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.

Go Golf, Give Back

You are cordially invited to an upcoming special event — Spectrum Health Systems' 16th Annual Charity Golf Tournament & Fundraiser! This fun, fundraising event is happening Monday, October 16th at the prestigious Worcester Country Club, a private country club and golf course in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Get to Know David Nefussy, Spectrum’s New Vice President of Business Development

In case you missed it, we recently hired a new Vice President of Business Development, David Nefussy, to help Spectrum Health Systems continue to promote its mission while providing quality addiction treatment services amidst the ongoing opioid crisis. In addition to leveraging his relationships with managed care organizations, insurance companies, and private sector providers to expand our network, one of David’s key tasks will be to function as a liaison to the provider community.

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What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) And Why Do Our Prisons Need It?

Last month, our Vice President of Clinical Development, Dr. Romas Buivydas, and State Director for Massachusetts’ Correctional Services, Earl Warren attended the American Correctional Association (ACA) conference in St. Louis, Missouri. While there, they led a workshop designed to educate the audience of non-clinical corrections professionals about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for addiction and substance use disorders.

While MAT has been a strong component of recovery for individuals struggling with opioid addiction for many years, it is relatively new to the correctional field. Medication-assisted treatment has not been widely adopted in the prison system as of yet, but the tide is changing. Today, 21 jail re-entry programs are working to incorporate it.

Oftentimes, when it is administered to inmates, line staff does not fully understand the science of addiction and the medications available for treating it. MAT differs from traditional abstinence-based treatments in a variety of ways. Its primary role is to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings and stabilize co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression. It also reduces drug use, protects against overdoses, prevents dangerous injections and reduces criminal behavior.

There are three different options for MAT – methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Each is administered differently, and treatment is based upon an individual’s use history, mental health status and unique circumstances. This treatment should only be given in addition to traditional recovery work and therapy.

Due to the client base and secure environment, deploying MAT in the prison system has different layers of complexity, but programs should seriously consider the positive effects of treatment. Without it, inmates suffering cravings have no relief. During this period of abstinence, inmates lose their tolerance to their preferred substance, thereby increasing the likelihood of an overdose when they return to using drugs after their release. The likelihood that a client treated with MAT in prison will seek continued treatment upon release is far higher than an inmate who only received abstinence-based services.

By using medication and therapeutic approaches, correctional facilities can prevent overdose, treat struggling inmates with every tool available and help people transition to their communities with a strong sense of sobriety, confidence and connections to treatment.

To learn more about medication-assisted treatment and Spectrum’s work in corrections, visit our website today. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at the three different types of medication available to treat addiction in a future blog in the coming weeks.

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Opioid Epidemic Declared a National Emergency

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 35,000 people across America died from heroin or opioid overdoses in 2015, and a study released by the University of Virginia on Aug. 7th concluded the mortality rates were 24 percent higher for opioids and 22 percent higher for heroin than previously reported.

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Help, Not Handcuffs: Finding an Ally in Blue

They’re some of the first to arrive at the scene when there is a critical overdose, a person in need, or a troublesome situation. While some find comfort with the men and women on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, it can be a contentious relationship for others.

For someone struggling with an addiction, asking for help in general can be daunting, but asking for help from the police sounds like a one-way ticket to jail. On the contrary, many people suffering from addiction and searching for help are finding some of their best allies in their local police force, and that relationship is spreading around the country.

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How to Recognize “Sticks and Stones” in Your Home

While many of our blog posts revolve around addiction and recovery, today’s post focuses on another serious problem that takes place in many homes – and that problem is domestic violence.

Spectrum Health Systems is well known for its addiction treatment programs, but many don’t realize that we also offer a range of programming that tackle various related issues, such as domestic violence, impaired driving, anger management and sex solicitation.

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Changing Prisons in Virginia

Spectrum has joined with the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) in an important experiment with the potential of impacting prison systems throughout the country by reframing the mission and function of prisons. A powerful combination of circumstance has aligned in Virginia where Spectrum Health Systems operates a 1,080 bed Therapeutic Community treatment program at Indian Creek Correctional Center (ICCC) -- a mission specific institution and one of the few and largest treatment dedicated prisons in the country. The VADOC is committed to reform and has shown strong interest in re-envisioning ICCC into a robust “Launchpad” that maximizes inmates’ opportunities for success. The VADOC has evolved a strong network of community agencies that are dedicated to support successful inmate reentry providing a well-suited environment for the new prison “prototype.”

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Prisons as a Launch Pad

At this point in history when there is a growing consensus for prison reform, we have an opportunity for making systemic change that can impact great numbers of inmates by re-envisioning prisons as “launch pads” for success. We believe this is feasible through a well-designed integration of the self-help therapeutic community (TC) model and a strong network of community and prison training resources within a correctional system that is primed for prison reform and reentry success.
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Prison Rehabilitation Success: The Untold Story

As the presidential campaigns are starting and the candidates are formulating their battle strategies, criminal justice reform is the one place with surprising agreement. We see leaders and supporters of both parties joining forces to advance criminal justice reform and support treatment efforts throughout the system.

A number of historical developments have set the stage for the shift from being primarily “tough on crime” to effective treatment, but the critical role of substance abuse treatment in the history of rehabilitation in American Corrections is often overlooked. It is important to challenge this omission of the important role played by substance abuse treatment; primarily therapeutic communities (TCs) that have become the vanguard of effective rehabilitation in most U.S. prison systems. By focusing on treatment of substance abusers, a classification that includes most offenders and is highly correlated with recidivism, it became possible to introduce effective rehabilitation programming into prisons and to begin challenging the old adage that “nothing works in correctional rehabilitation”.

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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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