Fairbanks’ Response to the Opioid Epidemic

Like many parts of the country, Indiana has been ravaged by the growing opioid epidemic.  Efforts to curtail the abuse of prescription opioids have created a demand for heroin. Those most vulnerable due to medical or socio-economic factors have been hit the hardest.  The outcome of opioid abuse leads to fractured families, health and physical issues, lost productivity, crime and death.

To assist in the remedy of the opioid epidemic, Fairbanks is focused on five strategies: prevention, advocacy, treatment, recovery management and harm reduction.

Prevention

Fairbanks is committed to providing education to professionals and community groups about current drug trends and the disease of addiction. In 2015, Fairbanks hosted several events educating the community and professionals about the dangers of opioid addiction, the increase in IV heroin use and proper prescribing practices. Additionally, Fairbanks is developing an opioid education curriculum to include in our PRIME for Life education program and our medical staff educates other physicians on proper prescribing methods.

Advocacy

Decreasing the stigma of addiction and educating legislators, community leaders and the public about the disease of addiction has been a priority of Fairbanks for several years. On a regular basis, members of the Fairbanks staff dedicate time testifying before local and federal elected officials in support of laws such as the CARA Bill that will reduce barriers to treatment. Fairbanks is a supporter of the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition and member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, both of which advocate to facilitate recovery for those affected by addiction. Last year, a staff member testified before a Congressional subcommittee about treatment and recovery from opioid addiction. Additionally, Fairbanks staff members participated on the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment, and Prevention and hosted community events with the Attorney General’s Prescription Drug Task Force.

Educating the public is done by sharing stories of hope and recovery in the media and other publications.

Treatment

In response to the growing population of young men needing treatment for opioid addiction, Fairbanks opened the Odyssey Unit for young adult males ages 19-23. This program is designed specifically for young adults and the unique stage in life they are in. It is a time that young adults are learning how to launch into adulthood by gaining responsibility and independent skills.

Research has proven that for those struggling with an opioid addiction, medication, along with behavioral therapies, can improve treatment outcomes and help many maintain recovery. Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction cuts the risk of death in half and improves the outcome of both obtaining and maintaining recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Fairbanks uses evidenced-based treatment methods in our treatment programs that include medication assisted therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy, Contingency Management and Couples/Family Therapy. Fairbanks believes that addiction must be treated like the chronic medical disease it is while unilaterally treating the psychological, spiritual, emotional, social and economic impact that contribute to its progression.  The Supportive Living Program at Fairbanks provides stable housing, meaningful work and healthy relationships, which are an essential part of recovery.

 Recovery Management

Research proves that the longer a person stays connected to care, the greater their chances for success. Fairbanks provides free recovery coaching to former patients and their loved ones for one year following primary treatment. While participating in recovery management, participants receive guidance, encouragement and the support needed to succeed.

In addition to recovery management, Fairbanks hosts several 12-step meetings each week and recently began hosting Pills Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous meetings. Family support groups meetings are also held weekly to provide support and education to families who have a loved one impacted by the disease of addiction. Fairbanks has an active Alumni Association that provides opportunities for alumni to enjoy fellowship and social activities in a supportive and sober environment.

Another avenue to help people stay connected to care is through volunteer opportunities. Volunteers are vital to the work of Fairbanks. Our volunteers donate their time and talent to Fairbanks in a variety of ways, but most importantly they offer hope to our patients and their families. Last year, volunteers contributed nearly 130,000 hours to the organization.

Stable housing is critical to a successful recovery. The Supportive Living Program at Fairbanks provides former patients with meaningful work opportunities, healthy relationships and the ability to stay connected to Fairbanks through continued programming and/or volunteer opportunities.

For adolescents beginning their recovery journey, Hope Academy is a charter high school that provides a supportive community for students to maintain their sobriety and receive a high school diploma.

Harm Reduction

Efforts in this area are a critical element in responding to the opioid epidemic. Realizing that setbacks are part of the disease, Fairbanks supports the widespread availability of Narcan to prevent fatal overdose, which includes accessibility with our programs to patients and families.

Significant research has proven that needle exchange programs prevent widespread infectious disease outbreaks associated with intravenous drug use. Needle exchange programs often serve as a safe place for those addicted to heroin to begin to develop trust in asking for help.

A person in recovery can rebuild his/her life and enable recovery in others who suffer. Elimination of stigma and resources for comprehensive treatment must be made available for those in need. There are more than 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, yet there is estimated to be another 23 million who still need help. There is hope, treatment works and recovery is possible. To reverse the addiction epidemic, a culture of recovery must be created. Recovery is where the miracle happens.