Gateway Director of Events Marty Cook and alum Nick Share Their Thoughts on Life After Recovery

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Photo Credit: Jason Marck/WBEZ

For WBEZ’s final Voice of Chicagoland’s Opioid Crisis segment, host Jennifer White spoke to Gateway Foundation Director of Events Marty Cook and alum Nick about young people in recovery.

To listen to the segment, click here.

“I just imagine that the power, particularly for younger people, to walk into a room and they think their life is over because they’ll never have fun again, and when they walk into a room, they see there’s 50 other people their own age that look just like them, who are young and who are laughing and having fun, but share the same common disease of addiction but are overcoming it and living life.”

Marty Cook talks about the importance of young people in recovery being able to see that they can still have fun without the influence of drugs and alcohol.

 

“It’s hard to connect definitely in high school. It’s already hard being a teen, and drugs and alcohol gave me that connection.”

Nick speaks about the struggles he faced during his teens and what led him to ultimately starting drinking and using drugs.

 

“The work we’re doing at Gateway is to create an added layer of support for our alums. When they leave treatment they get connected to other people.”

Marty discusses the work he does for Gateway Foundation and the events he plans for the alumni program to make sure alums have a support system in place post treatment.

 

“Recovery is possible.”

While reflecting on success stories and the various alums he encounters at his alumni events, Marty speaks to the change he’s seen in those that have left treatment and stayed engaged in the alumni programs.

 

“I enjoy exactly what I do and I think I’m in the right place and where I need to be.”

If you or a loved one are considering Gateway as a treatment option, click here to learn more.

Dr. Britton and Gateway Alum Discuss the Opioid Crisis

Gateway Foundation President and CEO Dr. Thomas Britton and Gateway alum Nick spoke to Niala Boodhoo on Illinois Public Media’s The 21st show to discuss the current opioid crisis and Nick’s journey to recovery.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

“It destroyed everything.”

Nick’s addiction had severe consequences. It damaged his relationships with family and loved ones. He found himself in legal trouble, and struggling to maintain any sense of normalcy in his life.

 “If we were to snap back 10 years ago, 5 to 10 percent of the people that we supported had opiates as one of their primary drugs and in a lot of the facilities that we treat today it’s as high as 60 percent.”

Dr. Britton speaks to the increase in the amount of people seeking treatment for opiates as the opioid crisis  continues to grow exponentially.

“An estimated 27 million people that require treatment for substance use disorders and 66 million drank in a binge fashion in the last 30 days so there’s this massive problem with all substances. Opiates are one of the smaller as a whole out of that, however, the consequences are so much faster and more intense.”

Dr. Britton discusses the current substance use problems facing the country, including excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking, which are often overlooked. Though alcohol use disorder affects more people than opioid use disorder, the consequences of opioids are felt much faster.

“[Addiction] is a brain disease; it is not an issue of moral failing or willpower.”

Dr. Britton speaks to the importance of treating addiction as a brain disease and ending the stigma around addiction.

“There is fun in sobriety.”

Nick discusses how becoming engaged in the Gateway Alumni program and attending the events helped him after completing treatment.

“I’ve been sober for two and a half years… I have a great job that has insurance and benefits and the whole works.. It’s a total turnaround from who I was to who I am today… I gave this thing a shot and I actually gave myself that chance.”

If you or someone you know would like to tell your Gateway recovery story, please contact us. We’d love to interview you and inspire others. 

Dr. Britton and Gateway Alum Broadcast Insights on Opioid Crisis

Gateway Foundation President and CEO Dr. Thomas Britton and Gateway alum Spencer spoke to Justin Kaufmann on WGN’s “The Download” about the opioid crisis, how we can combat it, and Spencer’s journey to recovery.

Biggest takeaways:

“A criminal problem rather than a public health problem

Dr. Britton mentions how more government funding is being allocated to law enforcement compared to treatment options. He says of the estimated 30-60 million people who need treatment, only 3 million get it, and those who do often don’t get enough to be successful. He advocates for a multi-pronged policy approach.

“A bridge to recovery”

Dr. Britton speaks to the importance of medication assisted treatment (MAT) and how it saves lives every day. However, he warns MAT is not the cure for addiction, but one of the methods used to help people with substance use disorders. Other measures still need to be taken.

“All my morals out the window”

In an effort to support his habits, Spencer talks about stealing from his parents, relatives, neighbors, and even kids to pay for drugs and alcohol.

“Mentally in love with the drug”

While in treatment for the first time, Spencer counted down the days until he could use again. This happens again while he is in his hospital bed following his heart attack, counting down the days until he could have a drink.

“The flu on steroids”

Spencer describes the withdrawals every time he tried to quit by himself: the muscle aches, nausea, suicidal thoughts.

“Learn my parents’ names again”

Following his heart attack at age 25, Spencer fell into a coma. After waking up a couple months later, he had to relearn the basics, like how to say his parents’ names, how to use a fork, how to use the bathroom.

“Like trying to swim against the current”

Spencer relates his experiences of quitting by himself to a person drowning. He needed a lifeguard, which in this case was Gateway’s support system, to help him to recovery.

“A silent killer”

Due to the stigma surrounding addiction, many people feel ashamed to ask for help and spend their lives hiding their struggle from their loved ones. Addressing this stigma could change the conversation and increase the number of success stories.

“I wouldn’t say [addiction] defines me; I’d say it definitely has taken a lot out of me… It’s like a soldier that has gone to war. You have the stories but you just gotta keep going forward. Now, I love volleyball. I’d say that defines me. I love my sister, my parents. I love life.”

If you or someone you know would like to tell your Gateway recovery story, please contact us. We’d love to interview you and inspire others. 

Gateway Presents New Program at National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit

The National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit took place in Atlanta this week, and two of Gateway’s own attended to speak about a new program on Thursday. Also in attendance were special speakers President Bill Clinton, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.

Karen Wolownik-Albert, Gateway Lake Villa executive director, and Sally Thoren, Chicago-Independence executive director, presented on Project Warm Hand Off. This federally funded initiative targets those struggling with opioid use and works to remove barriers to treatment. Using the Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) model, this program aims to connect people struggling with opioid use disorders to treatment directly from emergency departments. Recovery coaches follow up with patients to ensure the Warm Hand Off is completed, and also with patients who initially declined assistance. “We call it ‘intercepting’ those in crisis and shepherding them to care,” Thoren says.

Biggest takeaways

“We were thrilled to find our room full of interested attendees,” Thoren says. “We found that the challenges we faced in implementation have been experienced by most others as well, including delays in hospitals agreeing to partner, capacity issues, and challenges with the Medicaid changes.”

Thoren left the conference struck by New York’s coordinated, state-wide efforts against the opioid crisis.

“They have obtained the waiver that allows for more services to be paid by Medicaid, so they don’t have the capacity challenges we face in Illinois,” she elaborates. “They have robust needle exchange programs, embracing a harm-reduction approach. They have outstanding data demonstrating their effectiveness.”

Dr. Adams’ presentation garnered most of the national attention: He issued the first surgeon general national public health advisory in 13 years, urging more Americans to carry naloxone, an antidote that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses overdoses.

“We fully support the surgeon general’s advisory,” Wolownik-Albert says. “At Gateway, we have been working for several years to increase naloxone access and provide education to clients, alumni, and family. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in need of naloxone has access to this life-saving medication. We train all of our staff on overdose prevention and administering naloxone.”

“In northern Illinois, we are very fortunate in comparison to other areas of the country, to have many programs and collaborations to combat the Opioid Epidemic,” Wolownik-Albert says.

Dr. Adams stated that more access to naloxone alone will not solve this crisis – access to evidence-based treatment also must be expanded.

“The ‘tone’ was one of action, not a ‘call to action,’” Thoren says. “That is, since there is universal agreement that this crisis is real, the need is great, the tone was ‘we are doing’ as opposed to ‘we must do.’”

 

The Trump Administration’s Opioid Action Plan

valentino-funghi-276005-unsplashDuring the 2016 presidential election, then Republican nominee Donald Trump took a tough stance on the opioid crisis, declaring he would help solve the crisis if he were elected. President Trump often cited his personal connection to addiction as a major motivator, as his oldest brother passed away after a battle with alcohol use disorder.

The first step the Trump administration took was to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency last October. In 2017, Trump also donated his third quarter salary to the Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to combat the opioid crisis.

During a speech on Monday in New Hampshire, President Trump released his plan to combat the opioid crisis, which he called “The Crisis Next Door.” The plan is broken into the following three sections: enforcement and interdiction, education and prevention through a federal advertising campaign, and employment assistance for those battling addiction:

Enforcement & Interdiction

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President Trump has mentioned numerous times a desire to implement the death penalty for drug traffickers when the Department of Justice (DOJ) deems it appropriate, which has stirred controversy. During today’s speech, Trump officially called for the use of the death penalty for high-level drug traffickers.

The DOJ is now leading a task force on major litigation against drug companies at the federal level. Trump called for these companies to be held responsible for their actions. The administration plans to cut the nationwide opioid prescriptions by one-third. Trump also stated federal funding will be invested in the development of non-addictive painkillers. In addition, within two years at least half of all federally employed healthcare providers will adopt best practices for opioid prescribing, and within five years all federally employed healthcare providers will do so in order to prevent over prescribing.

Trump also emphasized supplying emergency responders and law enforcement with the overdose-reversing medication Narcan. Some cities, including Chicago, have already put forth this policy.

Education & Prevention

children-403582_1280A major initiative will be a federal advertising campaign targeting young adults and children. The administration plans to spend money on commercials that depict the devastating effects of drugs to scare children away from ever using them.

During his speech, Trump highlighted Adapt Pharma and its work with colleges and high schools. Adapt provided colleges and universities across the country with four boxes and high schools with two boxes of Narcan in an effort to reduce student overdose deaths. Adapt has also provided education on Narcan to school staff.

Employment

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Another focal point is helping inmates with substance use disorders get the treatment they need and, further, helping them secure employment after they are released. Trump referenced the country’s low unemployment rate and strong economy as being beneficial to helping inmates get hired.

Additional Takeaways:

Although no financial plans were discussed during the speech, in his latest budget proposal released in February, Trump called for an allocation of nearly $17 billion in 2019 to fight the opioid epidemic. The money from the budget will mainly go to expanding coverage of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and helping states monitor and track clinics that prescribe a large amount of opioids, which many public health officials deem necessary to resolving the crisis. Trump reiterated in his speech that the administration will dedicate resources to ensure the accessibility and affordability of medication-assisted treatments.

The administration will also waive a Medicaid rule that prevents treatment facilities with more than 16 beds from receiving reimbursements for addiction services. This initiative could prove instrumental for low-income individuals seeking treatment.

Shortly after the president’s speech, Congress released plans to introduce multiple bills to help end the opioid crisis. One of the bills is the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) act. This bipartisan bill aims to set up protocols for emergency rooms across the United States on best practices for discharging overdose patients, to ensure patients have the resources they need to succeed post-hospitalization. Measures of this act would ensure patients’ access to overdose-reversal medication and other medication-assisted treatments, as well as peer-support specialists and other types of treatment programs.

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