Faith community asked to help combat the stigma of addiction

12512449_1114324658610909_734155431369925453_nMore than 100 leaders in the faith community, social workers, government officials, and families of individuals with substance use disorders gathered in Gwinnett last week to discuss the rising heroin crisis. Navigate Recovery Gwinnett, a nonprofit organization connecting individuals to addiction treatment services, hosted the event at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth.

Heroin is one of the most addictive substances in the world. The rise in its use correlates with an increase of pain reliever prescriptions. In 2013, 681,000 Americans used heroin, more than double from the previous decade. In Georgia, 1,206 deaths in 2014 were caused by heroin overdoses, an increase of 10.2 percent from 2013.

“DBHDD is trying to avert the problem that’s increasing from heroin and opioid use with access to services, a smoother transition into the community with recovery support services, and growing partnerships with our stakeholders,” said Wrayanne Glaze Parker, women’s program Coordinator in DBHDD’s Office of Addictive Diseases.

At the event last week, many of those on the front lines, including Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader who oversees the local drug court, implored faith leaders to help combat the stigma of addiction.

Profiles in success: Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia

With a history of mental health challenges and substance use disorders, as well as felonies on record, “Gloria” sought help from Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia (BHS). She was referred to an outpatient treatment program for women. After several months in recovery, she entered BHS’ Shelter Care Plus program, which provides permanent housing and support services to those who are homeless and have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

When Gloria was ready to find a job, BHS connected her with G&B Works, Inc., a supported employment service in Valdosta. They helped her build a successful résumé, researched companies that had openings, and provided transportation to the businesses so that she could apply in person and fill out applications.

“The supported employment program is so vital to people with a background and history such as mine,” said Gloria. “Not only from the beginning with the job hunting process, but with the continued moral support and most definitely with the transportation assistance. Without [that], I would have no other way to get back and forth to work every day.”

Gloria’s work experience and qualifications landed her an interview with Pleats & Creases Dry Cleaners, but it was her honesty about her past and her commitment to a better future that secured her a job.

“She is a productive and valued employee, working to live with the tragic life event of addiction,” said her boss Evan. “If she met the initial employment scrutiny and performed as desired, then it wasn’t my place in this world to judge the past.”

Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia is one of twenty-six community service boards in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ statewide public safety network. Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia serves individuals with mental health and addiction disorders and developmental disabilities in Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift, and Turner counties.