Mesa County’s drug treatment programs don’t meet current standards

If there are proven drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs that work, why would the community with the highest quality, lowest cost health care in the nation — Mesa County, Colorado — not also have the highest recovery rate in the nation? We seem to have all the resources and know-how to develop and successfully implement such programs. Why are we not motivated to move from a 3 to 7 percent recovery rate ­— which is typical for traditional programs — to a 70 to 80 percent recovery rate when the tools are available to us right here at home? That rate of recovery is indeed possible; it’s been proven time and again in biophysical treatment centers around the nation.

Perhaps it’s because of a widely held assumption that drug addiction happens only in “bad” families who aren’t worth the investment. Or is it because of the shame and stigma associated with addiction?

It’s true that the decisions to start using drugs and alcohol are choices. But once a person is addicted, physical damage to liver, kidney, heart and brain can make recovery nearly impossible without serious long-term assistance. And most families are not able to deal with the violent and inexplicable behaviors of an addict, much less the overwhelming emotional torment.

Most treatment centers with the 70 to 80 percent success rates are biophysical operations and have been around for decades. Biophysical treatment modalities include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), intensive diet and exercise regimens (with yoga, sweat saunas, nutrition and cooking classes), social, pastoral and behavioral counseling, and recently, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which can accelerate repair of brain damage as part of a comprehensive inpatient program over several months.

Because these programs are not cheap, there is a long waiting list for the few treatment scholarships available ­— a wait that can mean the difference between life and death for an addict. No, we don’t have such a facility in Mesa County, but we could, if it was important enough to us.

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that our commitment to the drug crisis begins and ends with law enforcement. And I can tell you firsthand that our local police officers and sheriff deputies are doing an extraordinary job on the enforcement side. They are the ones on the ground who see the destructive behaviors of substance abusers and the emotional torment of good families, all while knowing that almost all the addicts will be back on the streets in a matter of days. It’s an endless cycle of abuse, crime and despair.

The Mesa County Meth Taskforce’s main phone number shown on its website hasn’t been working for some time. The treatment scholarship page, urging us to “check back for updates” has not changed in at least three years.

Several large local businesses have contacted Taskforce leadership within the past 18 months asking what they can do to help. No one has gotten back with them.

The last paragraph of the Mesa County Criminal Justice Service’s Summit View Treatment Program brochure reads, “Multidisciplinary Team: working together with individuals and agencies to coordinate and compliment each other’s efforts.” Seriously? They compliment each other? Or did the author mean “complement”? The words have very different meanings, and an educated Taskforce leadership would have caught that had they read it.

Is it the cost of supporting successful treatment and recovery programs that discourages us from developing a program with a high rate of recovery?

Colorado received a $54 million federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) block grant for 2011-2012. Of that, $41 million was designated for substance abuse prevention and treatment. How much of that funding went to Mesa County? Zero. In fact, except for $250,000 that was split between Gunnison and Leadville, it was all granted to 44 programs in Denver and Front Range communities. Were we ignored by our state’s grantors or did we not apply for funds? If ignored, who is watching out for our interests in the capital? If we didn’t apply, why not?

Our law enforcement is doing its part. Our charities and caregivers have their hands full. Isn’t it time we stop treating addiction as our community’s dirty little secret and come together — as we have so many times throughout our history — to save our children, our families, our future? We have the tools; we’re number one in the nation when it comes to health care.

The first step is to admit the truth. I’ll start:

My name is Krystyn. My child, a military veteran, is an addict in our community.

I know I’m not alone in this, so, please, all together now: My name is Mesa County …

Krystyn Hartman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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