Guest Column: Career shift for former public health director

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RBC I When this column is printed and read, I will have just completed my first days on a new job. I now work for Providence Recovery Services. Providence is new in Northwest Colorado, it grew out of tremendous need and a love of our community. The disease of addiction is systematically ripping apart the seams of our society. Providence hopes to be a leader in changing this.

Our jails are full of people with untreated addictions, our psych hospitals have wait lists for addiction treatment, our counselors are overwhelmed, our child welfare system is working beyond capacity protecting children from the harms of family addiction, our economy is suffering from workers with uncontrolled disease, and law enforcement is nearly at wit’s end trying to enforce laws to prevent the influx of illegal substances into our communities. Judges and attorneys are exasperated with recidivism and our children are at high risk of getting caught in this web of addiction. Substance abuse is a societal plague that has been inadequately treated in Northwest Colorado for far too long.

This isn’t the fault of our fantastic independent counselors, the highly trained staff at MindSprings, law enforcement or our prosecutors and judges. Much like the creeping ever evolving pain of carpal tunnel syndrome that sneaks up on a person resulting in a severe arm and hand disability, this plague starts nearly unnoticed, evolves in a community slowly and when the ugly head is reared the front line staff are overwhelmed, distraught and confused because there simply are not enough treatment and recovery options to restore a person back to health. Making a U-turn in life with this untreated disease is nearly impossible on your own. Policy, insurance coverage, reimbursement, social stigma and services lag way behind the need.

I am hopeful that Providence Recovery Services will become part of the answer to this problem. Hand in hand with other mental health and substance abuse providers, clergy, law enforcement and sensible legislation, this problem can be solved. Providence will begin with intensive outpatient services and gradually expand to become a comprehensive addiction treatment and recovery center. The main site will be in Craig, but satellite clinics throughout the region are part of a long-range plan. Providence is on track for a summer-time opening and media coverage will follow.

I also have faith and hope in Rio Blanco County to help in this endeavor. I am leaving public health as a more efficient, focused and professional department than when I found it. I feel confident the interview team will find a well-qualified replacement. Our county commissioners understand the need for services and are willing to roll up their sleeves and help. It does my heart good to know the commissioners have strong leadership skills, writing the first mission statement in years, developing goals, using active listening and wholeheartedly seeking to understand the county needs. I welcome their advice and collaboration, as well as the hospitals, clinics and concerned citizens. Addiction is a disease that can be treated and recovery is possible but our society must work together, create shared vision and be willing to step into the fray.

By Julie Drake | Special to the Herald Times