Who Is Part Of A Holistic Community-Based Approach to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment?

“……more than 84% of scientific studies show that faith is a positive factor in addiction prevention or recovery and a risk in less than 2% of the studies reviewed, we conclude that the value of faith-oriented approaches to substance abuse prevention and recovery is indisputable. And, by extension, we also conclude that the decline in religious affiliation in the USA is not only a concern for religious organizations but constitutes a national health concern.”       National Institutes of Health,  “Belief, Behavior, and Belonging: How Faith is Indispensable in Preveenting and recovering from Substance Abuse”,  Brian J Grim and Melissa E. Grim      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6759672/


          The case for the necessity of a faith-building component in outpatient and residential treatment of substance abuse prevention and recovery is well documented in evidence-based medical and mental health journals and has been for quite some time. Yet our community has fewer faith-oriented recovery program beds today than it did 5 years ago.   The Rescue Mission which had carried the heavy load in that regard for decades crumbled in the last few years and no longer offers a valid substance abuse recovery component for clients.  It is largely a low income housing facility for minimally employed temporarity homeless women or families needing emergency shelter. 


        There are a few state-funded or private for-profit residential programs, as well as some state-funded outpatient-programs, to which the courts generally order those convicted of substance abuse charges.  There are 30-day insurance-covered programs that have proliferated since the initiation of the Affordable Healthcare Act to take advantage of the medical-insurance industrial complex’s gravy train. There are outpatient Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs.  There are “sober houses” and “transitional shelters”, but fewer and fewer bona fide long term (six months or greater) low-cost or free recovery program beds.  And those that have the commitment and training to work with individuals with dual DX Substance abuse/mental health diagnoses and accompanying medication requirements are even fewer. Our community has a large population living in a subculture of substance abuse, homelessness, jail/DOC terms, need for mental health services……in a repitive cycle of dysfunctionality. Bay County ranks above the Florida average in almost every measurement of substance abuse and mental health crisis data.  


         Below is an eye-opening slide from an online continuing education seminar in which I participated a few years ago on “holistic broad based community care for mental health/substance abuse services”…. Peruse the various outer band categories and the inner block categories…. If you look closely, you see virtually/ EVERY possible professional, paraprofessional and community institutional “partner” upon which a “holistic” partner approach might depend….. Really? Where are the supportive community faith-building, spirit nurturing services? Clergy? Spiritual psycho-education? Human development understanding that is inclusive of the spiritual potential of a person’s life? I’m not talking about religious denominational proselytizing and teaching of dogma…. I’m talking about helping people connect with their own human spirit and the strength that can be gained by inviting a Divine empowerment to participate in one’s life.

        I am not talking about reinforcing a sense of belonging to a dysfunctional, morally or physically “disease” subculture by separating people out in “recovery group meetings”, attending as many as one needs in a week to stay sober/clean for the rest of their lives, that help them build in the emotional self-management to remain that way. The ONLY reference in the entire presentation was thrown into it as an after-thought….. “help people connect to a local AA or church group meeting for community support AFTER their holistic treatment…. People are so afraid to affirm the necessity and advocate for the inclusion of TRULY holistic treatment that encourages attention to spiritual dimensions of living. This is NOT about religious doctrine or practices…. It is about the HUMAN SPIRIT and the nurture of a Human/DIVINE SPIRIT interaction. This has been one of my passions and pursuits for the last 15 years…. to include discussions of spiritual formation and education in a neutral manner that allows individuals to understand and make informed choices about a comprehensive, fullbodied approach to their well-being.
What is the risk of including spiritual education and formation discussions as a part of every client’s treatment plan? Denominational jealousies? Protection of religious “fiefdoms”?  Fear of treading on “separation of church and state” ?  Control?  Politics?. . Or just ignorance……?
Statistical data reports that fewer than 30% of substance users who attend fellowship recovery meeting (AA, NA, etc.) attend after the first meeting. Of that minorty of people that do, a conservative estimate is that no more than 50% of regular participants in such meetings maintain permanent long term sobriety. That is not a holistic solution. It’s a bandaid.
Many community-based self-help fellowship and 12-step groups are associated with faith-oriented volunteer groups, yet many individuals needing recovery suppor never get fully engaged in a group for various reasons.  A more proactive and inclusive approach to euipping and referring individuals to participate in such community-based groups can be accomplished! 
“A four-session group-based intensive referral approach has been developed and tested for individuals with co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorders (), in which a member of a dual disorders self-help group serves as a volunteer to help inform the participants about dual-disorder groups and to link the individual to community-based self-help groups. Compared to the usual referral practice in the clinics, those in the intensive referral group intervention attended more substance-focused and dual-disorders-focused self-help meetings and had less drug use and better psychiatric outcomes at a 6-month follow-up”