by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
Drug and alcohol addiction is a problem many families deal with every day—either as an addict themselves or a family member. The good news is there are organizations and people who can help.
On August 26, Alternative Choice Counseling Center hosted their Overdose Awareness and Recovery Day event at the Gibson Civic Center to celebrate August as Overdose Awareness Month and September as Recovery Month. There were 28 clients in attendance and approximately 85 total, including family members, staff and guests. During the event, there were testimonials, door prizes, and fun and games.
“On this day we had Melissa Lassiter, regional overdose specialist with Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse come and share information on Narcan and the importance of providing help and hope,” Tubbs-Douglas said of the event. “We had five speakers who came to share their experience, strength and hope with those in attendance. We had a praise and worship band that offered entertainment as well as having cornhole games for the clients. We grilled out hamburgers and hotdogs, and enjoyed a time of fellowship. We had numerous door prizes that were donated for the clients with the grand prizes being two new kid bicycles.”
The Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) is a program through the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. ARP offers a variety of services to individuals with issues brought on by their substance abuse and is a key element in Alternative Choice’s abuse and recovery programs.
“ARP is one of the fully funded grants we offer from TDMHSA,” Tubbs-Douglas noted. “ARP focuses on case management; spirituality; health and wellness; employment skills; recovery skills; recovery activities and relapse prevention. It provides group and individual counseling as well as case management services. We offer free of charge each month a minimum of two activities where clients and their families can come and enjoy sober fun.”
“In 2018, I was in the Gibson County Recovery Court program and participated in ARP program,” said David Rinks, who is now an ARP counselor at Alternative Choice. “After I completed the program, Lori offered me a job. Then she offered a full time job. I couldn’t turn it down. I love helping people. Seeing people totally broken can get a glimpse of what life could be, because I’ve been in that position.”
Tubbs-Douglas says ARP is more than just treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders, but instead it helps build people up to be successful in life. There are both spiritual and educational aspects to Alternative Choice’s programs.
“I’m honored to be part of their journey to recovery and guide them through the process,” said ARP counselor and social worker LaDonna Anderson. “Our event (Overdose Awareness and Recovery Day) gave the group the opportunity to network with others (in ARP program). They build new relationships and friendships, and get out of their comfort zones. They may help you and you may help them.”
Rinks said Alternative Choice takes groups on field trips regularly. Some may be a simple as going to lunch or dinner, while others have been trips to places like Chickasaw State Park. He said they plan to take a group to Discovery Park in the near future.
Tubbs-Douglas wants to remove the stigma that sometimes goes with addiction. Often times, people only see them as a drug addict. She says they are normal people who have a disease.
“Our clients are great people who pay taxes, go to church, you see them shopping at stores,” she said. “They are neighbors, coaches, brothers, sisters, moms and dads. People get sober and lead normal lives and become productive members of society. We don’t look at people at where they are, but where they can go. We don’t give hand outs, but a hand up.”
She said people do not have to be incarcerated or have drug arrests to use Alternative Choices’ counseling services. The ARP services are offered at no cost to their clients. They also accept TennCare and BCBS, with limited treatment grants based on eligibility.
According to stats from TDMHSA on fatal overdose in Gibson County and statewide, unfortunately, fatalities are on the rise, and drastically getting higher and higher.
In 2017, there were six opioid fatalities in Gibson County and 1,268 in Tennessee. Those numbers had moderate increases in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, Gibson County had 10 fatal overdose, but for the state, the numbers were almost tripled at 3,032. There were 19 fatalities in Gibson County, with state numbers spiraling to 3,814.
Tubbs-Douglas said every drug or alcohol addict negatively impacts at least 10 people. But on the flipside, every person in recovery positively impacts at least 20 people.
“ACCC is so much more than helping people stop drug or alcohol abuse,” said Tubbs-Douglas. “It’s about improving their lives— stability. We don’t want them to just live, we want them to thrive in life.”