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Recovery program cites success in helping people with addictions

Thursday, September 26, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Community Recovery Program is helping people end their substance abuse and start new lives.

As of August, 53 of the 75 participants who had enrolled in the substance abuse Community Recovery Program since January 2012 had remained sober, or drug and/or alcohol free.

CRP Program Manager Lisa M. Smith called that statistic — which works out to 71 percent — “really good.”

In addition to the 53 people who remained sober, 14 (18 percent) of the participants relapsed, five (7 percent) relocated or were no-shows, and three (four percent) were incarcerated, according to a report Smith provided.

“Of those 18 percent who relapsed, we either referred them to more intensive substance abuse services and/or we continued to see them more often,” Smith said. “Very seldom did a person relapse and we stopped having contact with them.”

She pointed out that eight of the 14 people who relapsed did so within two months of entering the program, which may indicate they were not ready to make the personal commitments and have the self-discipline required to complete the program.

“Recovery is a lot of work,” she said.

CRP is a program of Piedmont Community Services, and the majority of funding for CRP is from the Harvest Foundation, Smith said. The first participant was enrolled in the program in January 2012, according to a handout.

To be a candidate for the program, a person must have been off alcohol or drugs for three months, must have completed a substance abuse program and/or participated in a self-help program, and must be motivated, according to the handout and Smith. Most of the participants are unemployed, underemployed or disabled, Smith said.

A person is not eligible for employment assistance from CRP until he or she “has at least six months of sobriety that can be documented,” according to the handout.

“The successful CRP candidate is drug/alcohol free, has knowledge about his/her disease and is motivated,” it added.

“If you send me someone who is motivated, that’s the No. 1 thing,” Smith said.

CRP helps its clients find work and establish financial stability, according to Smith and the handout. CRP can help with employment services, transportation, mental and physical health care, housing assistance or locating housing that supports recovery, education, improving family relations, spirituality, social and leisure activities, according to Smith and the handout. CRP also helps clients obtain relapse prevention skills and reduce other problems associated with substance abuse, among other things.

To do all that, CRP works with a variety of partners and community resources. They include employers, the Workforce One-Stop Center, Bassett Family Practice, Piedmont Access to Health Services (PATHS), Citizens Against Family Violence, faith-based organizations, Patrick Henry Community College, social services, peer-run organizations, probation and parole, community services board, Re-Entry Council and Step Inc., according to an email and Smith.

Many of CRP’s clients have criminal records, but Smith feels that “people deserve a second chance,” she said.

She said CRP clients want to work, pay their bills, help support their families, pay any court fines they have, etc. And when they go through the program and find employment, that not only helps them and their families, it contributes to society because they are taxpayers, she said.

She told several success stories and examples of people who had been unemployed for a long time and feared they would never work again. But, she said, they maintained sobriety, went through the program, found jobs and became self-sufficient.

Other statistics Smith gave were that of the 69 participants at six or more months of sobriety as of August, 31, or 45 percent, were employed; 22, or 32 percent, were unemployed; 11, or 16 percent, were disabled; and 5, or 7 percent, were students.

CRP currently has 42 participants, Smith said. Participants can be in the program up to 18 months, she added. Some of the 75 participants since January 2012 have completed the program or dropped out, Smith said.

According to Allyson Rothrock, president of the Harvest Foundation, and a 2011 Harvest news release, CRP is part of a two-part initiative for which Harvest awarded a four-year grant totaling $1.3 million to Piedmont Community Services.

The second part is a substance-abuse education program called Too Good for Drugs for students in grades 4 through 6 in Henry County and Martinsville schools, Rothrock said. As of this June, 1,550 local students had been through the 10-session program, which covers such things as social and peer resistance skills, personal and interpersonal skills, appropriate attitudes and behaviors, and knowledge of negative consequences of substance abuse, Rothrock said.

She said she believes the initiative is turning into a state and national model.

The 2010 Harvest release stated: “In Martinsville/Henry County, drug and alcohol abuse has long been a community concern that has been exacerbated in the past 10 years due to high unemployment, increasing long-term poverty, and a general sense of hopelessness. Ironically, employers find it difficult to hire new employees due to a high failure rate on pre-employment drug tests. The drug problem has become a barrier to economic development.”

Rothrock said CRP is helping people who have been sober and drug-free for at least six months find employment, which keeps them in the workplace, reduces their need for state or federal benefits, and is an opportunity to fill jobs open in the community. “It’s a huge win for the community,” she said.

Too Good for Drugs aims to help break the generational cycle of addiction within families by educating young people, according to the Harvest release and Rothrock. “I really believe it starts with the youth and adolescent population,” Rothrock said, adding she believes educating that population “is the best chance to curb the abuse.”

Jim Tobin, executive director of Piedmont Community Services, said CRP has been “remarkably successful” in helping its clients find employment and have stable, positive lifestyles. That shows that long-term unemployment due to substance abuse is not inevitable and that recovery is not only possible, but to be expected, he said.

He said Too Good for Drugs’ substance abuse education and prevention efforts also are key to addressing the substance abuse problem across the continuum.

He attributes successes in both programs to “extraordinarily strong” community partnerships and Harvest’s leadership.

For more information about CRP, call 638-0438. CRP’s office is at 705A Starling Ave.


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