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Recovery can and does happen

Who is West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission?

Editor’s Note: These are the first in a series of articles about people involved in substance abuse — including those suffering from the disease and their families, those celebrating recovery and those promoting prevention and wellness — as plans are underway for the 5th Annual Rally for Recovery on Aug. 17. Sponsors of the event are Advocates for a Drug Free Tomorrow and West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission. If you have a story you would like to tell in The Express, contact Lana Muthler, managing editor, at lmuthler@lockhaven.com 570-748-6791.

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By JENNIFER A. REEDER

For The Express

LOCK HAVEN — The bad news is we have been suffering from an opioid crisis.

The good news is the nation and state are responding, and the West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission is growing!

“When I started at the commission 21 years ago we were a staff of seven; we are soon to be a staff of 30,” said Shea Madden, executive director for the agency.

The West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission has been designated as the single county authority for Lycoming and Clinton counties since 1974. As such, it is tasked with being the gatekeeper of the public funds for and ensuring the quality of substance abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services for the bi-county area. The commission, fully recognizing substance use disorders as a multi-faceted disease, operates under a grant agreement with Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs.

Prevention services are provided by commission staff as well as by subcontracted services with Child Guidance Services, Crossroads Counseling, Inc. and the Western Clinton County Recreation Authority. Research indicates that prevention is best delivered by helping our youth develop into strong, healthy individuals who believe in themselves and what they have to offer which then better positions them to use good refusal skills, not only regarding substance abuse but also in the prevention of teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency and school drop-out rates.

The commission provides “Too Good for Drugs” curriculum to the bi-county area. This program offers an evidence-based curriculum utilizing grade specific lessons with age appropriate lessons and activities. “…Too Good lessons (are delivered) through paired, group, and individual learning activities. Activities apply lessons on goal setting, decision making, identifying and managing emotions, effective communication, and bonding and relationships. Information and activities on alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, inhalants, (prescription, over-the-counter), and street drugs included in the workbooks provide a reference to help students practice skills and reinforce knowledge.” Commission staff currently delivers this program to 85 classrooms– 26 in Clinton County and 59 in Lycoming County. Contracted providers supplement that prevention programming by offering positive opportunities to at-risk youth.

Intervention refers to efforts to intervene before substance abuse or experimentation develops into a larger problem. The Student Assistance Program (SAP) consists of teams of various representatives in each of the middle and high schools in Lycoming and Clinton Counties. Each team includes a liaison from Lycoming-Clinton Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities as well as a liaison from the West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission. These liaisons help to identify students who may be struggling to overcome mental health and/or substance abuse issues as barriers to academic success. With signed, parental consent, the liaison then provides assessment to those identified as potentially benefitting from substance abuse services. Based upon that assessment and criteria from the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s Adolescent Placement Summary, The commission will, to the best of its ability, ensure the student receives the appropriate level of service. This may be an education/early intervention service provided to the student at the school by Commission staff, outpatient services in the schools by contract with Crossroads Counseling, Inc., or higher levels of care by contract with any number of other providers across the state.

Treatment services are offered by contract with an array of providers across the continuum of care from hospital or non-hospital based detoxification and rehabilitation inpatient programs (both short and long-term) to women with children’s facilities to halfway houses, partial hospitalization (i.e. day programs), intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs. The commission also coordinates care for Medication Assisted Treatment whether with prescribers of methadone, buprenorphine (a.k.a. Suboxone) and/or Vivitrol (naltrexone) in collaboration with the appropriate level of psychotherapy.

To ensure the appropriate treatment services and access to needed resources toward a successful recovery, The Commission’s Case Management Unit (CMU) provides FREE and CONFIDENTIAL screening (somewhat similar in nature to medical triage for substance abuse services), assessment (more akin to the diagnostic evaluation and planning meeting with your physician), and referral to the treatment provider best suited to meet those needs. In addition, The commission fully recognizes the various unmet needs that accompany addictions. Among these needs are education/vocation, employment, physical health, emotional/mental health, family/social, living arrangements/housing, legal issues, basic needs and life skills. When faced with any number of these challenges and absent the necessary supports an individual is unlikely to succeed. The CMU coaches, links, advocates for the resources to meet these needs in order to maximize the benefits of treatment, 12-step and other recovery specific resources.

The commission also employs Certified Recovery Specialists, or CRS staff. The CRS is someone who is himself or herself in long-term recovery and able to provide peer support. This can look like sharing experience-based coaching in overcoming barriers, accompanying someone to their first mutual support group or 12-step meeting, or having someone who understands at your bedside when you are brought back from an overdose.

The commission recently received approval from the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs on a funding request that will allow for the hire of four (4) additional case managers, another CRS and another case management supervisor. The goal is to invest more resources in case management so the treatment providers can focus on therapy. “It is unreasonable to think that someone will even get to treatment much less succeed in it and in recovery if they have no transportation, no one to watch their children, no insurance and/or medical care to stabilize any physical health conditions standing in their way, or even stable housing,” said Madden. “If we can help make the basic things in life more manageable, people have a much greater chance at success in coping with what is otherwise unmanageable.” With that in mind, The commission expects this opportunity to mean smaller caseloads with more personalized care and greater versatility in when, how and where they are able meet those in need.

The commission believes that everyone should have access to effective treatment regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay and is committed to providing support to all those in need. Also designated as the entity responsible for the Court Reporting Network (CRN) Evaluations, Level of Care Assessments and Alcohol Highway Safety School classes for all DUI offenders in its catchment area, this is the only service for which the commission charges any fees.

The West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission is actively engaged in all the various treatment courts in Lycoming and Clinton counties as well as countless community coalitions, interagency organizations and team meetings.

In essence, the commission is the hub, cornerstone, connector or central starting point for any substance abuse services in Lycoming and Clinton counties. If one doesn’t know where to begin, the answer is West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission. If the commission doesn’t provide the service or access to it, staff can and will direct you to the entity that can meet that need. Please, don’t hesitate to seek help for yourself or a loved one in need! Your life matters! Your loved ones’ lives matter! Recovery can and does happen.

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Jennifer A. Reeder is assistant director of the West Branch Drug & Alcohol Commission. She can be reached at 570-323-8543 or jenreeder@wbdaac.org

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