Blog: News & Views from the Field

Knowledge can be empowering. Whether you are seeking recovery for yourself or someone else, we hope you find our blog topics helpful. Check back often or subscribe today.

Licensure and Accreditation of Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

While licensure and accreditation may not be the first things on your mind when researching an addiction treatment facility for you or a loved one, they are some of the many tools Spectrum Health Systems uses to ensure compliance with regulations and the most current best practices. Because of the importance we place on licensure and accreditation, we asked Spectrum’s Quality Assurance team to explain the various types of licensure and accreditation Spectrum relies upon to ensure that we’re providing the best possible treatment to all our clients.

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Opioid Abuse Law Deserves Applause

Governor Baker’s signing of legislation this week to combat the opioid epidemic represents an important step in the fight to end this ongoing tragedy. Today, on average four individuals a day in Massachusetts die from a fatal overdose of opiates. Non-fatal overdoses are as much as three to four times higher than that number each day, with most of these overdoses affecting young adults between 18 and 30 years of age. The strain on police and emergency responders is overwhelming for most communities. At Spectrum Health Systems we are experiencing an unprecedented demand for addiction treatment services at all levels — residential, inpatient and outpatient.
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Understanding Spectrum’s Outpatient Opioid Treatment - Part 2

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is available at Spectrum’s numerous outpatient treatment centers located throughout Massachusetts. Clients will receive a comprehensive clinical assessment, complete medical evaluation, medical monitoring, daily onsite dispensing, individualized treatment planning, educational services, and individual, group and/or family counseling. Active treatment planning and support services are also available to help ensure sustained recovery.

Spectrum offers same-day MAT admission according to a set schedule. This allows clients to complete the intake process and, if appropriate, receive their first treatment.
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Understanding Spectrum’s Outpatient Treatment for Opioid Addiction - Part 1: What is Medication-Assisted Treatment

The process where one becomes addicted to either opiates or opioids is very complex, involving significant changes to the brain in the areas responsible for processing pleasure. Even an individual committed to quitting the use of these drugs will likely find it difficult due to associated cravings and the fear of withdrawal. But like any chronic disease, treatment is available.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a highly effective form of treatment for opioid addiction. MAT includes the use of medications along with counseling and support from family and friends. It is available on an outpatient basis which allows individuals to remain productive while working to change problematic behaviors. Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine, opioids which effectively “trick” the brain into thinking it’s receiving the problem drug, or naltrexone which blocks the effects of problem drugs, are most commonly prescribed.
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Heroin Use In New England

Beginning in the 1990’s, availability and abundance of powerful opioid painkillers led to a new population struggling with opioid addiction throughout New England. While regulatory efforts to reduce the supply of painkillers entering the illicit market were often successful, heroin quickly became a substitute for prescription opioids as its price saw dramatic decreases over the last decade. Heroin is a highly addictive drug that continues to contribute to the staggering number of drug overdoses in New England.

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What is Narcan?

NARCANBy now we’ve all heard about naloxone, or Narcan as its commonly called in the news, but what is it really? And should you have some on hand if you or a loved one is suffering with opioid addiction? Narcan is a very effective medication used to reverse the effects of a potentially fatal opioid overdose. Historically Narcan was most often administered intravenously or subcutaneously, but as its popularity has grown amongst first responders and other emergency medical personnel, it is now found in auto-injectors (like an epi-pen for allergic reactions) and nasal applicators. The advent of nasal Narcan in particular, allows lay people to use it, making it an invaluable tool for those of us who have loved ones struggling with opioid addiction or are struggling with the disease ourselves.

Availability

Narcan is a drug and therefore it’s regulated by the FDA in the United States. While it is not a controlled substance, it is a prescription medication which a doctor can prescribe for you (like that epi-pen we mentioned earlier). But many states have responded to the nations growing opioid crisis by issuing what is in essence a standing prescription for the drug, so anyone can go into a pharmacy and purchase it directly from the pharmacist without a prescription written in your name. Laws differ from state to state and are changing quickly, but the LawAtlas keeps a very good collection of current laws where you can check the status of laws in your state.

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Recovery Through Entrepreneurship

Reentry and reintegration of criminal justice clients are the primary goals of all criminal justice rehabilitative efforts.  There are few who would disagree that jobs are a major key to successful recovery.  There is a need for a fresh approach to employment through entrepreneurial trainings and opportunities for prison inmates and participants in community substance abuse treatment programs.  The focus of this blog is on increasing employment opportunities for substance abusers as a means of aiding recovery, reducing recidivism and facilitating a prosocial lifestyle. The need to improve employment opportunities is evident from the substance abuse and criminal justice literature. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment in reducing drug use and recidivism, while employment – an important aspect of a prosocial lifestyle -- has lagged behind. Thus, new models for providing vocational training must be developed. In light of this need, the proposed alliance support the utilization of social entrepreneurship as a means of making vocational training a more significant treatment tool, one that is thoroughly integrated into the recovery process.

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Using Mindfulness in Teaching Clients New Ways of Thinking

Neurological science has demonstrated that the practice of mindfulness improves learning as well as quality of life, enhances the ability to cope with problems when they arise, and interestingly enough, makes learning new concepts actually meaningful, as opposed to simply learning a new concept because you are being told to do so. In learning the practice of mindfulness, clinicians have a unique opportunity to make learning new ways of thinking a meaningfulness experience.

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Integrated TC Treatment for Offenders with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Psychiatric Histories

I recently had the opportunity to present to Spectrum staff and criminal justice administrators in Georgia on prison TC treatment of co-occurring disorders (COD). The Georgia DOC is forward thinking and very interested in effective prison treatment and a strong supporter of Spectrum’s COD treatment approach.  I have taken this blog opportunity to share the Georgia presentation.

Historically, mental health and substance abuse treatment have been seen as separate entities with different procedures, professional orientations and certifications.  In recent years, there has been a growing realization that COD disorders that include both a mental health and substance abuse diagnoses are more the norm then the exception and the preferred treatment approach based on both research findings and best practices is to treat both at the same time in an integrated approach. Spectrum is a leader in this area and is a firm supporter of integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders, both in prison and the community.

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Spectrum’s Integrated Cognitive Behavioral/Therapeutic Community Model

Spectrum Health Systems is a leader in creating integrated treatment models that bring together the best of therapeutic community (TC) and cognitive behavioral approaches (CBT).  I have recently had the pleasure of working with Spectrum senior staff Peter Paolantonio, Christopher Petrozzi and Cindy Buraczynski to write a groundbreaking article “Integrated Cognitive Behavioral Treatment in Prison-Based Therapeutic Communities” that was recently published in the “Offender Programs Report” a well-respected publication that is widely read by treatment professionals.  Publishing is important because it provides an opportunity to share what we have learned and helps bring national attention to the excellent work at Spectrum.

A long-standing controversy in the substance treatment field has been whether the TC or CBT models are more effective.  For a long time I have felt that this question is somewhat misleading and out of date since most effective programs usually include elements of both approaches.  Over the last few years while serving as Senior Research Advisor at Spectrum, I have had the opportunity to deepen my understanding and appreciation of Spectrum’s integrated approach.  Based upon the work at Spectrum, the decision was made to share its approach with the larger community of substance abuse and criminal justice professionals. 

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Innovative Sources of Program Funding

During my career in criminal justice and substance abuse treatment, I continually return to the vexing issue of program funding.  Spectrum as most treatment organizations is a nonprofit organization that is dependent on State and local contracts, Medicaid reimbursement and philanthropic donations.  All these sources are variable and not entirely dependable.  While searching for alternative sources of funding I have come across a new and innovative financial vehicle - the “social impact bond” that is sometimes known as “pay for success”.  This approach provides opportunities for the public to invest in social programs that have promise of achieving measurable positive social outcomes. 

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Justice Reinvestment Initiative Shows Promising Results

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I have worked in the field of addictions with a primary focus on treatment, criminal justice and corrections for more than 40 years. As Spectrum’s Senior Research Advisor, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss issues and current trends that have wide-spread relevance. It’s an exciting time at Spectrum as the organization continually refines its programming and seeks to build upon its national presence including program operations throughout Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington State.

My first blog involves criminal justice reform which has become a major interest of mine in recent years.   While working as the editor on a special issue of the Prison Journal (2011) designed to inform and support Congressional criminal justice reform efforts, I reviewed an exciting and innovative multi-state project that incorporates proven recidivism reduction policies and provides reinvestment funds for programming targeted to high crime neighborhoods.

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