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Local counselors help drug addicted clients overcome addiction

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Jacqueline Millican is still affected by a chalkboard drawing from a 10-year-old patient who captured what she was most afraid of — the boogeyman. The object of fear for the young girl was her mother’s boyfriend who’d molested her. The mother, who regularly abused marijuana, was oblivious to the child’s pain, and had her own boogeyman.

Millican, director of licensing and program development at Nazareth Child & Family Connection, recounted the heartbreaking revelation that came about during a therapy session. The agency, which was formed in 2012 through a merger with Carolina Counseling and Consultation and Nazareth Children’s Home, provides outpatient therapy, a suboxone clinic and school-based therapy for families and children who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Rowan County, like many others in this state, is in the midst of an opioid crisis, with hundreds of people reporting to local emergency rooms for drug overdoses on a monthly basis.

In July, August and September, local authorities including law enforcement, EMS and fire personnel responded to 508 overdose calls. In that three-month period, Rowan County EMS alone responded to 175 calls for overdoses and fire personnel responded to 167 overdose calls.

This problem can affect, and does affect, all of the community in some way, says Gregory Yousey, clinical services director for Nazareth Child & Family Connection. He said it’s imperative that everyone be aware of treatment needs of those directly and indirectly affected by the disease of addiction.

He said many people think dealing with addicts is not their problem.

“I want people to be aware it’s a community issue,” Yousey said.

Millican added that addiction can lead to domestic violence and poverty and many other issues that have ripple effects in a community.

“It’s a symptom of bigger issues that need to be addressed,” she said.

Yousey said although they have a suboxone clinic, they don’t just dole out medications. Clinicians believe that therapy in addition to any medication is key to treat not only the physical but behavioral health of an individual.

Counselors have found that they can’t treat a child for trauma symptoms if they don’t also treat the root cause of the trauma, chiefly ongoing drug use within a home.

Nationwide, every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (some referrals include multiple children), according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.

The agency specifically provides family and individual therapy, outpatient substance abuse and intensive outpatient therapy. The outpatient facilities of Nazareth Child & Family Connection have offices located in Salisbury, Lexington and Concord. The outpatient clinic serves individuals with mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disability needs.

​Yousey says counselors can meet with students in their individual school settings as a way to minimize their time away from school. 

“Six years ago Rowan-Salisbury School System started an initiative to bring therapy to kids,” Yousey said.

He added that the agency was one of the first to partner with the school system to provide this service to students. The in-school therapy occurs after an initial office visit to discuss a treatment plan. This form of therapy is done in eight of the schools in Rowan County and three schools in Davidson County.

The agency also provides telemedicine, where clinicians meet with patients remotely to evaluate and treat patients via computer or cell phone.

It’s also important, Yousey said, to be able to provide services on an ongoing basis for youth who require residential services.

In the past, many of the children “aged out” of group homes and other transitional housing situations, but now they are able to provide services for those youth who may need care or treatment beyond a certain age, especially if there is no appropriate place for the youth to transition into, he said.

Many families are referred to the agency through the school system, whose staff may “flag” or refer a child with certain needs.

Yousey said the majority of their patients/clients are referred via word of mouth.

Other clients enter treatment programs at the agency based on referrals from other mental health providers or probation officers.

Yousey believes one of the things that makes Nazareth Child & Family Connection unique is its intake process. Whereas many agencies have several different people who handle intake and the client moves on to a counselor, in the Nazareth program the person who conducts a client’s intake information is also the person who will work to provide their care.

In working with parents, Charla Williams, program manager for the substance abuse intensive outpatient program, helps them by talking about being positive role models and getting them “clean and sober and talking about sobriety.”

One of the main things Williams wants parents to focus on is understanding their addiction. Millican works with children to understand their parents’ addiction.

“It’s hard to get kids to understand, ‘if my parents love me they would quit,’ ” Millican said of the children who’ve come through the program.

The way the organization facilitates treatment is to allow the parents to see their progress and the children to see their parents’ progress.

“It helps the family to heal,” Millican said.

She said a lot of the households these children are coming from are in traumatic situations.

In some instances, counselors are working with three generations of a family who are affected by addiction.

“A lot of them learn this from parents,” Millican said.

She said early intervention can break the cycle.

Visit https://www.nazcfc.org/ for more information about Nazareth Child and Family Connections’ programs including school-based and outpatient therapy as well as its suboxone clinic.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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