York must focus on addiction recovery programs (column)
Nann Halliwell2:24 p.m. EDT September 21, 2016
This article first appeared in the York Daily Record The topic of addiction and how to treat overdoses has been in the news quite a bit this year. The opioid/opiate addiction, whether it is prescription pills or heroin, is getting worse. It is already an epidemic in many areas of the country. While many news organizations and legislators focus on the immediacy of Narcan to save lives and legislation to control the prescribing of opioids, very few talk about the rehabilitation and recovery that addicts need.
That is where the solution to this crisis lies, in recovery. If addicts cannot see a way through, a path that ends in success, it is impossible to stop the addiction. That is why the recovery process is so important. When addicts finally arrive at a rehab and recovery facility, it is because they have reached the bottom. They have lost everything due to their addiction. They have even lost hope.
There are many treatment-based rehabs in our area. Treatment based means they are based on research or models. Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous provide a peer support model. There are some evidence-based programs where the plan is based on what has been shown through scientific evidence to work. I am not aware of any of those programs in the York area.
I had the opportunity to visit an evidence-based program, Mending Fences located in Morriston, Florida, in October 2015 as it was just beginning to set up and then again in August 2016 when it was operating and had clients. Last year, Mending Fences resembled a skeleton with musculature and organs just coming together. The potential was visible although the finished product was not. The staff, literally the beating heart, was onsite and working to create the program that would allow clients to recover. By August 2016, the program had clients who had already finished the program and moved on to their next step in recovery. The program has follow-up component that continues to support clients once they go home.
Wendy Lader, Ph.D., M.Ed., CEO of Mending Fences explained that the Mending Fences program is trauma informed. The staff works with clients using psychology to identify and work through the issues underlying addiction. While the programs are individualized to a degree, they all have the same basis, which is to discover the trauma basis for the addiction. The clients work in therapy-related activities and work with the horses in equine therapy. Currently, detox is done at another facility and then the patient comes to Mending Fences, but they have applied for a license to provide light detox. They would like to expand to adolescents, first responders and military personnel and add the necessary certification for mental health clients without addiction.
"At Mending Fences we believe in treating the issues which frequently underlie the addiction, not just the symptoms, such as anxiety, depression or mood changes, but rather why the client might be suffering from those co-occurring disorders," stated Wendy Lader. She continued, "Our treatment team, (psychiatrist, nurses, psychologists, mental health therapists, substance abuse counselors dietitian and recreational therapist), conduct thorough assessments to help determine what components of the client's biological makeup and/or social environment may be contributing to his or her addiction and then create an individualized treatment plan to address those issues."
Mending Fences currently has nine horses used in the program. For a horse to be in a psychotherapy program, it must be healthy and safe. It must engage well with people and be very calm when necessary. Marilyn Sokolof, Ph.D., the director equine facilitated psychotherapy, explained, “The horse will give clear feedback about the energy that people bring to them (they will clearly “say” yes or no, depending on the congruency of a person’s emotional state).”
Mending Fences is located in a gorgeous area not far from Ocala. The area has a history of thoroughbred horse farms. The owner of Mending Fences, Rob Miller, built the facility as a premier rehab facility for horses. After the tragic death of his horse named Mending Fences at the 2007 Preakness, and the 2012 death of a trainer and horse, Mr. Miller closed the facility until he could develop a new use for it. He believed that something good could emerge from the two tragedies. In connection with Dr. Wendy Lader, his friend for 37 years, they developed a plan to make the facility a place of healing.
It is important to educate about the dangers of addiction and to have Narcan available to stop overdoses. But it is equally important that plans for rehabilitation and recovery are supported and discussed. As in life, one solution does not fit all, and that is why programs like Mending Fences are so important. At the end of the day, the most important part of recovery is the client recovering hope, the hope that they can beat the addiction, the hope that they can resume a normal life, and the hope that each day will find them stronger in recovery than the day before.
Nann Halliwell lives in East York.