New treatment programs focus on underserved populations

By ELLA NILSEN
Monitor staff

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

As state health officials scramble to help open more drug and alcohol treatment programs and sober houses, certain segments of the population have fewer options than others.

For instance, fewer programs exist to treat adolescents and pregnant women. But two new programs in Concord and Rochester will help to expand treatment for those populations.

In Concord, a new adolescent treatment program called Choices is opening Wednesday. Choices is a program of Concord’s Riverbend Community Mental Health and serves teens age 14 and older.

Program officials say it’s critical to intervene and treat signs of addiction as early as possible.

Adolescents represent “a whole bunch of salvageable people,” said Fred White, director of substance use disorders at Choices. “Maybe you can get them before the hook is too deep.”

Choices is an intensive outpatient program, meaning participants don’t live in a residential facility and continue to live at home while they receive counseling, drug testing and other services.

Intensive outpatient programs give the family more of an opportunity to get involved in their child’s treatment and recovery.

The program includes group and individual therapy, contact with the family and case management.

Lead clinician for Choices, Audrey Clairmont, has worked with both adolescents and adults, and she said one of the biggest differences is trying to convince teens they’re not invincible.

Many times when adults are seeking treatment, they have already seen the negative consequences of substance use, like arrests and overdoses.

Adolescents usually haven’t experienced those same consequences, Clairmont said. And many don’t respond well to the blanket command of, “Don’t do drugs.”

“I don’t tell teens anything,” Clairmont said. Instead, she tries to get kids to see that they are in charge of their own lives and need to take pains not to ruin it early on.

Choices clinicians also give their patients facts about drugs and alcohol, trying to dispel the notion that a substance like marijuana isn’t harmful because it’s a plant.

One of the project’s biggest objectives is trying to channel kids’ interests into productive and meaningful activities like athletics, book clubs or cooking classes.

Clairmont said her clients will often cite boredom as a reason for relapse.

“That comes up a lot,” she said.

White added that he tries to encourage patients to take control and responsibility for their thoughts. Rather than wallowing in ambivalence and focusing on the negatives, he says, it’s important to give kids the skills to change things.

In addition to encouraging adolescents to do positive activities, clinicians work with them to address the reasons why they are self-medicating.

Underneath most addictions lies a history of trauma, whether it’s past sexual abuse, violence, or a bad home life with parents who fight often.

“The fingerprint of trauma is strongly on the adolescent substance-abuse population,” White said.

Clairmont and White said they hope the Concord community will embrace and support the program for years to come.

“If you don’t get people in there, it won’t be there next year, when it’s your kid,” White said.

Hope on Haven Hill, an intensive residential treatment program in Rochester, recently opened its doors. The house provides a home and treatment for up to eight pregnant women, their newborns and children up to age 5.

Days at the house are structured, with group and private therapy, childbirth classes, recovery support services and life skills coaching.

Women can stay at Hope on Haven Hill for up to a year after they give birth. The facility is one of two in the state that exists specifically for pregnant women and their children; the other is the Cynthia Day Family Center at Keystone Hall in Nashua.

Both are experiencing high demand and have waiting lists.

Those interested for more information about Choices can call 1-844-524-6673 or email choices@riverbendcmhc.org.

More information about Hope on Haven Hill can be found at hopeonhavenhill.org or by calling 948-1230.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)