LOGAN, W.Va. – It is a problem that looms like a dark and ominous cloud over most of southern West Virginia. The harsh reality is that drug abuse is a growing epidemic in Logan and Mingo Counties, but it is sometimes a complicated subject to address since it wreaks such havoc and heartbreak with our culture, with far-reaching consequences—encouraging criminal behavior, disturbing the local workforce, and destroying families. The link between addiction and broken homes is especially distressing, with children suffering the most.
We all know it: drug dependence has been on the rise in the southern coalfields; and it seems nowadays that every family is affected, one way or another, by its sway. However, one local organization is offering a ray of hope to all those reeling from the devastating effects, through a variety of forms of treatment. Logan Mingo Area Mental Health (LMAMH) now has two powerful outpatient recovery programs underway, in addition to its residential program, that can assist the addicted with getting off drugs for good: Rise (out-patient) and Anchor Pointe (residential), both in Delbarton; and Pivot Pointe (out-patient), in Logan. The out-patient recovery programs are eight weeks in length and include an intensive therapeutic environment for both men and women, while Anchor Pointe is a 28-day residential program for men only. The programs include group and individualized counseling by Masters and Bachelors level counselors and Bachelors level case managers. The Pivot Pointe program meets on the Logan LMAMH campus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, with lunch provided. The Rise program currently meets at Delbarton from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and also includes lunch.
According to counselors at LMAMH, one should try to find empathy for those who suffer from substance abuse addiction, rather than being too quick to judge those who are held by its devilish grip. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain malady that is “characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences;” and it is measured as a disease since drugs alter the brain. It can change the brain’s structure and how it operates. NIDA representatives further explain that such brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to harmful actions seen in people who misuse prescription and illegal drugs.
Further complicating the issues, some abusers have been ostracized from their family due to their manipulative and destructive behavior; many have lost parental rights to their children due to irresponsible behavior or erratic conduct. Most have suffered seriously detrimental effects upon their health; and often, they have lost their dignity, as well.
“Because the drug problem is so complex, a lasting solution to the problem is equally difficult. Even so, there is now hope for those who really want to find sobriety. It can be found right here at home,” said Donna Cooke, CEO of LMAMH. “This isn’t a story about good people versus bad people. This is not a moral issue. No one sets out to be an addict,” she added.
Cooke explained that drug use leads to a terrible downhill spiral. When individuals first try a drug, the experience may seem positive and enjoyable; and they typically believe they can control or limit their usage—which actually isn’t true. “They soon find that they are in its devastating grip; and it takes over their lives,” she said.
“Drug overdoses now kill more West Virginians than car accidents,” WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin stated in a recent speech on the subject. Also, he explained that drugs are now the leading cause of accidental deaths inside the state’s borders. The Mountain State has the dubious distinction of having the nation’s highest rate of drug deaths; where nine out of 10 of overdose deaths involve at least one prescription drug.
However, there is an amalgamation of psychological theories and curative techniques being used nowadays within counseling environments and in effective substance abuse programs; and, health professionals are now realizing, more than ever, that even medically-assisted actions are only effective when combined with intensive addiction counseling and recovery support.
“I believe it’s important to take a holistic, real-world approach to treatment,” said Pivot Pointe counselor Stephanie Copley, MA, “since addiction doesn’t affect just one facet of a person’s being. The whole person is affected: the mind, the body, and the spirit. Therefore, we apply a research-based approach, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to address the whole person.
“One of the great things I get to experience is how the consumers in our group counseling sessions become one in purpose. During treatment, they laugh together; they cry together; they are accountable to one another; and they support each other through the recovery process. It is especially satisfying for me to watch them grow and blossom through the activity.”
Copley explained that Pivot Pointe therapists also add other methodologies into the treatment to embolden a client’s sense of self-worth. For instance, clients take occasional wildlife walks at Chief Logan State Park, where therapy is applied within the calming backdrop of nature. The members also work on group projects that teach or reinforce valuable recovery concepts.
“In group and individualized counseling, we directly target many of the trials that the recovering clients face; we engage and guide them as they work through feelings of guilt, and as they learn to forgive themselves. We help consumers as they make restitution for past hurts, and our staff even assists consumers as they restore shattered home relationships, as well,” she said.
Through counseling, clients discover new thinking processes that can renew and revitalize relations with others. They sometimes participate in role-play exercises that offer better ways of communication with their children, spouses, and extended family. Class time may include writing letters or creating homemade cards to send to their loved ones, as a way of reaching out and communicating a special message that reinforces their desire to start over afresh and to build a bridge of healing the relationship. “Our goal is to help our clients to take control over their addictions—so that they can claim their lives back,” Stephanie added.
In addition to therapeutic treatments, case managers also assist the clients as they work toward accomplishing certain practical goals while in the program, such as completing their G.E.D., getting a driver’s license, finding a job, or enrolling in college classes.
“I tend to believe many people look at recovery or sobriety as being abstinent only,” said Angie Dials, supportive counselor for Pivot program, “but with that sole mindset, if a relapse would occur, the addict might think he or she has blown the one and only shot for recovery. Instead, in such cases, we help support them—and stand them back up.”
Dials takes the approach of helping the client find ways to reinforce the curative process. “Within such a therapeutic environment, the counselor sets out to identify and isolate reasons for the self-medication, and then guides the client through the healing process. It’s through such therapy, where the client becomes aware of certain triggers, negative thought patterns, and new healthier ways of thinking, that the need for self-medication—for drugs or alcohol dependence—soon falls away.”
In a nutshell, LMAMH believes the key to positive recovery is for the client to essentially embrace the concept of hope—to identify feelings and situations that might have set the old habits into motion and to learn new coping strategies that target the strongholds. It is then that a client can begin to change unhealthy thinking patterns (cognitions) and harmful attitudes. The group counseling environment adds an additional degree of accountability and support to the effort, as well.
After clients graduate from Anchor Point, Pivot Pointe, or the Rise programs, LMAMH also offers a step-down group counseling environment called Aftercare. The Aftercare program takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00-10:30 a.m. on the Logan campus, where clients can continue to meet with counselors who will encourage them in their new life of sobriety.
Successful recovery is possible—it’s happening every day at LMAMH.
For more information about Pivot Pointe recovery program, contact Lisa White, caseworker, or Stephanie Copley, MA, at Logan Mingo Area Mental Health, (304) 792-7130, where walk-ins are always welcome, and intake assessments are available on-site. For more information about the Rise or Anchor Pointe recovery programs, call Jill Click, BA, at (304) 475-3366.