention” ideology blames parents for their child’s addiction. We should treat parents who have lost a child to addiction, the same way we would treat a parent that had lost a child to any other illness, she explained.

Another example is Marilee Odendahl, who lost her son Ian to a heroin overdose in 2007. Upon seeing the ad, Odendahl felt the sign was “reprehensible.”

“Implying that a lack of parenting will lead to substance abuse is tired, inaccurate, and ignorant stigmatization,” Odendahl added.

According to research, proper parenting is not enough to reduce or prevent substance abuse. There have been studies that show that parenting alone cannot prevent substance abuse or addiction from occurring.

The Final Conclusion

Eventually, the media attention and petition resulted in the Frederick County Health Department issuing an apology. On July 11, three days after the petition started, they announced plans to take down the billboard.

The voices of parents and commenters were heard. Parents were relieved that the billboard was being taken down. More importantly, the controversy has raised awareness of the stigma drug addiction brings to the families who suffer the most.

Overall, addiction is a disease. Parents should not receive blame for the death of their child. You do not want to risk causing your family the devastation of losing you. Call today. The time is now to seek professional treatment. You do not have to do this alone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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