Project Recovery Helps Addicted Mothers


Courtesy Photo

Jennifer Valentine and her two daughters.

Substance Abuse Program Treats Parents, Reunites Families

Sunday, October 11, 2015

By Molly Forster

Moms and pregnant women with substance abuse issues are highly stigmatized by society and are often considered to be high risk, making it terribly difficult for them to find the help they need. “But why would you treat a mom with diabetes any differently than a mom with addiction problems?” asked Anna Rodriguez, Manager of Santa Barbara’s Perinatal Program at Project Recovery, “They’re both diseases.”

Jennifer Valentine, 31, a mother of six and a longtime abuser of meth recently completed the Perinatal Program at Project Recovery and re-gained custody over two of her daughters.

Born to two meth-addicted parents in Ventura, there was never much hope for Valentine. As a child, she was abused, molested, and raped. She smoked meth for the first time when she was only 11 years old. She became pregnant with her first son at age 14.

After her son was born, Valentine stayed clean for a while, until her ex-husband began to molest her children. A victim of child molestation herself, Valentine didn’t know how to cope with what was happening, and she began to use again. She became the person she never wanted to be: her mother.

“And then my kids got taken away from me and that just made me feel even worse,” explained Valentine. “I knew that they depended on me, but I never know how much I depended on them just to be okay and to feel alright.”

Valentine has had four kids taken away from her by Child Welfare Services. When she was released from jail, only one year ago, she had lost custody over Tony, her 21-month-old daughter, and was 8-months pregnant with Scarlett.

“I just got to a point where I’m pregnant with Scarlett and I’m fighting for Tony and I can’t lose my kids again,” said Valentine. “I want to fight. I’m not going to stop fighting.” Which is why she pleaded for the court to refer her to Project Recovery in Santa Barbara, where she felt comfortable with counselors who had helped her in the past, judgments aside.

Santa Barbara’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (CADA) Perinatal Program at Project Recovery is a small house that serves pregnant women and parents of both genders with substance abuse issues. Despite its location on the corner of East Hayley and Santa Barbara Streets, right next to a dope-fiend park, the small cottage-style building is actually quite charming.

As you walk though the front door, past the outdoor play area, peak into the bathroom covered with kid’s art and the kitchen that’s stocked with healthy snacks, you get the feeling that you’re in a family home. “Every time I had to make my kids lunch, I would go to Project Recovery and use their kitchen,” said Valentine.

The six- to twelve-month outpatient program provides a seemingly never-ending list of services to help recovering addicts establish healthy parenting styles and to assist them throughout their sobriety. Perinatal Program Manager, Anna Rodriguez, is particularly known for her unfaltering dedication to helping moms on their path to recovery.

When she started working in alcohol and drug counseling five-and-a-half years ago, Rodriguez had her heart set on working with Santa Barbara’s youth. However, her first position at Project Recovery was in the childcare room of the Perinatal Building. It was in that tiny room filled with donated cribs and toys where she realized, “wait a minute, this is where it’s starting.”

CADA has an adolescent substance abuse program called Daniel Bryant that gets a lot of attention in Santa Barbara. “They’re like our golden child,” said Rodriguez jokingly. However, Rodriguez feels it’s important to understand harm reduction when it comes to teenagers abusing substances.

“A lot of the kids at Daniel Bryant ended up there because they grew up in homes where their parents were using and didn’t have any parenting skills,” said Rodriguez. Because parents with substance abuse issues are highly stigmatized, they have a much harder time getting help.

Rodriguez said they’re doing okay on funding at Project Recovery, but things could be better. “We need a bigger building, there’s just not enough room here,” she said. People are more reluctant to donate to adult addicts than they are to youth addicts.

“What do you think when you see a mom who’s 8-months pregnant, with a huge belly, standing outside smoking a cigarette?” asked Rodriguez.

“Most people think she’s a horrible person and wonder how she could do that to her baby, but what they don’t think about is the stress that mom must be feeling,” said Rodriguez. “Maybe she’s smoking because she’s not doing heroin and it’s all she has left.”

Rodriguez has made it her goal to increase community outreach, reduce stigmatization, and help people see addiction for what it is: a disease.

Project Recovery treats about 50 women a year with a dropout rate of roughly 10 to 15 women each year. Most clients are heroin or meth addicts living in poverty with partners who are either absent or still using.

Parents are referred to the Perinatal Program through court referrals, Child Welfare Services, transition houses, Villa Majella (Santa Barbara’s maternity home for homeless women), CADA Cares, and self-referrals. “We’re starting to get more and more self-referrals, which is great,” notes Rodriguez, “I want to get the word out there to people that need our help.”

Project Recovery will do seemingly anything to make sure clients get the help they need. The program accepts MediCal and offers transportation for clients as far as Carpenteria to Winchester Canyon.

After intake, Rodriguez tries to get clients into group therapy as soon as possible. The first group focuses on relapse prevention and the second group teaches parenting skills —

and much more.

“Part of my work is assisting the clients with their treatment plan goals,” says Rodriguez. These goals include helping their kids eat healthier, teaching them how to breastfeed their babies, how to take care of their bodies, and how to practice safe sex.

On Fridays, Rodriguez is known to host “field trips” to destinations like City College, the vaccination center, and WIC nutrition services appointments.

“A lot of my clients end up going back to school while they’re here,” says Rodriguez, “or I’ll get calls from them after they graduated saying they just got their AA or they’re studying to be counselors because I told them if I can do it, so could they.”

Project Recovery also offers case management services: helping clients find employment, housing, mental health assistance, and even accompanying them to their court dates. They are constantly on the lookout for places that are hiring in town, especially businesses willing to give ex-felons a second chance. Many of the moms have found seasonal jobs and jobs working in merchandise retail and grocery stores. “Usually though, the cost of day care doesn’t outweigh a minimum wage job,” notes Rodriguez.

One of the most common cases Rodriguez sees at Project Recovery are Child Welfare Service referrals, which are usually moms trying to gain custody or visitation rights with their children. It’s extremely difficult for moms to get reunification services if they’ve already had an open case, explains Rodriguez. “They have to jump through all these hoops and everyone’s telling them what a horrible job they’re doing,” she said.

Despite the challenges of being the middle-woman between Child Welfare Services and mothers who want nothing more in the world than to be with their children, Rodriguez keeps an optimistic attitude. “The good thing is we have moms who are all here for one reason — they all want recovery — and their main goal is to be good mommies and have their families reunited,” said Rodriguez.

Although Rodriguez doesn’t think 6 months is enough time for clients to reach full recovery, she notes that about four out of 6 clients continue with their sobriety and she doesn’t see very many moms who re-offend.

“Santa Barbara has an amazing sober community, it’s like a little family,” said Rodriguez. “It’s really important for moms to continue to go to these meetings because it’s usually when they feel good and start thinking, ‘I feel great, I can have one beer,’ that they relapse.”

Jennifer Valentine has been sober for over a year and she and Rodriguez still stay in close touch.

“I’ve been in programs where you’re just ushered through the motions,” said Valentine, “but at Project Recovery they aren’t like that.”

When I met Valentine at Kid’s World, she was sitting on a blanket with her two beautiful little girls, a sparkle in her eyes, and a genuinely happy smile that you’d never expect to see on the face of someone who’s been through so much.

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The journey of recovery


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On the road towards recovery.


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How Prostitutes Can Use Their Business Skills Outside of the Sex Trade


Written by, Cathy Huyghe

Sales. Marketing. And a certain flair for performance.

These aren’t necessarily the first words that come to mind when you think about the skills of a prostitute. Yet it is those skills exactly that are helping women transition out of lives of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge noticed this transfer of skill sets from one business to another during her work with former prostitutes at Embrace Dignity, the organization she founded in Cape Town, South Africa. Embrace Dignity offers self-empowerment services for survivors of the sex trade, and they lobby for the effective implementation of existing legislation that prevents violence, protects women, and provides services for the victims of violence.

The Embrace Dignity team helps survivors find an alternative source of income, though the barriers to success are high. Often the women are without professional training or key life skills, having dropped out of school early. In addition, South Africa’s economy isn’t growing fast enough to support even those people with advanced degrees. Some estimates indicate that nearly half of South Africa’s population between the ages of 15 and 35 are unemployed and not at school.

Survivors, then, rely on skills they honed on the street and they learn new professional and life skills. Embrace Dignity organizes Sister Circles, for small groups of women to learn the life skills that they simply don’t have, and they work with local companies who provide specialized business skills. Survivors will apply those skills to new businesses that they often start themselves, since chances of employment in an already-existing company are slim.

Which brings us back to sales, marketing, and a flair for performance – three skills that render a prostitute’s trade successful, or not.

Madlala-Routledge noticed that one survivor she worked with was exceptionally good at selling and “closing the deal.” That survivor has built her own business of buying and selling products; since most of her customers purchase on credit, she’s succeeds because of her tenacity and follow through.

Another survivor recognized the value of marketing her appearance in order to attract clients as a prostitute. She is segwaying that experience – of presenting a beautiful persona through hair and makeup – into training at a chain of salons. She knows that she will need to move to a different part of the country in order to succeed: where she lives now, she’s known in a certain way that she needs to break away from.

Madlala-Routledge noticed that another survivor was especially good at acting and had a flair for the dramatic. She hopes to receive formal training in order to become a television presenter.

Sometimes a survivor’s new line of work is completely unrelated to her previous life, influenced in part by which industries need workers. Cape Town, for example, is home to a thriving and trendy pop up restaurant scene. A survivor learned culinary skills through Embrace Dignity, and she also learned life management skills that help her in a hospitality job, like discipline, preparation, and showing up for work on time.

Formal training, in culinary skills or television presentation, is one way to prepare for a new profession, but it’s expensive. That’s why Madlala-Routledge and Embrace Dignity partners with philanthropic organizations like Donor Direct Action (DDA), which offer a different and more straightforward route to funding than traditional resources like the United Nations.

“Grants at the UN should be easy for women to access,” Madlala-Routledge said. “But first you have to be highly literate, you have to be able to access the internet in order to fill in the application, and they’ll want several documents on which they’ll assess you. Then you wait, they’ll ask for more documents, and it could go on for months and months on end. And they may not even approve your application.” New, more agile organizations like DDA help to cut through the red tape, and Madlala-Routledge can often access funds within days.

Helping survivors, whether through education, skills training or microloans to start new businesses, has an enormous ripple effect. “When they came to us, they said they thought no one cared about them,” Madlala-Routledge said. “Now we see a change in women’s appearance, in how they walk and think about themselves. They’re helping their families, and they want to help prevent other girls from following the same pattern they did.

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The FDA Just Approved OxyContin to Be Prescribed to Children

OXYCOTIN DR. IRFAN DHALLA Dr. Irfan Dhalla of St Mike's Hospital (Shown) with five different strengths of Oxycotin in the pharmacy at the hospital.The drug which can be highly addictive is being de-listed here in Ontario and will be replaced with a less addictive drug in the near future.(February2412)RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR.

Written By Josh Mur
August 14, 2015

The infamously untrustworthy Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has furthered its reputation as one of America’s most beloved hypocrites with its latest motion. It was reported on Thursday that the FDA has just approved OxyContin prescriptions for children between the ages of 11 and 16 years-old.

For those unfamiliar, OxyContin is an opiate-based pharmaceutical painkiller used to ease severe pain. Aside from being known for its powerful effects on users, it is also notorious for its widespread abuse. Its effects on the mind and body are strikingly similar to heroin, making it dangerously addictive. It typically contains anywhere between 40-160 milligrams of OxyCodone, which lasts around 12 hours thanks to its extended release. However, abusers generally crush the pills to inhale or inject them with a syringe by mixing it with water, thus receiving a dose that is meant to stretch over a 12-hour span almost instantly.

After a 2004 study was abandoned due to an apparent lack of monetary resources, the FDA announced that pediatric studies on the effects of OxyContin would be underway in order to establish whether or not this pharmaceutical version of heroin should be available for children. After a very short period of trials and research, the FDA has concluded that three years is enough time to evaluate the long-term effects of extended use of a highly potent drug in children. Keep in mind that the FDA is the same government organization that has lumped marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms into the same category as Schedule 1 narcotics, deeming them to have zero medicinal value and heightened potential for abuse (because we all know a handful of people addicted to psychedelic mushrooms, right?).

One of the most blatant problems with this new allowance is that opiate addiction itself has become one of the most pressing health crises of modern times. In 2010 alone, 16,651 people died from opiate overdoses — making up 60% of all overdose deaths. Prescription drug overdoses are now responsible for more deaths than all illegal drug overdoses combined. Another recent study has shown that 4 out of 5 new heroin addicts initially became addicted from using prescription opiates. One can’t help but ask whether or not prescribing children OxyContin will lead to heroin addiction at an earlier age.

This is just the latest move which allows for the mass (over)medication of America’s youth. As we reported last year, at least 10,000 toddlers are now prescribed amphetamine-based ADHD drugs in the U.S.

Ironically, despite the fact that marijuana and heroin are all considered to lack any acceptable medicinal value, both of them have synthetic pharmaceutical versions available to patients. For example, Marinol and Cesamet are pharmaceutical drugs that are readily available, typically to cancer patients. The irony is in the fact that these drugs are literally modeled on active ingredients in marijuana. On the other hand, we have the drug of discussion, OxyContin, which, as stated earlier, is modeled around heroin itself. There is clearly either a major conflict of interest, unfathomable stupidity, or perhaps both.

RELATED: How an Illegal “Drug” is Reducing Opiate Painkiller Addiction

Regardless of the motive behind these contradictions, the message is clear: these regulators have proven themselves unfit to handle this sort of responsibility. Even considering the fact that children will have to undergo a more extensive evaluation than adults to obtain a prescription, these methods and regulations are supported by the imbeciles responsible for the clear absurdities stated above. Furthermore, does not the FDA’s refusal to recognize the inefficiency in its own approved medications while ignoring the success of “alternative” medicine imply that it is guilty of more ignorance than meets the eye?

Health is not a monopoly, it is a state of well-being. The fact that we have corporations and organizations that immensely benefit from the sales of medication implies two things. First, illness and injury are key components in the demand for sales, manufacturing, and further development of medicine — constituting a clear conflict of interest between the physical and mental well-being of American citizens and the financial well-being of Big Pharma. Second, it implies that the FDA’s evaluation methods are not nearly efficient enough to safely decide whether or not certain chemicals should be available for human consumption. This is why a naturally occurring chemical like psilocybin — which is proven to have not only psychological benefits, but physical benefits as well — is considered illegal in the United States.

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Posted in addiction, Awareness, OxyContin
Today is the present.
October 2015
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Robert Christopher Mergupis


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