Thursday, May 24, 2007

Drug / alcohol treatment program

Another weapon against the evil forces of drug and alcohol abuse may find its way to far western North Carolina.

The program follows a treatment model called the Matrix Model, said Dr. James Kowalski, who is a licensed professional counselor and a Master Addiction counselor for Murphy Counseling Services.

A possible client would be evaluated and if the intensive outpatient program is indicated, he would go for treatment three times a week - three hours for each session. Treatment includes individual, group and family counseling, supplemented by attendance at a 12th step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Getting the program is a matter of funding, staffing and finding transportation for clients. Kowalski pointed out that if a person is asked to come in three times a week for a total of nine hours, there will be transportation costs for gasoline and cost of someone to watch kids. Murphy Counseling is pursuing grants or state funding to help get the program started.

"California got this started," Kowalski said. "They say it is the best thing available for treatment."

Murphy Counseling Services treats a range of disorders, including substance abuse, depression, sexual offenses and anger management through a variety of programs. Substance Abuse is presently addressed primarily through DWI (Driving While Impaired) services.

North Carolina law provides for five different levels of DWI substance abuse treatment, depending on a variety of factors, including how many DWIs a person has received.

"We have three groups running and we treat anyone who wants help or who is court ordered," Kowalski said. "We do an evaluation to determine what level (of treatment) is appropriate for the individual."

DWI programs involve group participation but individual counseling is offered if needed.

The DWI program recently received 100 percent in a MH/DD/SAS Programmatic Review evaluation.

"I have been doing the group for six months and we have only had one repeat offender," Kowalski said. (About 75 people have entered the DWI treatment to this point).

The DWI program is helping people get their driver's licenses back.

"We hammer to them not to get behind the wheel of an automobile, golf cart, scooter or boat," Kowalski said. "I saw a video that showed that a person can drive 2,000 times (intoxicated) before he is caught. The risky hours are 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends. I tell them that if they are on the road during those hours, they are fair game."

Kowalski pointed out that not everyone who gets a DWI is an alcoholic. Most people who get their first DWI will realize the problem and won't do it again.

Kowalski has counseled substance abusers in large, metropolitan areas and he sees a difference in this region in that people, in general, are poorer and more isolated and don't seek treatment as readily as those in the big cities. He also sees a generational substance abuse pattern where kids of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves.

The main drug of abuse in this area is still alcohol. But methamphetamine, prescription drugs (such as oxycontin and anti-anxiety medications) are also abused.

Alcohol depresses part of the brain that affects judgement and motor skills. Meth causes the body to be in a high state of arousal and improves energy. The brain is flooded with certain chemicals. When the euphoria runs out, the meth user needs more of the drug to get back to feeling better. Meth involves all kinds of physical risks, Kowalski said.

The meth addict is the hardest to treat because it is more addictive. A person normally becomes an alcoholic over a period of time. However, a person can get hooked on meth after the first use.

"They say that once you use meth, it can change your brain forever," he said. "It can take years for the brain to get back to where it was."

Kowalski said the government has cut back on funding for substance abuse treatment. A treatment facility in Black Mountain, North Carolina cut its in-patient treatment program from 28 to 14 days. If a person needs in-patient treatment, presently they can be directed to Christian Love Ministries in Murphy or to the Black Mountain facility.

"It seems like in North Carolina and Georgia, (substance abuse treatment) is not a priority," he said. "The government is spending money on other things and cutting back on what they spend on their own people."

Kowalski pointed out that it costs more than $20,000 a year to support an inmate in the prison system and those locked up could be treated for much less than that.

He said that two of the biggest cop-outs or excuses for using drugs and not seeking help are the statement "There is nothing to do around here" so they get into drugs and "I can do it (recover from drugs) by myself". People need support from family, spiritual support, a sponsor and others.

However, there is hope for the terrible drug abuse problem. Treatment is available and the intensive outpatient program will hopefully become a reality.

"I have worked in the field for 18 years and I like helping people make changes in their lives," Kowalski said.

source: Cherokee Sentinel

1 comment:

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