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Employee Assistance: EAPs and Unions

Employee Assistance: EAPs and Unions

Throughout time, employees struggling with addiction and other mental health issues have been unfairly targeted and mistreated by employers. But as the discussion around these issues becomes more informed and industries understand it is not a sign of weakness or a moral flaw, employers, unions, and other work-based resources like EAPs are becoming more commonly available both in the U.S. and around the world. Aside from creating a supportive and nurturing workplace that bodes well to productivity, employers have a responsibility to provide services to those who are struggling with these issues.

Employee Assistance Programs

The rise of Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs for short, has spread across federal, state, and local government jobs and is now more commonly available in the private sector. Although they’re not new in concept, modern EAPs are now more focused on employees’ health and mental wellbeing than ever before, and they’ve come a long way from simply sending a worker to a quick psychological assessment before bringing them back into the field.

In addition to the family and workplace counseling they’re often known to provide, EAPs sometimes cover short-term and outpatient treatment for issues ranging from substance abuse and addiction to anxiety and trauma. Although their roles are still technically to assist in resolving issues that are affecting the employees’ ability to work, they’ve come a long way from the days in which employers believed that their workers would be able to leave their “personal issues” at home.

Many EAPs help organize health fairs, implement wellness programs to improve employee self-care, and educate their employees about their rights through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA). The management of EAPs varies from business to business, but many EAP professionals are Licensed Clinical Social Workers or have a background in counseling. Their experience and primary role make them a valuable resource for anyone struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues.

Unions

In addition to EAPs, some of the largest proponents of improved mental health and appropriate treatment for the workforce have been labor unions. Seeing as it is within their realm of responsibility to take care of their members, unions have started to make a shift from sweeping these issues under the rug to bringing them to the forefront. Like the EAPs, many unions now have drug and alcohol programs, and many even offer peer advocacy programs to educate their members about common addiction and mental health issues along with helping to identify and find appropriate treatment.

In the Long Beach area, for example, the ILWU-PMA offers the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program, or ADRP. The ADRP provides its members with counseling and resources to help them find treatment and support them throughout the recovery process. ILWU members, many of whom find themselves injured in the workplace and develop a dependence on prescription pills, or are struggling with other issues, have found the ADRP program to be extremely supportive and beneficial for them as they go through treatment.

Outside Support

At Roots Through Recovery, we understand the challenges that addiction and mental health issues can create in one’s life, both personally and professionally. That’s why one of our goals is to help people get their lives back on track, regardless of what their journey has been thus far. We regularly work with EAPs and unions to help them provide better care for their employees, and we are encouraged by the current trend of incorporating more whole-person wellness programs in the workplace.

Although not every employer or industry is required to offer coverage for substance abuse and other mental health issues, it can certainly be worth investigating what options and benefits are available to you should you decide to explore support beyond what is offered by your employer.

 

 

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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Myths Debunked

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Myths Debunked

In 2015, Michael Botticelli, the director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy stated:

“Medication-assisted treatment saves lives while increasing the chances a person will remain in treatment and learn the skills and build the networks necessary for long-term recovery.”[1]

So why is it that the use of medication-assisted treatment remains staggering and access is limited for those who need it?

When it comes to medication-assisted treatment, there is a whole host of misinformation and confusion surrounding its use and purpose, which leaves it rejected or ignored by the vast majority of treatment centers. Medication-assisted treatment is the use of legal, FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral services provided by treatment professionals and family and peer support (Source: SAMHSA).

But for those who don’t understand the benefits or its place in treatment, it can seem simply as replacing one drug with another. Of course, that’s not the case for any accredited medication-assisted treatment programs, which is often the best option for some people looking to achieve long-term sobriety.

 

Here are a few of the debunked myths surrounding medication-assisted treatment.

MYTH: If you take medications like Suboxone, you aren’t really sober.

TRUTH: While it’s true that opioid replacements, such as Suboxone which contains Buprenorphine and Naloxone, act on the same receptors as heroin or an opioid, the medication attaches to these receptors but does not activate them, and also blocks other opioids from these receptors[2]. The combination of these two mechanisms helps control cravings in a person who is physically dependent on opiates without getting the person high.

 

MYTH: Medication-assisted treatment is for people who aren’t serious about their recovery.

TRUTH: In certain cases, even the most intensive counseling and behavioral treatments just aren’t enough to achieve sobriety and prevent relapses in the future. For these situations—particularly when opioids or severe alcohol use is involved—using medication-assisted treatment to neutralize the physiological effects may help someone attain this critical first step of recovery, allowing them to focus on the underlying issues and move forward in their recovery.

 

MYTH: It’s always better to just get people off of all drugs.

TRUTH: Although going “cold turkey” and just outright stopping the use of any substances is the ideal scenario for many, using medication-assisted treatment to ease the body away from its previous addiction can be both easier and medically necessary in some situations. “Ripping the bandage off” may seem preferable at the time, but it can also lead to complications, permanent damage, and even death if a person’s health is too fragile to handle the severity of the physiological repercussions.

 

MYTH: Medication-assisted treatment is just taking the easy way out.

TRUTH: If one accepts that addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes or hypertension, then the use of medication should be understood to be a critical component of treatment in some cases. Like hypertension, if someone is able to address their condition by changing their lifestyle, such as their diet and physical activity, that is ideal; however, for some, that isn’t enough[3]. We wouldn’t shame someone with hypertension for taking Beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors, and addiction should be treated with the same understanding and compassion.

 

MYTH: People using medication-assisted treatment are less likely to stay sober.

TRUTH: When utilized correctly, medication-assisted treatment carries with it lower risk, and higher probability of success than solely doing counseling and behavioral services[4] for many people looking to address their addiction, stay in treatment[5], and remain sober for the long-term. One study found that patients who were still on an opioid agonist 18 months post-treatment, were twice as likely to be sober from opioid pain killers than those who were not (80% versus 36.6%).[6]

Figure Below. Abstinence Rate Exceeds 60 Percent in Long-Term Follow-Up of Medication-Assisted Therapy for Dependence on Opioid Pain Relievers Dependence on pain relievers dropped below 20 percent at 18 months, and below 10 percent at 42 months, after patients were stabilized on, and then tapered off, Bp/Nx. At all three follow-up points, patients who were currently engaged in opioid agonist therapy had markedly higher odds of positive outcomes. (Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse)

 

Like any form of treatment, medication-assisted treatment isn’t for everyone, and the decision to start these medications is made after consultation with a treatment team, and a thorough assessment is completed. If you’ve struggled with relapse and traditional treatment hasn’t worked for you, contact Roots Through Recovery or another certified provider to consult on whether it would be an appropriate course of action.

 

References:

[1] https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2016/11/medication-assisted-treatment-improves-outcomes-for-patients-with-opioid-use-disorder

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/17/remarks-ondcp-director-michael-botticelli

[2] https://www.naabt.org/faq_answers.cfm?ID=5

[3] https://archives.drugabuse.gov/publications/drug-abuse-addiction-one-americas-most-challenging-public-health-problems/addiction-chronic-disease

[4] https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/practice-support/guidelines-and-consensus-docs/asam-national-practice-guideline-supplement.pdf?sfvrsn=24

[5] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/209312

[6] https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2015/11/long-term-follow-up-medication-assisted-treatment-addiction-to-pain-relievers-yields-cause-optimism

 

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Staff Spotlight: Meet Sam Weiss, LCSW

Staff Spotlight: Meet Sam Weiss, LCSW

Although Sam Weiss may be one of Roots Through Recovery’s newest Licensed Clinical Social Workers, she’s no rookie when it comes to working with the recovery community. Now that she’s completed the licensing process, Weiss can spend her days focusing on her professional passions of handling the initial assessments when new clients come in as well as her individual and group therapy sessions. With big dreams of one day opening up her own practice in order to help as many people as she can within the community, Weiss is keen to continue learning as much as possible in the coming years while staying true to her life’s mission of lending a helping hand to anyone who needs it.

What was it like to complete the process to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?
I just got licensed in October, and it was a 3-year long process, so it was very rewarding to finally be able to go and take the licensure test and pass the first time. It’s allowed me to work under my own license and have the opportunity to do more of my own things to help the clients.

What made you want to get into the field of social work within the recovery community?
My first introduction into the recovery community was not actually my choice. I was assigned to work in a mental health hospital and was placed in the dual diagnosis unit during my first internship experience while in undergrad. I worked there before I even knew I wanted to pursue social work. I really liked working with the population just because of the challenge and stigma attached to the population and how underserved they are. I eventually chose social work because of the breadth of the career. You can work one-on-one with people, but if I eventually decided that I wanted to work on an organizational or macro level, that’s something that I’d also be able to do. I like having that flexibility. Working in recovery is extremely rewarding, and I’m glad I was initially introduced to the recovery community early on in my schooling because I’ve fallen in love with the population.

How is Roots Through Recovery different than the other facilities you’ve worked at?
I love Roots. The facility where I was before looked at clients and staff as a number, so it was very hard to be able to do what I wanted with the clients because I had such an overloaded case load. Here at Roots, you can really tell how much they care about their clients and staff. It creates a really secure environment, and the feedback that we get from clients all the time is how safe they feel here. That’s something I really value in a job; to have clients feel like we care about them and not just because they’re paying for it. The knowledge that the staff has when it comes to individualizing the clients’ treatment plans and meeting the client where they are at is part of what sets Roots Through Recovery apart from other treatment facilities.

What kinds of changes have you seen in the industry since you began working with recovery facilities?
The thing that I think has changed the most is the growing acceptance of addiction as a mental health disorder and not just as a behavioral problem. It’s really opened up the doors for people with addiction problems to get the help that they need, because it’s so common for them to have a co-occurring mental health problem. The more knowledge that people have that it’s not just a behavioral problem but an underlying mental health issue can change the way that people look at addiction, which I think is really awesome.

How do you spend your free time when you’re not working?
I’m a big sports fan, and I think a lot of people know that. I’ll spend a lot of my free time watching sports, because I’m not very good at playing sports. It’s unfortunate because if I was, that’d probably be something I would want to do. Other than that, I love going to the beach, going to the movies, spending time with friends, playing video games, stuff like that.

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Developing A Work Life Balance in Recovery

Developing A Work Life Balance in Recovery

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of a work-life balance in recovery. If your schedule leaves you frazzled and stressed at the end of the day, you’re at a higher risk for relapse, and your quality of life will suffer. Here are some important points about the importance of work-life balance and some tips to help you successfully navigate school, work, and life.

The Importance of Work Life Balance for a Low-Stress Life

Stress is a major trigger for relapse and keeping it under control is important in recovery. If school and work become overwhelming, you’re left with chronic stress that permeates your whole life and can quickly lead to a slip-up.

Here are some things you can do to minimize your stress:

  • Develop a routine. Set a daily schedule that includes time for self-care, time for relaxation, and adequate time to take care of responsibilities like school, work, paying bills and keeping your living space tidy.
  • Meditate. According to Harvard Medical School, daily meditation not only reduces stress immediately, but also improves your body’s stress response in the future.
  • Have fun. Having a good time reduces stress and improves your mood. Engage in hobbies that offer fun and relaxation as well as the opportunity to develop healthy relationships.

The Importance of Work/Life Balance for Self-Care

A high level of self-care is central to successful recovery, according to an article published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re likely to experience more negative emotions and feel run-down and stressed. A high level of self-care leaves you feeling confident, strong and motivated. A healthy work-life balance leaves plenty of time for focusing on your most basic needs.

These are a few essential self-care tasks that are a major boon to recovery:

  • Get adequate sleep. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night for optimal functioning. Adequate sleep promotes a strong immune system, a stable mood and better concentration and focus.
  • Eat healthy food. Unhealthy, processed foods affect your overall level of health, and they can lead to blood sugar spikes and cravings. Strive to eat whole foods and a mostly plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Exercise. Daily exercise improves your overall health and produces feel-good brain chemicals that improve your mood. It reduces stress, increases energy, improves sleep and promotes optimal focus and concentration.
  • The Importance of A Work/Life Balance for Healthy Relationships

    When you’re overwhelmed with work or school, it’s easy to neglect relationships. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, having a strong, supportive social networks is one of the four pillars of successful recovery. Maintaining a healthy balance between work and life ensures you have time to nurture your relationships.

    Schedule social time. Whether it’s a short coffee date, a study session, or even just a chat on the phone, regularly reaching out to the people in your sober network helps ward off feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are detrimental to recovery.

    Join a club. Joining an academic, athletic, or social club can expand your social network and provide enjoyment in a structured environment on a regular basis.

    Attend meetings. If nothing else, attend your support group meeting every day for healthy social interaction and peer support.

    Understanding the importance of a work-life balance can help motivate you to prioritize and schedule your week so that you have plenty of time to take care of yourself, nurture your relationships and meet your obligations at work, home and school without undue stress. If you’re having a hard time striking a balance between work, school and life, talk to a counselor, who can assist you in making positive changes for an ongoing successful recovery.

    Rebuilding Family Relationships During Addiction Recovery

    Rebuilding Family Relationships During Addiction Recovery

    Treatment for a substance use disorder has many facets to it, including rebuilding family relationships during addiction recovery. Addiction is a complex illness, and it affects many different aspects of a person’s life. One area that is likely to have taken a major hit is the relationship between the person suffering from a substance use disorder and their family. That is why many experts often refer to addiction as a family illness.

    Family Therapy

    To help in rebuilding family relationships during addiction recovery, many treatment facilities provide the opportunity for people to attend family therapy sessions. Depending on the facility, family therapy sessions may include all immediate members of the family. Alternatively, therapy sessions may be available on an individual basis. High-quality facilities will offer a combination of individual and family therapy sessions.

    The purpose of family sessions is to help the client understand the way the addiction has affected the lives of the rest of the family. Equally important, these sessions help the family understand what is happening to their loved one. Family members learn many ways to help and support the recovering person.

    Family therapy teaches people how to communicate more effectively. If the addiction has been present for a long time, it is likely that communication has broken down. The person suffering from addiction might be unable to process and internalize anything anybody else says. Meanwhile, their family members may have given up trying to reason with them.

    The lack of communication must be addressed to help in rebuilding family relationships during addiction recovery. During family therapy, all parties will learn positive ways to deal with issues that are bound to arise.

    Rebuilding Family Relationships During Addiction Recovery

    When people develop an addiction, they are often in denial about their condition. They might try to make excuses for their behavior. They may even try to blame other family members for the way they behave. This can cause deep resentment.

    People suffering from addiction must face the fact that it is their illness that is the problem. Accepting responsibility for past actions and behaviors is critical if a person with addiction is to recover. It is also critical in rebuilding family relationships during addiction recovery.

    Having Realistic Expectations

    Treatment programs concentrate on helping people who are addicted to replace negative behaviors with positive ones. That includes helping people develop the habit of positive thinking.

    Although addiction is incurable, every person who has it can learn to manage it. Treatment programs will emphasize that there is always hope.

    It is beneficial for people who are in recovery from addiction to have an optimistic and positive outlook. Family members may need time to develop the same level of optimism and hope.

    It is possible to rebuild relationships that have been damaged by addiction, but it will take time and effort. As long as everyone involved is committed to a better future and makes a positive contribution to building that future, there is no reason not to be optimistic.

    3 Important Steps to Take After IOP

    3 Important Steps to Take After IOP

    Intensive outpatient programs are a major stage in the recovery process for people who suffer from addiction. During treatment, clients are educated about the importance of seeking support and help after IOP. This can be the crucial difference between staying healthy and struggling to maintain sobriety. If you are participating in an IOP or have recently completed a course of treatment, here are some important steps you should take.

    Steps to Take After IOP

    • 1. Enroll in some type of aftercare program.After IOP, you will most likely feel confident in your ability to manage your addiction, and you will be optimistic about the future. However, recovery is a perpetual journey, and you will find it easier to stay in control if you seek out the many resources that are available to help you.

      After IOP, you have a wide variety of aftercare programs to participate in. These include joining groups like AA, NA or the SMART recovery program. You should pick the ones that you feel best suit you.

    • 2. Prepare a plan of action should you yield to cravings.While you will feel optimistic after IOP, there is a real risk of relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that that 40-60 percent of people in recovery are likely to relapse after addiction treatment. This rate is roughly equivalent to the rates for other chronic illnesses such as asthma or diabetes.

      Relapse is rarely a sudden occurrence. There are distinct, identifiable stages that most people go through before relapsing. Learn about these and plan what you will do when you recognize that you may be on the path to relapse. Make a list of people you can contact when you feel a lapse is likely.

    • 3. Create a healthy lifestyle after IOP.Addiction is a type of illness in which the individual has deeply embedded behaviors that are negative or destructive. Over time, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol tend to neglect other aspects of leading a healthy life. Keeping yourself physically and mentally fit will help you stay sober.

      During treatment, you will learn about emotional and physical triggers that make you think about using substances. Try to make changes in your life to avoid as many of these triggers as possible.

      Stress is one of the most common triggers. Not all stress is avoidable, but it can be managed. Regular, vigorous exercise helps to relieve stress. There are also many exercises and techniques specifically designed to relieve mental stress. Learn some of these and practice them regularly.

    Addiction Is a Disease; Keep This in Mind After IOP

    It is easy to forget that your illness is a chronic and incurable one. You can begin to believe that you have it completely under control, but you will always be vulnerable to cravings. Sometimes, they will come unexpectedly. It is a good idea to remind yourself at the start of each day that you have an illness that needs to be constantly managed. Keeping this thought in mind will help you successfully prevent relapse.