The headlines and newscasts remind us on a daily basis: opiate addiction in our community has reached epidemic proportions. What is particularly unsettling about this trend is the fact that so many people currently grappling with opiate addiction are chronic pain sufferers who were legitimately prescribed these drugs for pain relief but then became physically dependent upon them.
To help these individuals break the cycle of addiction as well as take control of their chronic pain, StressCare Behavioral Health, Inc., a team consisting of experienced behavioral-health and chemical-dependency professionals and a medical doctor specializing in addiction, offers an innovative pain and addiction program at the StressCare Treatment and Recovery Center located in West Toledo.
Explaining the importance of this specialized program, clinical psychologist Dr. Glenn Swimmer, PhD, President of StressCare and Director of PainCare of Northwest Ohio, notes, “People with chronic pain often feel uncomfortable participating in a general addiction program because they have two medical issues—pain and addiction. It’s much better for them to be with others who can relate to their circumstances, especially the issue of chronic pain. Our program provides comprehensive treatment of the entire person to address both medical problems.”
Patients participating in the pain and addiction program are first given a thorough assessment to evaluate their physical and emotional needs, following the standards of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). If appropriate, the facility’s Medical Director may utilize medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to address the patient’s opiate dependence or substance use disorder. However, Dr. Swimmer emphasizes that StressCare Treatment and Recovery Center is not a Suboxone clinic. Suboxone is a prescription medication taken to wean people from opiates. Though Suboxone may be used at StressCare for MAT, patients are not maintained on the drug long-term. The team’s psychologists; chemical dependency counselors; behavioral therapists; and massage, physical, and occupational therapists may be part of the evaluation process as well.
After the initial assessment, treatment in StressCare’s pain and addiction program follows one of two distinct pathways, depending on the unique needs of the patient: the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) or the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Both programs are designed to treat the whole person. Also, during the program, the whole team meets to review the patient’s progress and needs and to adjust his or her program accordingly.
According to Dr. Swimmer, the IOP involves meeting three mornings per week for three hours over a six-week period. During this program, patients are introduced to numerous techniques and skills to address their chronic pain as well as substance-use issues.
The PHP—which does not actually involve hospitalization—consists of five three-hour meetings per week over the course of six weeks. This program includes intensive counseling, group therapy, addiction treatment, physical rehabilitation, and chronic pain management. As Dr. Swimmer explains, “The power of the PHP is that it puts all these pieces together. Rather than send patients to multiple locations for each of these services, we provide them all under one roof in a coordinated fashion.”
Both programs are focused on helping patients function and reclaim their lives. However, they’re not about curing chronic pain. “In discussing chronic pain problems, we like to say, ‘Pain is a given, but suffering is optional,’” says Dr. Swimmer. “As with heart disease, diabetes, or any other chronic condition, there’s no cure for chronic pain, but there are ways to manage pain effectively and get the most out of life in spite of the pain.”
Once patients successfully complete the pain and addiction program, they are assigned to an aftercare group, which will continue to support their recovery. Aftercare groups meet less often but are a central component of the patient’s ongoing recovery.
StressCare’s pain and addiction program is unique in Northwest Ohio. Before its introduction, area residents seeking a specialized, comprehensive program that addresses addiction with chronic pain were required to travel a considerable distance to remote facilities. What’s more, StressCare is proud to offer an Interdisciplinary Pain Rehabilitation Program that is one of only a few such programs in our region accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, or CARF.
However, as Dr. Swimmer points out, the greatest strength of StressCare Behavioral Health is its team of highly experienced doctors, counselors, and other clinicians, many of whom have been providing pain and addiction services for decades. ❦