National Recovery Month is held every September as a way to educate Americans about substance use disorders and treatment. Now in its 31st year, the observance also celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery. And even though the month is almost over, the lessons learned from the occasion are important to recognize year-round.
For instance, understanding the reasons behind substance use can help individuals or families dealing with an issue.
“Family history of use and genetics can certainly play a factor in substance use disorders,” said Helen Klingert, Director of Substance Use Disorders for Macomb County Community Mental Health (MCCMH). “A person with a family history of substance use disorder is four times more likely to develop a disorder than someone without. We also know that traumatic experiences and environment have a role in someone using, as it becomes a coping mechanism.”
MCCMH was founded in 1974 as a local Community Mental Health Services Provider for individuals with and without insurance who have severe, unstable and highly complex mental health issues. The organization also has a division that deals with substance use and treatment.
“We are responsible for determining substance use trends in the county and providing various forms of treatment, prevention and recovery supports,” Klingert said. “We offer services ranging from early intervention with therapists in schools, office-based outpatient services in clinical settings, Medication Assisted Treatment - which provides counseling and pharmacology services for opioid use disorders, residential treatment services - where individuals are provided intensive treatment services in a 24-hour setting, and withdrawal management to safely manage the effects of withdrawal from physical dependency on substances. We also provide peer recovery programs and recovery housing services. But we are working really hard to expand services, as we know people need help - especially given the challenging times we are in.”
According to Klingert, MCCMH served more than 4,500 individuals through treatment services in 2019 - a 17 percent increase from the previous year.
“This matches data we see through local EMS services. Between April and July 2020, there were 524 EMS responses for overdose situations. That’s up 51 percent from the year prior. Emergency room visits were also up. From April to July, there were 332 visits related to opioid overdoses - an 8 percent increase from 2019.”
With these types of statistics on the rise, MCCMH is working hard to promote its services. Klingert says those seeking assistance can contact their Access Center at 586-948-0222. A professional will speak to them and determine the level of care needed, offer choices and help secure treatment. Of course, any and all conversations and appointments are kept private.
“For many years, there have been strict rules around privacy and substance use,” Klingert said. “There are no legal repercussions for reporting that you are using an illegal substance and that you need help - as the law says that we cannot report treatment without the signed consent of the person served. As a field, we take this responsibility very seriously because we want people to get help.”
Privacy and legal concerns aside, there can be another barrier for individuals dealing with substance use: Stigma.
“Some people see substance use as a choice or a lifestyle, but research has proven that otherwise,” Klingert said. “This is a medical condition that affects the brain and behavior.
Unfortunately, a stigma persists and that, plus the feeling of shame, keeps people from seeking help.”
This is yet another reason why National Recovery Month is important. It’s a time for addressing misconceptions and breaking down the barriers to treatment. A period to recognize that recovery is possible.
“I want people to know that this is a treatable disorder,” Klingert said. “Sometimes you only hear about the problem, and you don’t hear so much about recovery. So I also want people to know that recovery is possible….that there are people who have dealt with substance use who are now living successful lives. Help is out there, it’s just a matter of taking that first step towards treatment.”
The MCCMH Crisis Center is open and available to anyone and will work to make appropriate linkages to community resources. Individuals can receive services by calling the Access Center at 586 948-0222, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. A 24/7 crisis line is also available at 586-307-9100. Visit www.MCMMH.net for more information.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist with Macomb County Planning and Economic Development