Immediate access to treatments, programs, and life supports
October 2, 2019
SARANAC LAKE | The weather was nearly an Adirondack monsoon the morning of the open house at St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center’s 24-7 Open Access Center in Saranac Lake recently.
Then later in the morning, the clouds opened up and the sun began to shine again.
The weather seemed almost to present as a metaphor for what St. Joe’s aspires to do each day: to bring about sun and clarity after the dark and damp trials facing those that end up on the organization’s doorsteps.
The new OAC is temporarily housed in the Latour building behind the Adirondack Medical Center after a soft opening in June. In another seven months, the OAC will be fully operative and located at the John Munn Road location and ran at all times of the day and week.
“Technically, we were not going to open the OAC until the 10-bed facility was completed, but we started the OAC earlier, adding more hours and days, so that those in need did not have to wait for services,” said Robert Ross, CEO of St. Joe’s.
Of 10 regions in the state, the North Country received a grant from the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services or OASES and the St. Joe’s organization was the recipient. With $ 3.3 million in capital funding to expand – to build the OAS and create the 24/7 model with staffing needs – the organization is the only of its kind in the area providing service capabilities around the clock.
“In our encounters, there are gray areas about when we need not arrest and offer somewhere for treatment instead,” said Chief of Saranac Lake Police Charles A. Potthast.
“We [see these situations] all the time, but we didn’t have a place to bring anyone. Now, we’ll have an immediate place. It will be really helpful for officers, and those needing help.”
“One in ten adults has an addiction in the U.S. and about one in ten of those with addictions have sought out treatment services. Peer to peer engagement is a way and the model we use to motivate the other nine of those ten to join treatment,” Ross said.
Among the faces that a service recipient will encounter at the OAC, the Certified Recovery Peer Advocate or CRPA guides patients to seek treatment based on a peer to peer model. The CRPA most often is in recovery themselves or has lived through a situation of addiction. A peer can offer that same-level connection that a therapist or other “higher positioned” authority cannot and often can lead those with addiction to an agreement for treatment.
Rick Whitney is a CRPA with St. Joe’s OAC and had found himself at Coronal Merkel Center for veterans nearly three years ago. During his inpatient stent, Whitney was encouraged and offered to work towards the CRPA position that he holds today.
“I have been three years sober and all the AA-isms have come to life. I really feel I have a purpose now and I’m valued and respected. My personal goal [through being a peer advocate] is to share my pain so someone can be reached,” said Whitney.
OASES has encouraged rapid access to treatment and the push to have peer access with a shared experience as a model that has been shown to be most effective.
“You want to capture them in the moment. If someone walks in and wants to speak with someone, that is the moment. If they have to wait, they can change their mind in an instant. It is important to act in the moment,” said Jessica Cole, CASAC-G, OAC clinical coordinator.
The OAC facility will be open for anyone needing treatment services in the North Country; that includes: Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. The services range from outpatient services, detox and rehab programs, to drug court assistance, and job support. The whole operation wants to help the patient succeed rather than fail and has supports in place. The OAC is even outfitted with a Mobile Crisis Center, a large and in charge black Mercedes van, that is equipped to bring counseling services to the patient, no matter the situation.
“[The van] fills in a lot of blanks – it can help us be there for someone who might go to jail in another case. It really is great and something that we are so glad to have now. I can go anywhere or pick up anyone,” said Frank Landerway, mobile counselor.
The contact card for the mobile center states, “Our goal is to ensure successful stability by helping recovering individuals gain access to treatment when transportation is a hardship.”
Adirondack Health Emergency Department’s Chief Nursing Officer David Mader said, “There is a struggle with people that need resources and have a number of issues. This is a great opportunity for those that come to the E.D. needing treatment of symptoms of addiction but can wait for days to get placed for addiction treatment.”
“We want the public to know that recovery does work, does re-establish lives, and those with addiction can regain themselves and be great contributions to the communities they live in. It’s important for the public to know that there is a past and a future,” said Ross.
If you or a loved one could benefit from St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers or the new OAC contact: 518-891-3310 or stjoestreatment.org.