The Healing Place

THP Blog

  • The Futility of Labeling Epidemics

    We’ve been hearing about the ‘war on drugs’ for decades now. Many of us can still remember as a young child waking up early on Saturday morning to watch cartoons and seeing the public service announcement that was designed to strike fear in the hearts of every child raised in the 80s: a man holding an egg and saying “This is your brain” then cracking the egg in a frying pan and delivering the ominous message: “This is your brain on drugs… any questions?” as the egg sizzled. 

    Then there was the ‘Just Say No’ campaign sparked by former first lady Nancy Reagan. Growing up, ‘just say no’ seemed to be the obvious answer when the so-called bad people tried to push drugs on us. Back then, the war on drugs was centered on cocaine and crack cocaine. Fast-forward 30 years and we see the war on drugs has been a Sisyphean effort, except the boulder we seem to be pushing today is heroin. This is why it is futile to label epidemics. The drugs change, but we still fight the same war. It’s now clear that the trouble isn’t heroin. History has shown us that one thing has been consistent throughout the decades-long war on drugs – addiction.

    Right now, heroin has the headlines. Before that it was methamphetamine being made next door in suburbia, cocaine and crack cocaine, and of course prescription drugs. Kentucky has the dubious distinction as the number one state for prescription drug abuse and created a law to combat that issue. However, it is also clear that the collateral effects of this law led us to today’s heroin epidemic. In other words, the players may change, but the underlying issue remains: addiction.

    Even if we somehow eradicate all the poppy fields in the world and threw a parade proclaiming that we are a heroin-free country, the core issue of addiction would still stand. Studies at The Healing Place show that heroin addicts are few and far between. That’s because 99.5% of men and women who list heroin as their primary drug of addiction are poly-substance users, meaning they will use a variety of drugs on any given day. Only 0.5% of individuals who report heroin use are heroin-only users.

    Even with all the attention as heroin is getting, I believe the heroin issue will begin to dissipate – just like all other substance abuse epidemics because a new wave is here – synthetic drugs. We are just starting to hear about this in the media, but synthetics are the way of the future and the primary reason for the dramatic increase in heroin overdoses we’re hearing about on the news.

    It is estimated that there are 61,000 acres of poppy bring grown every day in Mexico alone. For producers, it makes more economical sense to produce a synthetic opioid in clandestine labs with much more financial reward and less risk. Consider this, it takes just a $6,000 investment to Chinese labs for the ingredients to create fentanyl – a synthetic opioid – that will net a dealer a profit of more than $1 million. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs estimates that these new psychoactive substances, a list that includes opioids, are emerging globally at a rate of one per week (Kamp & Campo-Flores, 2016). We are also seeing a continued surge in synthetic cannabinoids and methamphetamine. It’s simple, with synthetics, there is no need for hundreds of acres to grow crops, combat U.S. Border Control, etc. Let’s also remember that many of these substances are legal and sold at your local smoke shop before it is determined that they are dangerous and outlawed. It is not uncommon that a molecule will be changed making them legal again and thus putting them back on the shelf. It is truly and cat and mouse game between the FDA/DEA and chemists. These substances can simply be created in a lab, or a garage, and have a far superior strength and return on investment. Precursors for synthetics can be ordered online and conveniently delivered right to your door. In addition to fentanyl, it was also discovered that a synthetic opioid called Carfentanil was being found mixed with confiscated heroin in our region. Carfentanil is meant to be used as an elephant tranquilizer but can be purchased rather inexpensively online. Fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin; Carfentanil can be up to 100 times the strength of Fentanyl. Both are nearly impossible to properly measure outside of a laboratory setting. This means dealers make risky assessments when mixing these opioids with heroin.

    Through all the madness and the war on drugs, alcohol has somehow gotten a pass – never mind that it is responsible for twice as many deaths annually as all illicit drugs combined. Alcohol is still king.

    The stark truth is regardless of the drug of the moment, the real epidemic is and always has been addiction. We abuse drugs and alcohol to fill a void. When the drug is removed, that void will be filled by either another drug, destructive behavior, or – for the fortunate – a program of recovery. Thank God for a solution.


    Kamp, J., & Campo-Flores, A. (2016, November 7). This is U-47700, once a lab experiment, now a killer opioid. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/this-is-u-47700-once-a-lab-experiment-now-a-killer-opioid-1478269461

  • One Day

    Those of us who have experienced The Healing Place know how special and unique of a program it is. In order to really comprehend and pass on what this program provides to the thousands of people who walk through its doors, we as alumni are called to not only advocate for this program, but to do more and give back. There is a saying around the buildings of AA and the THP – “In order to keep what we have; we must give it away.”

    The Healing Place has a 80% recovery rate and the ability to care for our clients for only $25 per person per day. Not only are we one of the most effective and efficient recovery programs in existence, but our program is provided at no cost to our clients even though we do not take insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid and we only receive very limited government funding. That being said, without personal donations from alumni, corporations, foundations, and people in our community, The Healing Place would not be able to operate and help the amount of men and women we currently serve.

    My name is Erin Fogarty and I am a proud alumni and now employee of The Healing Place. On my journey to recovery, I tried many times and different options to try and get sober before I gave The Healing Place a chance. Besides sitting through a few AA meetings (in which I was clueless and closed minded to), every option I tried was a paid option. I did not fail because of the quality of those places, I failed because I was not receptive to the message at that point. Those options were not paid by myself; they were funded by loved ones in my family who desperately wanted to save my life and get me sober. The problem was that I didn’t want it for myself yet and went to these treatment centers for someone else. When I arrived at these places I was given a taste of recovery and this became a cycle of short lived attempts.

    When I had endured enough pain and experienced many consequences (with the law, losing jobs, friends) and my family finally had enough sense to step away from me and offer tough love, I decided for the first time to get help for myself. This time I made the decision to go to the long-term program at The Healing Place and my life was forever changed -- all cost-free to my family and I.

    Let that sit in for a second. FREE OF CHARGE to the client. That means in the 15 months I spent in the recovery program and Peer Mentor’s office, I received recovery, shelter, food, and clothing for free. That was approximately 450 days I lived in The Healing Place without having to worry about funding my recovery journey. All I had to worry about was staying sober and doing what The Healing Place was teaching me.

    Now let this sink in: before The Healing Place, the treatment centers in which my family paid out of pocket for cost an average of $2,500 per day. Those programs I attended were not the problem; they were highly recognized and recommended. I was the problem. I simply had not reached my bottom. At that point in my addiction, I needed long-term treatment where I could take a break from the everyday hell that I was living and get to the root of my problems and addiction.

    When I was a client, and even as a new alumni, I was naive and uneducated about everything I was actually receiving towards my recovery from The Healing Place. I understood the services provided but I was unaware of who was helping fund the lifesaving services I was getting every day at no cost to me. To name a few, each day The Healing Place provides to each of its clients:

    • Food
    • Shelter
    • Clothing
    • Medical care
    • Recovery services (including all classes)
    • Support
    • Freedom

    Because of generous donors and supporters, The Healing Place is currently serving 700 men and women on three campuses daily. Because of the jobs clients have, The Healing Place is able to operate at a cost of $25 per client per day.

    I am calling to all alumni to help. I know that I need to do more, and all of our alumni as a whole need to as well. If you give only $25, that may or may not seem like a lot to you BUT IT IS!! All we have is today and by giving one day to a person entering the program, you could be saving their life. You are giving that person a chance at beating and treating their disease.

    Before I got sober I had “one day...” dreams. I would always say or think to myself, “One day I will be successful.“One day I will finish school.” “One day I will have children and provide for them.“One day I will have a purpose. I can now say that I have achieved many of those “one day…” dreams all because several people donated out of their own pocket to give me one day at The Healing Place.

    I hope as alumni, we can get encouraged and inspired to think about giving back more than we already do to the program that saved our lives. It’s not about the money. It’s about helping The Healing Place continue to do what they are doing now and hopefully making it possible for them to reach even more men and women. We owe that much to the people and The Healing Place organization that believed in us and the mission of restoring lives.

    Jay Davidson was interviewed earlier this year about his vision of this organization. His description of what this program does for the person and what we in turn can do for others is perfectly said:

    “I brief all the candidates before they become peer mentors and I tell them that they are about to embark on the greatest adventure of their life. What a grace, what a privilege, what a blessing it is to be able to impart just a small amount of experience, strength, and hope to another human being that will affect the rest of their life. What a gift that is. And that person will go on to help somebody else who will help somebody else who will help somebody else.”

    If you are interested in making a one time, a monthly, or even quarterly donation, please reach out today. Because all each of us has is just one day.

    Learn more about the Alumni Giving Society.

  • GED Program

     Completing The Healing Place’s recovery program is only the beginning of our road to recovery. While at The Healing Place, clients learn a lot about recovery and a lot about themselves. Our new life has many facets that we must master; it is full of honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. Although we have learned that life is about progress not perfection, it is okay to try our absolute best and aim for perfection but to accept failure and learn from it.

    Our Continuing Care Program (Phase II) has learned that we must continue our education and always progress. One of the things we offer is assistance for clients who wish to obtain their GED. We let all clients know that we will not only schedule the initial TABE assessment that shows the client exactly where they are academically, but we will walk with them through the entire process and tutor them if necessary.
    After the assessment, clients begin taking classes to help them get back in the groove of going to school. Once clients complete those classes, they begin to take the four-part GED test. The four portions of the newly-reformed GED are science, math, language arts, and social studies. The Healing Place offers to pay for each course so there are less obstacles to any client receiving their GED.

    Although I have heard that “they” have made it very difficult to get a GED, I have yet to meet a client who has been unsuccessful at obtaining that diploma. What I have seen is that all clients who are serious about furthering their education and serious about fulfilling commitments have been successful at not only attaining their GED, but are successful in their recovery and in their new found life.

    In Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man comic books, Peter Parker’s uncle told him “with great power comes great responsibility” in his dying breath. Recovery is very powerful and with our recovery comes great responsibility. There is more to a life of recovery than attending 12 Step meetings and support groups; we deal with real life problems and we must be prepared to handle all of our new problems. Furthering our education is just one more area that we aim to improve as we walk through our newly discovered life.

  • Addiction in the Workplace

    It is pretty safe to say that most of us have been affected by addiction, whether directly or indirectly. Addiction does not happen in a vacuum and certainly has a collateral effect which damages everything in its destructive path.

    There seems to be naiveté around how prevalent addiction is in the workplace. Most people would assume that the majority of addicts are unable to function within the day-to-day rigors of the workplace and live a somewhat “normal life”. This assumption is alarmingly incorrect. Studies tell us that nearly 70% of individuals with moderate to severe substance use disorders are working full-time and, at least from the outside, are functioning at a high level. The vast majority of this statistic is composed of people who have only faced minor consequences from their use and are able to keep up the façade of normalcy.

    When serious issues arise and businesses lose employees, there are even more negative economic implications. Studies predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it has an average cost of six to nine months’ salary. For instance, replacing an employee making $40,000 a year can easily cost a company $20,000-30,000 in recruiting and training expenses. Furthermore, studies on turnover and absenteeism tell us that those reporting illicit drug use in the last year were more than twice as likely to have worked for multiple employers in that time frame. According to Whitehouse.gov, there is an estimated $120 billion in lost productivity within the workplace itself. This is further backed by numbers which state that full-time workers who are current drug users are more likely to report missing two or more workdays in a month due to illness or injury and to also skip one or more day(s) in that very same period. These telling numbers still do not account for employees who are distracted by their young adult family members or significant others who are in crisis as a result of addiction. We know all too well that this is a very real and significant issue.

    As staggering as some of these statistics may be, I am not factoring in the effect that addiction and lost productivity have on morale. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has stated that one out of every three employees are aware of the illegal selling of drugs in their workplace. This figure would definitely be a culture-killer in anyone’s work environment and create a sense of vulnerability and unsafety. I will go out on a limb and say that people do not report this to management because they are uncomfortable with someone they have grown close to potentially losing their means of making a living.

    So what is the solution? Employers with successful Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) report improvements in morale and productivity while decreasing absenteeism, accidents, downtime, and turnover rates. These EAPs have an understanding outlook on the reality of our society and that drug and alcohol abuse is very real – and likely. Employees are comfortable approaching these purely confidential meetings to get the help they need for a child, significant other, or themselves. Employers with longstanding programs report better health status among employees and family members and even decreased use of overall medical benefits. Some companies have expanded this philosophy and even run specific programs for substance abusers.

    To accomplish this feat, it is important that employers and EAPs have viable treatment options to refer employees to that meet the level of care needed. Obviously, if a professional recommends residential care, an employee may miss significant time away from work. I am of the belief that the modern company is empathetic of these problems and cares for their employee, so the individual getting the level of care needed is paramount to them. As discussed earlier, productivity and financial benefits accompany this. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, research has demonstrated that alcohol and drug treatment pays for itself.

    To reach those addicted to may not be able to take six to nine months off of work and life to go through The Healing Place’s nationally-recognized recovery program, we have founded a new company, Recovery Louisville. In the Recovery Louisville network, we now have the ability to offer services that can fit this niche for employers. Our first facility, Recovery on Chestnut, offers short-term residential care to men, allowing employees to stay in contact with employers while in the program. Once a client completes the 30-day residential stay, there is the option of added monitoring and reporting. A similar facility for women is in the works.

    We have also recently begun taking doing on-site group therapy and education classes for companies that feel like the need is important. We have the ability to come to employers at convenient times and facilitate these groups. For more information, call me at 502-333-9908 or send me an email. You can also visit us online at www.recoverylouisville.org.

    The Healing Place is hosting a symposium on addiction in the workplace on October 20th at the Louisville Marriott East. Continuing Education Units and Continuing Medical Education Credits will be available. If you would like to be notified when registration is available, please e-mail events@thehealingplace.org.

  • Get to Know: Amanda Hall

    Amanda Hall is Manager of Women’s Services at The Healing Place. She has been on staff for more than two years and is an alumni. Amanda is currently pursuing a degree in Human Services and will then go on to study Social Work. She is also in the process of becoming a Registered Peer Support Specialist.

    Are you from Louisville? If not, how did you end up here?
    I am originally from a very small town in Eastern Kentucky.

    Why did you want to work in recovery?
    Recovery, specifically The Healing Place, completely transformed my life. I am thoroughly convinced that recovery works and I want desperately to help others through their journey.

    What is your favorite part of the job?
    I am fortunate enough to be a witness of miracles every day. I see women arrive broken and hopeless, and I am privileged enough to see change. I witness family relationships mend, children get their mothers back, women become productive members of society, and women begin to finally love themselves. This is truly one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had.

    What is your least favorite part of the job?
    When a woman loses her battle to the disease of addiction. It is truly heartbreaking. The families that I talk to after the loss is also emotionally gut wrenching. Addiction and alcoholism is such a devastating disease. To know the potential and amazing personalities of these women and to watch this disease take them away is painful.

    How has The Healing Place made a difference in your life?
    The Healing Place has completely changed my life. I was oblivious to the fact that recovery was possible. I thought that I would always live in the self made prison of addiction. Without this place I’m sure that I would not be the woman that I am today. The dreams I have of completing college, my financial independence, the relationships that I have restored with my family, my self-respect, integrity, and sobriety would not exist if The Healing Place wasn’t here when I needed it. The Healing Place has not only made a difference in my life. It has made a difference in the lives of all the people that I love and come in contact with on a daily basis. I finally have the ability to love, dream, and hope for a better future. I will forever be in debt to The Healing Place and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

  • The Facts about a Smoke-Free THP

     

    There’s an old joke about a man who goes to the doctor and complains ‘Doctor, it hurts when I do this.’ To which the doctor replies ‘then don’t do that.’

    On many levels that kind of logic applies to our decision to create a tobacco-free environment on our campuses beginning June 16th; the intent is simple – to enhance the health and futures of our clients and our staff.

    Since the initial announcement there have been many comments from our alumni and others regarding this decision – many of them negative. We expected that. But none of those comments are based in fact or science or could in any way dispute the simple fact that smoking kills. That half a million deaths are caused by tobacco-related illnesses annually and we can no longer stand by and help that number rise. It was a decision not made quickly nor lightly and is one that staff – both in recovery and not, both smoker and nonsmokers – solidly stand behind. We carefully examined all the evidence, both scientific and anecdotal. It’s for the best and frankly, overdue.

    Let’s be clear, the decision has been made. Yet disagreements, blame, assumptions, and misconceptions have circulated about why; so let’s also be clear about facts, not opinions.

    Fact: No outside agency or entity is forcing us to go smoke-free. Not the Department of Corrections nor the Department of Anything.

    Fact: The Healing Place has no financial stake in this decision. Nobody’s giving us any money to do so, as some have suggested.

    Fact: This decision was made by staff, not by our Board, which stands firmly behind it.

    Fact: We’re not making clients quit. They and all staff just can’t smoke on our campuses. We’re also being pro-active offering smoking cessation programs for all who want them free of charge.

    Fact: New clients will still be allowed to smoke while in the care of our Detox facilities prior to entering the Program or discharge.

    Fact: This decision will save lives.

    It is often argued that we can’t expect alcoholics and addict to give up everything at one time but we require to them to give up all drugs and alcohol at the same time. We don’t ask people to stop using heroin but continuing smoking crack. One cannot argue that point and exclude nicotine when it kills nearly half a million people each year, many of who are in recovery. If we went with the lesser of two evils argument we would say it is okay for people to snort heroin but not use it intravenously or to work marijuana maintenance and quit drinking. It just doesn’t work that way. Nicotine is a drug of reward, one could argue the ultimate drug of reward since it is the hardest drug to quit using (also a fact.)

    Last of all, we are not requiring people to quit smoking. We are only disallowing from it our property. This is no different than not smoking in someone’s house, car, or every other establishment in the city of Louisville. People will continue to have a choice and there are other programs out there if our non-smoking policy does not work for them. Once again, half a million people die every year from tobacco related diseases – and we are committed to being part of the solution, not the problem.

  • Coming Soon: A Smoke-Free THP

    In 2014 47,055 people died from drug-related overdoses with three quarters of that number being represented by heroin or other opiate users. There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a heroin epidemic; however there is another highly addictive substance that is killing nine times that amount of people. We don’t talk about it because they aren’t sudden deaths and people don’t typically commit crimes to obtain it or lose their children over it. I’m talking about cigarettes and other tobacco products, which kill approximately 437,000 people per year.

    The recovery community has ignored nicotine addiction for years justifying smoking with the old excuse that we can’t expect people to quit everything at once. The Healing Place can no longer ignore this considering that smoking kills far more people than illegal drugs or alcohol. More than 80% of the addicted population smokes and nicotine is the ultimate gateway drug. Most individuals with addiction smoke cigarettes long before they take their first drink of alcohol, pill, or hit of marijuana. Nicotine raises dopamine in the brain just like all drugs of reward.

    At The Healing Place we always talk about being part of the solution so beginning June 16, 2016 we will become smoke-free for clients and staff with the exception of our detox units. We will not tell clients to quit smoking, but they will no longer be able to use tobacco products on Healing Place property. We will offer smoking cessation classes and nicotine replacements for any client or staff member interested in quitting.

    Smoking will still be allowed in our detox units. Detox is a community resource and we want as few barriers as possible to someone walking into our doors. Once an individual is here and the drugs and alcohol are out of their system then they can make a decision about applying for our program. We stopped supplying cigarettes to our detox units on April 4, 2016.

    One study showed that overall, 48% of non-tobacco users maintained sobriety at 12 months compared to only 14% of tobacco users. Quitting smoking at the same time as alcohol and other drugs does not increase rates of relapse into non-nicotine chemical use. Addicts/alcoholics in and out of recovery are at high risk for tobacco-related death, greater than 50%.

    We have to pay attention to the science and research that has shown for the past twenty years that quitting smoking is good for sobriety. The Healing Place serves over 740 clients each day and I want each one of those individuals to have the best chance at sobriety possible. We believe The Healing Place’s non-smoking policy will greatly increase those chances.


    CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality File.

    Gulliver SB, et. al. Smoking cessation and alcohol abstinence: what do the data tell us? Alcohol Research & Health, 2006; 29(3): 208-12.

    Guydish J, et al. An international systematic review of smoking prevalence in addiction treatment. Addiction 2015; doi: 10.1111/add.13099

    Stuyt E. Understanding the impact of tobacco on recovery. Circle Program. Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.

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