Recap: #MIRecoveryChat discusses prevention, signs and treatment of Substance Use Disorder

On Thurs., September 24, Jamie Daniels Foundation hosted its first Twitter Chat to bring together organizations and providers to discuss important topics related to Substance Use Disorder, including how it affects individuals, their families and how those impacted can seek help.

Highlights from the conversation are available below; click the question to read all corresponding responses or visit #MIRecoveryChat on Twitter for a complete review.

Thank you to Delta Dental of Michigan for supporting this Twitter Chat. Delta Dental of Michigan is the presenting sponsor for the Jamie Daniels Foundation Celebrity Roast of Scotty Bowman which will take place on October 14 at 8pm on FOX Sports Detroit. For more information, click here.

Question 1: The stigma around Substance Use Disorder (SUD) often prevents families from discussing the topic or taking the steps necessary to treat it. What are common misconceptions about SUD?

  • Michigan State University Collegiate Recovery (MSU CRC): The misconception that people with Substance Use Disorder have a stereotyped look or behavior (i.e. homeless, track marks) leads some to deny a SUD diagnosis. Particularly when the culture is supportive of substance use (like in college communities) it can be a barrier to accessing help.
  • Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities (LAHC): A big misconception is that talking about substance use introduces it to youth, and this makes families reluctant to bring it up. The reality is that letting people know about substances and the real impacts it has, is more effective in preventing their use!

Question 2: What are signs that a loved one may be struggling with SUD? How can family or friends begin a conversation about recovery?

  • Anthony Muller, Samaritas: A well worded question! “Begin a conversation about recovery.” It is often a long-term process. Utilize your relationship to be honest and direct as you share the behaviors you are seeing and your genuine concern.  Know your teen, observe and be curious. SUD is incredibly common. Look for changes and trust your gut enough to check things out when things don’t seem right.
  • LAHC: Friends & family can begin this conversation by BEING THERE! People suffering with a SUD may feel ashamed/embarrassed because it is such a stigmatized topic. So offering non-judgemental, REAL support is a great first step.

Question 3: The #COVID19 pandemic has created new obstacles for those suffering with SUD. How have #recovery programs adapted to address this environment?

  • Susan Styf, CARE of Southeastern Michigan: CARE of Southeastern Michigan began offering programs in smaller group sizes, some programs are on a virtual platform and others are being held outside.
  • LAHC: For certain individuals, adapting to a virtual platform may be achievable, but for others it could be really difficult. Having those smaller groups that can abide to pandemic rules are essential to those who thrive in social settings
  • MSU CRC: We have encountered this with our students, as well. Our CRC has been providing hybrid online/in-person services to the greatest extent possible for this reason.

Question 4: What obstacles do families face when considering treatment options for SUD? What resources are available to overcome those challenges?

  • Anthony Muller, Samaritas: There are obstacles but don’t give up hope. Due to the low numbers of adolescents in treatment (8% of those who need it), there are not always programs available, especially the more intensive programs. If you can’t find help, talk to your pediatrician, insurance company and/or your local Community Mental Health. We are working on an online treatment option for intensive services that could be utilized.
  • Susan Styf: A common obstacle is knowing all the options available for treatment. A CARE of Southeastern Michigan peer recovery coach can help navigate the options. This is free to the community.

Question 5: What do you wish everyone could know about substance use disorder?

  • Anthony Muller. Samaritas: If you or someone you love is struggling with an SUD you are not alone! Research shows that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover!
  • MSU CRC: Recovery is one of the hardest things a person can do, involving consistent work & entire life changes. SUD is a chronic brain disease. SUD relapse rate is same as other chronic illnesses (hypertension, asthma) & requires renewed intervention not blame/shame.

Empowering individuals in recovery to focus on sobriety during COVID-19

“My six-month-old son and I live in transitional housing. I have been unable to work because of COVID-19 and need help to pay rent. Living here gives me accountability, a greater support network and exponential opportunities. Before living here, I was living with my mother who is actively using – it was very hard to focus on my recovery. I do not want to have to go back to a toxic environment because I can’t afford my rent.”

This is the personal story of a young woman named Sandra* who submitted a scholarship application in seek of financial support to Families Against Narcotics of Washtenaw County (Washtenaw FAN). Though she expected a stimulus check and applied for unemployment and other government assistance, she had yet to see any of it in her bank account.

The ongoing pandemic has created similar predicaments for many others like Sandra – all feeling the financial stress, all worried it will affect their sobriety, all hoping for a solution. Fortunately, these individuals could turn to Washtenaw FAN to help them through a difficult situation.

In April, Washtenaw FAN President Mario Nanos and his team awarded individuals in recovery with $10,000 worth of transitional housing scholarships so they can focus on maintaining sobriety; this was made possible thanks to an emergency grant from the Jamie Daniels Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Nearly 40 individuals were awarded approximately $250 – about half the average cost of one month’s housing.

“In effect, these small stipends impacted many more than 40 individuals,” Nanos said. “Helping people to focus on recovery has implications for not only themselves, but their spouses, children and loved ones.”

Maintaining sobriety is hard work, especially during the ongoing crisis when the level of difficulty to do this has gone up appreciatively. Now more than ever, these individuals need the support and coaching provided at transitional living. It is the best place for them to be.

“We are grateful to Jamie Daniels Foundation for allowing us to help Sandra and others like her in recovery,” Nanos said. “This little bit of money is going a long way. It is not just financial reassurance, it is empowerment – it is giving these individuals hope and faith that no matter how tough things get, everything will be okay.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Teletherapy enables breakthroughs for kids struggling with sobriety

Samaritas knew there was a need for teletherapy for teens in fosters homes struggling with Substance Use Disorders during the COVID-19 crisis. However, they did not expect to see such outstanding progress.

It turns out, screen-time has made the difference for many clinicians working with adolescents via teletherapy – just like it has for Brandon*.

The seventeen-year-old who is ready to age out of foster care has a history of using narcotics and alcohol. Life simply has not been easy for him. At age six, Brandon was placed into foster care after his single mother was incarcerated. He has moved seven times since then – falling behind academically and socially. As a result, Brandon has anxiety and anger to work through which has prevented him from developing the necessary coping skills to maintain long-term sobriety.

Shelter-in-place days have isolated Brandon, making it difficult for him to find the motivation to resist using. But a breakthrough started to occur when he was provided with a tablet to receive teletherapy support from Samaritas.

“It seems Coronavirus broke the screen-time debate.” said Kelli Dobner, chief advancement officer at Samaritas, a faith-based organization that helps children find loving families and empowers them to live their fullest lives.

“Adolescents are so used to being on a screen to communicate with people that it has made all the difference in their sessions with clinicians – teletherapy has allowed kids to open up in ways they weren’t before.”

For Brandon, the counseling is working. He is talking about past traumas, expressing feelings, identifying triggers and working to develop coping skills. His personal motivation to stay sober is present and he is finally experiencing the growth necessary to maintain sobriety.

With a $10,000 grant from the Jamie Daniels Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, Samaritas purchased 20 devices and necessary software to distribute to Brandon and his peers living at foster homes or with families in rural areas.

“Kids who have been feeling hopeless and struggling to find their way are making incredible strides in a short amount of time. We aren’t at the finish line – they still have a lot to work through, but we are so happy that this form of therapy has finally sparked a transformation for them.”

As Dobner and her team look to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, they are taking what they’ve learned during the last few months and planning to blend teletherapy and in-person visits.

“The opportunity to implement teletherapy has been such a blessing and we intend to keep the conversation going about its many benefits as we work to help kids heal and become successful adults.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity