The Worcester community has a long history of supporting people struggling with substance use disorders.

Within the city limits, inpatient treatment programs like Adcare Hospital, Community Healthlink (CHL), and the Washburn House provide detoxification services to the adult (18+) population, while Community Healthlink’s Motivating Youth Recovery provides inpatient detoxification services to adolescents.

The continuum of care then moves to Rehab (Adcare Hospital) or Clinical Stabilization Services (CSS) (Washburn House, Passages) which have a higher intensity of clinical involvement and then to residential programs or halfway houses like Linda Fay Griffin House, Channing House, Beryl’s House, Crozier House, and Hector Reyes House, which rely heavily on recovery oriented systems of care and the ensuing social aspects for reintegration into a life of purpose and fulfillment.

The preceding levels of care represent the gamut of medically managed and monitored, clinically managed and monitored treatment options, and all serve the fundamental purpose of keeping people in an environment that is safe and a stepping stone into recovery.

Although their corporate offices are in Westborough, Spectrum Health Systems has been a mainstay serving the addict population in the city by providing inpatient, residential, and outpatient methadone clinic services. Other neighboring providers are Independence Hall a clinical stabilization service (CSS) in Shrewsbury that is run by Veterans, Inc whose headquarters are on Grove St in Worcester and located on the grounds of the former Calvary Retreat Center on South St., and Recovery Centers of America (detoxification and CSS) in Westminster to the north.

Equally important to having this robust continuum of care is access. The No Wrong Door policy states that no one seeking treatment can be denied services without being helped to a facility that can appropriately meet their needs. It is a common misconception that you must use to be admitted into treatment. The policy states “you cannot be denied admission based only on the results of a drug screen.” The practical translation being “don’t let a facility or a loved one tell you that they have to be high to get admitted.”

In the last year, a Drug Court in the Worcester District Court System is providing substance abuse intervention in lieu of incarceration for offenders appearing before the court for drug related misdemeanors. Keeping people out of jail through participation in the Drug Court is a priority and it shows promising results especially if there is motivation to stay in treatment and remain clean and sober.

Many individuals seeking help for the first time from their substance use disorders can often start with a Day Treatment program or in early intervention cases perhaps out-patient counseling is the most appropriate level of care. Many non-profit and private agencies provide these services. For a directory of those agencies in the Worcester area, there is a free “Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline” number to call (1-800-327-5050) where a caring, trained Specialist will help you understand the treatment system and your options. For those who use the internet as their preferred method of communication, these identical services can be found at www.helplinema.org.

Washburn House clients are working to recover from drug and alcohol addictions

Recovery management is a philosophy, promoted by the state of Massachusetts and endorsed by leading recovery advocates, of organizing addiction treatment and recovery support services to enhance pre-recovery engagement, recovery initiation, long-term recovery maintenance, and the quality of personal/family life in long-term recovery.

This philosophy is clearly evidenced by the city’s involvement and support of the recovery high school. Teenagers experiencing substance use issues who want to continue their education in a therapeutic environment may opt for the Rockdale Recovery High School.  This Grade 9-12 School specifically enrolls youngsters that would benefit from a safe and supportive high school environment with a dual focus of academic excellence and recovery support. The only requirement for admission in the Recovery High School is a diagnosis of a Substance Use Disorder and a strong desire to drug free recovery. The phone number at the High School is (508) 538-9102. The Principal’s name is Mary Ellen McGorry.

As part of the much-needed efforts to help stem the tide of the state’s opioid epidemic, legislation relative to substance use, treatment, education, and prevention (STEP Act) was enacted in March 2016 and signed by Governor Baker to be implemented annually in two school grades throughout every public-school district. This drug prevention program called “Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment “(SBIRT) will be starting this year in the Worcester Public Schools. Every 7th and 9th grade student will be administered a drug screening to begin a structured conversation to promote prevention and to identify early risk factors for substance use in middle and high school students. Follow-up referral to treatment will also be offered to any student who is deemed high-risk for a substance use disorder based on their answers to the screening.

With the recent passage of the Recreational Marijuana Law in Massachusetts, there is grave concern by many worried parties that youth will want to experiment with the widely accepted gateway drug. Some recent statistics out of Colorado, the nation’s first state to legalize recreational use in 2012 that show past month use of marijuana among 12-17-year olds have increased from 9.82 percent to 12.56 percent, and marijuana related emergency room visits by teens have more than quadrupled, highlight some troubling and unintended consequences, lending credence to the cries for heightened awareness.

With such a complex landscape, it’s little wonder that city residents and officials must band together and embody the words of Mother Teresa “What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”

About Robert Pezzella, Dr. James Direda, and Jack Maroney

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