Restoring hope

Restoring hope

By DARRELL SMITH | dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Attacking the drug epidemic is a top priority of many people in state government and Fayette Regional Health System has taken a big step in that effort with the Thursday’s dedication of the North Star Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

VIP guests from across the state made their way to Connersville to see the first such center in the state.

At the first meeting two years ago at the hospital, stakeholders of the community showed a sincere interest in doing something, Kevin Moore of the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction, said.

“I remember thinking, ‘They have the right people at the table,’” he said. “There certainly was a lot of passion in the room and that guy with the West Virginia drawl (Fayette Regional CEO Randy White) seemed to motivate folks to do the right thing. That’s what got us here today.”

Recovery is possible because it happens all the time and those people received treatment somewhere, and that somewhere is now here, he said.

The long hours, the effort and even a few tears shed during the process of bringing North Star online have been worth the effort because the center will make a difference, said Katrina Norris, director of the hospital’s Behavioral and Addiction Services.

“Not only because we’re saving lives of those seeking treatment, we are restoring hope in families impacted by this disease,” she said.

Nothing is more important than expanding timely access to services, said Jim McClelland, Indiana Drug Prevention Treatment and Enforcement executive director.

“The opening of the center here is a big step forward in making such services more available, to people, certainly in Fayette and surrounding counties,” he said. “Some individuals will come from further away from that.”

Special attention will be given to those with HIV, he said. The center will offer whole-person and family treatment.

Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of the late Ryan White, whose foundation funded much of the project, could not attend because she had been admitted to a hospital. She told her son’s story by video.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box pointed out that many suffering from substance abuse face a stigma today just as Ryan White felt stigma associated with HIV 25 years ago. Overcoming that stigma is what the local community is about.

The new 46-bed unit received the blessing of the state, with funding, because of the effort made by the local community to show the need, the desire and a plan to do something, Moore said.

“This section of the state has been heavily hit with the opioid epidemic,” he said. “When you have a group of people that want to come together to address that, not just for Connersville but for the region, that told me they were looking for something much bigger.”

There are pockets of efforts going on in the state but nothing of the level of North Star with a comprehensive approach from detox to potential for residential treatment and recovery houses, he explained. They did not look to provide just one service, but they built a unique system.

Residential treatment services will require looking to public-private partnerships, Moore said. State money may be available for seed but a private partner is needed. Foundations are ready to get into the work and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is ready to get involved.

State Rep. Cindy Ziemke has been a leader in the legislature on addiction issues and she has had two sons go through recovery.

It is a great first step, she said. After detox, they can go to intensive outpatient treatment and receive wrap-around services to get their lives back on track and take care of their families.

Bringing these people back into the mainstream after treatment is important for the local community as businesses and industries are having trouble finding employees, she said. It will be good for the economy.

Mike Dora, state USDA Rural Development director, has met with community leaders to promote a residential center in the community so those coming out of North Star can receive longer treatment.

Fayette County Commissioner Gary Naylor is working to find a person to lead the effort, he said. Wayne, Union and Franklin counties will also be contacted about a residential center.

“It is moving too slow for me,” Dora said.

“With the continued good work by people like you and so many others, and the encouragement and understanding of others in the state, we are going to end the scourge that has been destroying lives, devastating families and damaging communities all over Indiana,” McClelland stated. “We’ll do it in far less time than it took to create this crisis.”