Catholic Charities of West Michigan provides counseling to people overcoming substance abuse

OPEN DOOR: Catholic Charities of West Michigan encourages addicts to come to their offices for help. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

OPEN DOOR: Catholic Charities of West Michigan encourages addicts to come to their offices for help. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

BIG RAPIDS — For some Mecosta and Osceola county residents, problems dealing with substance abuse go deep and the road to recovery is difficult and hard to find.

Organizations like Catholic Charities of West Michigan aim to help people find the path to recovery.

Five years ago, Catholic Charities began teaming up with regional substance abuse services throughout the state to help people overcome addiction.

Locally, Catholic Charities works out of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, helping people in Mecosta and Osceola counties with its drug-addict rehabilitation program.

“We have some great substance abuse programs in Mecosta County that are seeing an increase in participation,” said Anne Rzepecki, Catholic Charities of West Michigan marketing communications manager. “We provide substance abuse groups and also individual counseling for clients dealing with substance issues.”

Catholic Charities receives referrals from Mecosta and Osceola parole and probation offices, and from families of addicts who are seeking help for their loved ones.

“Catholic Charities is the best,” Darrin Crowder, of Big Rapids, said. “I’m in my fourth week with the program. They help out so many people, and they don’t judge you.”

The group works with Riverhaven Substance Abuse Services out of Bay City to see if patients qualify for funding for substance-abuse therapy. After a clinical assessment, recovering addicts are provided with 10 group sessions and 20 individual sessions with trained staff to help them through the mental aspects of addiction.

“Our strategy is to first help them identify what they want to change,” said Priscilla Kern, vice president of behavioral health at Catholic Charities of West Michigan. “We help them identify if they want to make a change, what they need to do in order to make a change and what they have to give up.”

The program focuses on the consequences of drug use and the steps necessary to become clean.

Catholic Charities strive for a holistic approach to substance abuse recovery, encouraging participants to seek outside help to supplement the treatment provided.

“We encourage many outside activities, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous,” Kern said. “We put them in touch with faith-based recovery programs if they want to go that way, and we encourage families to participate in the recovery process. Having that support is crucial.”

Rzepecki said the group-support format allows people to acknowledge they are not alone in their fight against addiction and setbacks, from time to time, are part of recovery.

“The group format provides people with evidence-based programming that looks at development of positive coping skills, identification of triggers and cues that could lead to relapse and development of supports within the community,” Rzepecki said.

The service offered by Catholic Charities does not include medical prescriptions but instead focuses on the why people feel the need to use drugs.

“It’s a fallacy for people to think overcoming addiction is a matter of will power It isn’t,” Kern said. “There is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and we find way to cope with this. These people (who use drugs) found a way to cope with the imbalance for awhile, and now they are struggling to give it up. It is a restructuring of life, and we are one small tool in recovery.”

Those seeking help are invited to visit the Catholic Charities office, located at 605 S. Third St., Big Rapids, to set up individual appointment sessions or a group therapy session. The group also will give information for other recovery centers in the area.

After people have completed the 30 combined sessions, they are welcome to come back if needed.

“If a person needs more treatment, they can always come back to us and get more help,” Kern said. “We have returning clients, and they are more than welcomed back. This treatment is non-judgmental, and we realize it’s a hard change for people to make, but we will always be willing to work with them.”

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