There is a line in the newly popular Rosanne Cash song “World of Strange Design,” where the eldest daughter of the Man in Black croons, ”We talk about your drinking / But not about your thirst.” This, in a nutshell, is what Texoma Community Center Mental Health Services Director Brent Phillips-Broadrick sees as the main problem with traditional substance abuse therapy.
“We’ve had substance abuse private clinics around (the area) where you could go if you had the right insurance and all, but the outpatient follow-up has been very limited to non-existent, quite frankly,” said Phillips-Broadrick from his Sherman office Thursday morning. “I don’t want to take someone and say, ‘You’re not any happier, your relationships aren’t any better, your job’s still horrible and you’re miserable, but at least you’re not drinking.’ That, to me, is not a successful clinical outcome.”
It’s a line of thinking that’s by no means an epiphany to Phillips-Broadrick or other mental health professionals, but it has proven difficult to achieve in substance abuse programs thus far, he explained. Limited resources and narrow charters traditionally have blunted the impact of agencies like TCC.
“Historically, as a community center, we’ve been limited under state contract to only provide services to people that have major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia,” said Phillips-Broadrick. “What we’re doing now is outpatient treatment, and we’ve never really had that to the degree that we’ve needed it here, because there was no way to pay for it.”
Funding that ebbed and flowed with the political tides meant TCC has been able to provide substance-abuse treatment intermittently over the years, but even then, only to individuals with concurrent mental handicaps. That all changed about 18 months ago, when Texas was granted a “1115 waiver” by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, according to Center officials. The waiver has allowed TCC administrators to greatly expand the community reach of many programs.
“This 1115 waiver has allowed us to branch out and really meet any need that someone in the community has — anxiety, marital problems, substance abuse problems — without regard to funding,” said Phillips-Broadrick. “It was basically something that we needed terribly and wanted, but until this waiver came along, we just haven’t had the ability.”
TCC’s substance abuse program launched in January after more than two years of groundwork laid by Center staff. With a holistic focus on the lives of those struggling with addiction, the program is breaking new ground in treatment, said Phillips-Broadrick.
“To have an outpatient approach to where you look at the entire system that the person is in — to have the family involved and the children involved, I mean, that is almost unheard of because there has been no way to do that.
“There really isn’t anything else like it. There are programs out there — Four Rivers (Outreach) does a lot of work with people with substance abuse; AA has, of course, been around for 50-something years — but this is different. … We’re really trying to look at what is effective for the individual and provide intensive, individualized treatment, not just a cookie-cutter approach.”
While the program is open to anyone, doctor referrals of those hooked on prescription pain killers have provided many of the program’s clients in its first three months, said Kristi Gourd, the program’s manager. But TCC counselors have seen everything from alcohol to hard-core drugs, and the program has already exceeded its yearly goal for enrollees, just ten weeks into 2014.
“I have a client that I’m working with now, and when she came in for the first couple of months, she suffered through it. She came because she realized she had a problem, but she didn’t really want to be here,” explained Gourd.
“So we worked on developing a treatment plan with her, and probably in the last two to three weeks … she’s speaking to people out in the lobby and sharing with them, ‘This is just the greatest thing that ever could have happened in my life.’ She is in a much, much different place in a very short amount of time. She told me, ‘I feel like I can go out in public now and I can be me. I don’t have to medicate.’ So she’s made a huge leap.”
Success stories like Gourd’s client seem to be an early indications that the program is having a positive impact in the three-county region served by TCC. But building a substance abuse program, like recovery itself, is a long process, and the program will continue to grow, Gourd said.
For Phillips-Broadrick, having the substance abuse program up and running fulfills a long-standing dream to provide “un-siloed” treatment in which all aspects of the addiction are examined. It’s a mission, he said, that TCC is now uniquely positioned to fulfill.
“I’ve already seen several people (in the program) that we wouldn’t have been able to serve historically,” said Phillips-Broadrick. “But through the counseling program, we can bring that whole family in, and we don’t have to worry about whether or not they have insurance or Medicaid or Medicare, because that’s what the waiver has allowed us to do.
“And I think the (missing) piece is education in the community: explaining to people that (addiction) is not something to be ashamed of. … Just come as you are and say, ‘This is not how I want to live my life. I don’t want to live my life based on how many pills I have in the bottle or how many vodka bottles I’ve got stashed around the house.’ If you feel that something is controlling your life, that’s what we’re here for. It’s a really different paradigm for the community to have this program here and available.”
For more information about the Center call 903-957-4700.