It’s been a few months of blog silence but it’s time to regroup and speak to you all again. Thank you for your patience with my silence, the holidays/work/family took precedence for a while.
The caseloads for the child welfare caseworkers in my agency have been overwhelming the past few months. While we’ve remained steady with intakes, the drug epidemic is pressing and leads cases to be open longer as well as require more intensive time and supervision. Also, turnover in such a high-stress job is something we’ve been facing more in the past few years than close to a decade ago when I started this career.
Through all of this, I feel that I’m starting to see a light and the end of the tunnel. Definitely, not a means to an end, but small successes are starting to shed light on our community.
Last Thursday, one of our detectives and head of our drug task force through the Sheriff’s department came and trained the caseworkers on carrying Narcan. Currently, I have a box of two 4mg doses of Narcan nasal spray to carry with me on home visits. We were trained to administer this to our co-workers or anyone that may need assistance. While I was very against Narcan for a while, our task force leader explained that the number of overdose deaths in our county has flatlined this past year. This is due to a grant that has pushed Narcan everywhere in our county. Schools, the court, hospitals, etc. Clients are even receiving Narcan when they complete an initial drug and alcohol assessment. Subsequently, the number of repeat overdoses have gone down. This is due to our police officers and emergency responders pushing the clients into treatment immediately. Our mental health and recovery board has helped expand drug treatment options to different areas of the county so it’s more easily accessible. Our family drug court is off and running and is seeing success. I have spoken to so many addicts who rave about drug court and the accountability it gives them. We see it work and expanding it to our families is a huge success. Our county common pleas court has run a successful drug court for years, and now our municipal court is running a “recovery court” as well. Again, it’s not all puppies and flowers yet. We still have an epidemic. But I am proud to see my county making strides and hearing about the outcomes from our clients.
I also have had the opportunity to meet with some wonderful people through a national leadership program. They met with myself and others in the community and plan to bring a group of leaders from Washington, D.C. to our county in April. One hope is that policy, finance, and knowledge will be affected by this. This is why I started this blog. It’s true when they say knowledge is power. I’m excited about this upcoming event and plan to share more when it commences.
Finally, I had the pleasure to speak on the phone last week with one of my favorite and most successful clients from years ago. I often tell others that I’ve only ever seen one success story on my caseload in the past 10 years. However, my focus has changed to small success stories now. Baby steps. Day by day. She and her family, however, is what others often want to hear about. Their child was removed. They refused treatment for a while. They later became sober and were reunified with their child. Case closed. But it didn’t end there. Over the next several years both mom and dad relapsed on different occasions but had the “seed planted” as the mom often tells me, that made her get back into treatment and focus on sobriety. Since then, they have had another child, live in their own house, and maintain their sobriety daily. After many years, mom tells me that she continues in treatment and meetings. She told me “I cannot do it without my NA meetings. It’s what keeps me grounded and sober. It’s a lifestyle that you must live for the rest of your life. A sober lifestyle”. And while we talked about what she hears from others in recovery, they still feel there is a barrier to treatment and discussed what can be done to change that.
Finally, I opened up to her about my aversion to Narcan until Jane’s story (see my previous blog post here ). Mom seemed shocked when I told her that and she said: “but that could have been me”. I told her I understand that now. Mom told me it can take 2 times or 20 for it to really work (getting into treatment and getting sober). It’s different for everyone and it takes a lot of tries typically. That’s what many do not understand with opiate addiction.
Many understand that it takes up to 7 times for a domestic violence victim to leave the abuser. And while it is frustrating to watch them go back every time, most people in society don’t give up on them and continue encouraging them to make a plan to leave. And when they do, they are celebrated.
It’s the same with opiate addiction. There has not been a single addicted parent that I have worked with that has said: “I like being an addict and I don’t want to quit.” They tell me they are living in hell every single day; they continue to use to survive. It’s a cycle of violence with opiates as the abuser.
In conclusion today, I just want to send my support to all my readers who have experienced a piece of the opiate crisis and tell you all that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may be in 2 years, it may be in 20 years. But human beings are fighters and we are working hard to combat this evil. It’s a battle we can win if we keep fighting.
~Social Work Superhero