Fighting to End Substance Abuse in America
There is no consensus about how to end substance abuse in America. In fact, a quick look at Google News shows the country keeps finding more and more ways to address the issue. And while the increased attention is as welcome as it is necessary, we won’t fully solve the problem until a cohesive plan is put into place.
Nevertheless, people are taking notice. Serious notice. And action is being taken. In every part of the country. Some of that action is standard issue. Some of that action is new and unique. All of that action springs from a great good place. That action consequently deserves to be recognized, as well as applauded. So we at Healing Properties are doing both.
Here are two instances where good folks are seeking to end subtance abuse.
Agencies Team Up to End Substance Abuse in New York’s Oswego County
America’s prolonged COVID-19 crisis has sparked an uptick in depression, anxiety, trauma and grief. That, in turn, has spurred increases in substance abuse and mental disorders. Oswego County officials have noticed. And they want residents to know there are several county agencies ready to help end substance abuse and address anxiety issues.
“Our current physical health and economic crisis can have a devastating impact on emotional health and safety,” said Nicole Kolmsee, director of community services for the Oswego County Department of Social Services Division of Mental Hygiene. “Please know that Oswego County is working with local provider agencies to assist.”
Leading the charge are Farnham Family Services and the County of Oswego Council on Alcoholism and Addictions (COCOAA). The two agencies teamed up to provide treatment, recovery and prevention services related to substance use disorder.
“Yes, services and support are available,” said Eric A. Bresee, MS LMHC, executive director of Farnham Family Services. “This is a challenging time for our community. And we want people to know they can get support from Farnham and COCOAA.”
Most of all, officials want people to know they shouldn’t feel ashamed.
“Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful situation,” Kolmsee told NNY360. “And typical anxiety can provide adaptive benefits in many situations. Monitoring your stress level will let you know when you need to seek additional help.”
“Atypical stress reactions include a persistent and/or excessive worry that doesn’t go away and keeps you from doing your daily tasks,” she adds. “There may be significant changes in your energy level, or your eating and sleeping habits. You may have trouble concentrating on normal tasks, feel prolonged and overwhelming worry and hopelessness, or even have thoughts of self-injury or suicide.”
And while the latest Centers for Disease Control report found a slight decrease in Oswego County’s suicide rate, officials fear the pandemic will reverse those numbers.
“We have experienced a vast increase in unemployment related to the coronavirus emergency,” said Kolmsee. “Unemployment is a well-established risk factor for suicide. In fact, one in three people who die by suicide are unemployed at the time of their deaths. Historically, for every one-point increase in the unemployment rate, the suicide rate tends to increase almost .8 points.”
Call to End Substance Abuse in Omaha, Nebraska
The link between mental health and substance abuse is also on the minds of Nebraskans. So is the increasing urgency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the issue compelled Annette Dubas to recently take to the Omaha World-Herald. Dubas happens to be Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations. That means the issue is on her mind, as well as the minds of the many, many members the statewide organization represents.
“Our world has changed, but identifying our key priorities remains vital,” she writes. “It’s critical that the Nebraska legislature’s priorities include the physical and mental health, safety and welfare of all Nebraskans.”
Dubas is worried inevitable pandemic-related budget cuts will inordinately impact behavioral health. So she’s calling on the legislature to safeguard those expenditures. How? By ensuring they’re properly defined.
“Which line items will be deemed necessary and critical?,” she asks. “And which will be defined as “discretionary”? It’s imperative we keep mental health and substance use treatment services funded and stable in these very unstable times.” To do that, she insists, those services must be defined “as essential.”
“One in five Nebraskans will need behavioral health care at some point in their life,” she continues. “Those services range from short-term care for acute anxiety or depression to intensive care for addictions. They also include ongoing care for the most serious and persistent mental illnesses. Individuals often have co-occurring physical ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes that are exacerbated by mental illness or addiction. Left untreated or under-treated, these conditions result in diminished quality of life, fractured families, involvement with child welfare systems, poor job and school performance, increased involvement with law enforcement and corrections, and much higher medical costs.”
The Rise for Hotlines
Dubas also sees signs of an ever increasing need for these essential services.
“The increased use of hotlines is a key early indicator that the demand for behavioral health services is growing,” she writes. “Use of critical lifelines addressing mental health, suicide prevention, rural crisis and child welfare are all on the rise. With thousands of Nebraskans trying to cope, it is even more important that we do not make cuts to the system attempting to serve a basic need — behavioral health care.”
And while there is some urgency in her appeal, Dubas does take time to applaud Nebraskan officials’ previous efforts.
“Recent legislative decisions have supported the need to build sustainable capacity in the behavioral health system,” she writes. “And their continued vigilance in this area is essential in the days ahead.”
“The current budget contains desperately needed funding in the behavioral health system,” she adds. “That includes funding for halfway houses.” Halfway houses are crucial for people in recovery. Consequently, halfway house funding is crucial if we’re ever going to end substance abuse. In Nebraska, or anywhere else.
Healing Properties wholeheartedly agrees with Annette Dubas. And we hope Nebraska legislators heed her call. We also hope stakeholders all across the country follow her lead. Behavioral health care funding must indeed be a priority. Everywhere.