Gateway Nursing Manager Presents on Medication-Assisted Treatment

James Blasko, nursing manager at Gateway Foundation treatment centers in Pekin, Springfield and Jacksonville, will present on Medication-Assisted Treatment at the Tazewell County Justice Center in Pekin on Thursday, June 28 from 12 to 2 p.m. The first 30 minutes will begin with a lunch, followed by Blasko’s presentation and a question and answer session. In his presentation, Blasko will review the medications and methods used to assist patients suffering with substance use disorder and how these medications address withdrawal symptoms, cravings and detoxification and ultimately save lives.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. Gateway Foundation centers provide MAT as part of a comprehensive program that includes counseling and therapy to help individuals modify their behavior to make better lifestyle changes for long-term success.

MAT is an evidence-based treatment option proven to reduce or eliminate cravings, decrease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.

Who is James Blasko?

After spending 16 years in the intensive care unit at a hospital, Blasko took a job with Gateway Foundation treatment center in Springfield and has been with Gateway ever since. He currently serves as the nursing manager for Gateway treatment centers in Springfield, Pekin and Jacksonville. He cites the patients, the family dynamic of the staff, the work he is doing and how many people it is helping as what he loves most about his job at Gateway.

Blasko is no stranger to MAT. He was one of the main forces behind Gateway’s initiative to offer Narcan to patients and their loved ones after treatment.

“I felt very strongly about helping our clients succeed and their families to feel a little more relief about taking them home and knowing if there was a relapse they could save their loved one’s life,” Blasko says.

Blasko’s commitment to patients goes beyond the sites’ walls. When Gateway patients cannot access the facilities in Springfield, he drives 45 minutes to Lincoln to provide it. He picks up medications from CVS and Walgreens for patients who are unable to pick them up. He also administers shots at area jails because MAT has been proven to reduce recidivism.

To learn more or attend the free event, click here.

Stay Cool and Safe this Summer

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Today marks the first day of summer, finally bringing an end to a long and harsh Chicago winter and spring. While summer brings warm weather and longer days, it also brings some dangers.

Adolescents & Substance Use

For many adolescents, summer means an end to school. Long days are filled with free time without any classwork or after-school activities. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, first time use of most substances peaks during June and July. The exact cause is unknown; however, many point to the sudden swell of free time students have during the summer. If you have teenagers, be sure to talk to them about the harms of substance use, maintain a regular work or chore schedule and encourage them to participate in summer activities, like camps.

Accidents

Rates of car accidents are the highest during summer months, with June, July and August seeing the highest rates, particularly on weekends.

People  also partake in more outdoor and water activities with friends. Participants in outdoor water activities are at an increased risk of fatal injuries such as drowning, especially when alcohol is involved. According to a variety of studies, nearly a majority of people who drown while participating in outdoor water activities consumed alcohol. Studies also show the risk of death associated with recreational boating increases 10-fold compared to people who have not been drinking, with even minor amounts of alcohol increasing the risk of death or injury.

Health Risks

It’s patio and rooftop season and people will spend longer periods of time outside in the warmer weather. With this heat wave comes a tide of festivals and events. All of which tends to be accompanied by drinking. Like heat, alcohol draws water from your body, so be sure to stay extra hydrated and prepare for extended time in the sun.

Celebrating Young Men’s Health with Gateway Lake Villa’s Bridge Program



For National Men’s Health Month, we sat down with Executive Director of Lake County services Karen Wolownik Albert at Gateway’s Lake Villa campus to discuss the Young Men’s Bridge Program. This program helps young men develop the coping techniques to overcome the issues caused by their substance use disorders – and the life skills to succeed during this critical transition point in their lives.

Gateway Foundation Partners with myStrength

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What is myStrength?

myStrength is a digital behavioral tool that allows users to track and monitor their daily progress and mood. It is a great resource for users that provides them with tips and information on a variety of topics including addiction, anxiety, and depression. Each user is able to customize myStrength to fit them and their needs.

Why use myStrength?

According to research from the Journal of Medical Internet Research’s Research Protocols, individuals who used myStrength’s digital mental health tools had 18 times greater reduction in depressive symptoms within two weeks of use as compared to the control group.

“myStrength is a great tool for clients who are struggling with a wide variety of issues in their recovery. It gives them access to evidenced-based treatment materials outside of their group therapy sessions and allows them to build additional skills at their own pace,” says Brandon Underwood, clinical supervisor at Gateway Pekin. “It is also a great resource for clinicians to help further a client’s progress and growth outside the traditional therapeutic setting.”

Gateway led multiple training sessions for staff to ensure they would know how to utilize the tool and be able to incorporate it in counseling and therapy sessions.

Patients were also given a chance to test myStrength and afterwards were asked to rate the tool’s usefulness. The results were overwhelming positive.

“I think it (myStrength) is an amazing resource. If it helps keep just one person sober or gives them help, it is worth it. However, it will help many more than one person,” says one Gateway client after receiving the training.

How much is myStrength?

The tool will be free to current patients, their loved ones, and alumni, due to a generous donation from the family of a former patient.

Is it safe?

Privacy is often a concern with Internet apps, but myStrength is safe to use. There is no data-tracking and all user information is entirely confidential.

A Conversation about Being Sober and Becoming Happy with John MacDougall

John MacDougallDr. John MacDougall spent 30 years drinking and using drugs every hour of the day before he found sobriety in 1989. He worked at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation for two decades as the director of spiritual guidance and now works as the spiritual care coordinator at The Retreat, a treatment center grounded in the 12-Step principles. He will present on June 23 in Northbrook and June 24 in Aurora based on his lectures and book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy.” Gateway spoke with MacDougall about the lessons he’s learned through a life and career in recovery.

What is the “spiritual condition” for people recovering with substance use disorder?

Basically, spirituality consists of a set of three relationships: how well we’re getting along with our higher power, with ourselves, and with other people. You really can’t pull them very far apart. For example, I don’t think it’s possible to love God, be at peace with yourself, and treat other people like dirt. So any improvement in one of the three relationships improves the other two; any breakdown in any of the three relationships brings the other two down.

Before you found your sobriety, what was your relationship like with the “spiritual condition”?

My attitude was I’m the center of the universe and you exist only to the extent that you can help me get what I want.

What clicked for you, so to speak, when you found your sobriety, or what worked for you to strike a balanced “spiritual condition”?

I thought I was just a heavy drinker and used a lot of drugs and that I wasn’t an alcoholic because I had a job, an address, a wife, a car—what I now call “scavenger hunt recovery.” When I finally figured out I was an alcoholic and a drug addict, I carefully detoxed myself over a six-week period, I went to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), and I asked this guy to sponsor me. He said to me, Here’s “The Big Book.” He opened it and basically said, Here’s chapter five: it’s how it works. Here’s chapter six: it’s it in action. The 12 Steps are contained in these two chapters. If you read these 12 Steps and you do what they say, you will never drink or use again. And at that point, I had been drinking and using drugs every single hour of the day for 30 years in a row. I read them and never drank or used again. So I did a very literal application of “The Big Book.” The things it says to do are really spiritual in nature: honesty, hope, faith, courage.

What made you wake up one morning and say, I need to write my own guide?

I worked 20 years at Hazelden and I gave a lot of lectures. My wife said to me, You’ve got to write this stuff down. I said, No, no, I’m a talker, not a writer. And she said, No, no, you’re getting old. This stuff will be lost. You’ve got to write it down. So the lectures I’ve done made the basis of the book.

If someone could only hear one lesson from your book and from your lectures, maybe someone who is initially struggling with their sobriety, which lesson would you tell them?

I see guys relapse at my meeting after 10, 15 years, not because they’re not working the steps, but because they’ve been working them and every aspect of their life has gotten better—marriage, job, home, finances. They look at the fact that their life got better and they go, So I’m better.

Because this is a brain disease, our brain resets every night to alcoholic. So I need to take the first three steps of AA in the first minute of my day. My simplified version is this:

Step 1: Good morning, John. You’re an alcoholic. Pay attention.

Step 2: There’s a God; it’s not me.

Step 3: I need a fresh decision today to turn my world and my life care to God. And then carry step three all through the day.

MacDougall will speak from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. June 23 at Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center in Northbrook and on June 24 at Prisco Community Center in Aurora. For more information and to RSVP to the Northbrook event, click here; for the Aurora event, click here

Wellness Wednesday: Gateway Swansea Adds Free Acupuncture Service

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Gateway Foundation Swansea is now officially offering acupuncture every Tuesday evening as part of its regular treatment programming. Dr. Eric Waltemate will be providing free acupuncture to every patient who signs up.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that has gained popularity in the United States over the past decade. The practice is believed to have originated in China thousands of years ago. During a session, the acupuncturist pierces the skin with thin needles at specific points of the body, which are then stimulated to adjust the flow of energy throughout the body.

It is often used as an alternative and holistic form of treatment to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions.

It is a safe and beneficial treatment that is relatively painless.

Why use acupuncture?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Acupuncture can relieve physical withdrawal symptoms, help with relaxation, and suppress cravings for drugs and alcohol.”

In addition, acupuncture has been proven to increase retention in treatment, ease physical pain, help the client regulate emotions, decrease anxiety and stress, and regulate sleep. All of which are extremely beneficial in promoting overall health and wellbeing.

This service is an addition to a new series now being offered every Wednesday during evening and morning groups that covers homeopathic coping skills including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy and essential oils
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise (including yoga and tai chi)
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