By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Psychiatrists often see the same drugs paired with certain mental illnesses: patients with severe depression using cocaine, those with panic disorder becoming alcoholics, those with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder combining narcotics, Psychology Today magazine reports.
The drug addiction can result from the mental illness. For instance, someone with bipolar disorder might smoke marijuana heavily to even out moods.
It’s a way of quelling the symptoms — “self-medicating.”
Tim Golden, spokesman for the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center, said rehab programs typically focus on the addiction alone.
“But if you don’t treat the mental side as well, then you have the recipe for another relapse,” Golden said.
To reverse this trend, this month the Pennyroyal Center took over the rehab program at Western State Hospital.
Counselors are now accepting many drug and alcohol addicts who also have mental disorders.
They’re implementing a treatment model that integrates mental therapy with substance abuse counseling.
This means “double trouble” group sessions for addicts who also have mental illness, plus one-on-one mental therapy between clients and counselors, said Phil Latham, the program’s new director.
Like the primary medical care clinic the Pennyroyal Center opened last year, this rehab program is another extension of the group’s mission: to treat “the whole person,” to combine psychiatry with other forms of healing.
Western State’s rehab program, called Volta, opened in 1973 or 1974, Latham said. Latham started working there in 1975, years before he joined the Pennyroyal Center.
About two years ago, the state asked the Pennyroyal Center to take on leadership of Volta. The state saw a service gap for addicts with mental illness, commonly called “co-occurring disorders,” Latham said.
The switch officially occurred on July 1 of this year. All the rehab patients graduated at the end of June, so the Pennyroyal Center started with a new class and a mostly new staff. The majority of counselors who worked there before took other jobs at Western State, Latham said.
The program is now called Genesis. It has 30 beds and accepts men and women from all over the Pennyroyal region.
Sometimes judges order criminal defendants to enter the program to fulfill plea bargains. Others enter voluntarily, Latham said.
They can stay for as little as two weeks, depending on counselors’ recommendations, but Latham believes they’ll average about 28 weeks. They sleep and have classes in the same building and eat their meals at Western State’s cafeteria, Latham said.
Two Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups put on weekly sessions.
Counselors make sure mentally ill patients get the proper medications. As they help patients develop plans for what they’ll do after graduating from the program, they build in mental health components: setting people up with mental clinics near their homes, ensuring they’ll be able to keep their prescription regimens.
Because the Pennyroyal Center is the primary mental health agency serving this region, patients who end up at Western State Hospital go through the Pennyroyal Center first, Golden said. The two agencies have worked together smoothly for years, and the Pennyroyal Center has often referred patients to Volta.
“Now we’re just referring to ourselves,” Golden said.
For more information on the program, call the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center at 270-886-9371.