By Karli Ratliff
Piedmont Community Services and the Patrick County Extension Office plan to continue the conversation about substance abuse after their Addressing Addiction Conference on June 14.
The conference was a collaboration between the two agencies. Other projects going forward will include:
The Patrick County Extension Office, which is part of Virginia Cooperative Extension, an outreach program to extend research from Virginia Tech and Virginia State University to smaller communities;
Virginia Cooperative Extension is addressing the Opioid issue by offering education and information to youths and adults; and
Piedmont Community Services, which aims to offer well rounded care to those struggling with mental illness and substance use disorders by looking at every aspect of health, including physical health.
“We don’t ignore the physical health part, cause that’s a big thing, we want to make sure people have had their physicals” and are getting care for any physical ailments said Dana DeHart, clinical manager at Piedmont Community Services.
PCS and the extension agency also both are working to destigmatize substance use disorders and mental illness.
Piedmont Community Services offers a Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Program that meets three times a week as well as other programs to cater to a variety of needs. Their treatment options include suboxone, a medication assisted therapy for opioid use.
DeHart said that when a person comes in asking for help, they try to recommend what would be best for that individual, whether that be one of their outpatient programs or something else.
According to her, the agency also works with those who have struggled with mental health and substance use in the past and are managing it through its peers program, in which peers are trained to share parts of their story with patients to help them feel more comfortable getting treatment.
“It’s such an effective way of reaching people,” DeHart said.
PCS also offers help to family members of those with substance use disorders.
“We’ve done a lot of counseling with family members that want to help,” said Pepper Martin, a substance abuse counselor and head of the Crisis Stabilization Program at Piedmont Community Services.
Martin added people cannot be helped until they’re ready.
While there are a few support group meetings in the area, there is a need for more of them in the county, said DeHart. She added that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can be registered online and receive startup literature for free.
Two challenges that people face when they want to come to treatment are child care and transportation, according to Martin. She said that the agency would like to see these services offered to those who want to attend meetings.
“In Martinsville, they have a van driver that will go pick them up and I think that makes a huge difference,” Martin said.
DeHart, along with Terri Alt, extension agent at the Patrick County Extension Office, and Leigh Ann Hazelwood, an associate extension agent who works with Patrick County Public Schools, all agreed that they would like to see more substance use prevention education in schools for students and parents. Currently, there are two: the D.A.R.E. program, which is presented through the sheriff’s office and a curriculum through 4-H called ‘Health Rocks.’
Piedmont Community Services also is currently working to get the licensing needed to help youngsters with substance use disorders.
The Patrick County Extension Office is planning to bring Mental Health First Aid training to the county to teach participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.
“What we wanted is to offer this training so that people that either work with the public or family members may be able to understand the signs of someone who is struggling,” Alt said of the training that will be a one-day course open to the public.
The Extension Office is also working to start a group called ‘Patrick County’s Community Health Improvement Team,’ which will be dedicated to improving the health and wellness of people in the county according to Alt.
A sliding fee scale is used to help provide services at little or no cost.
“We work with folks because sometimes they don’t have the money to spend,” said DeHart, adding that a lot of people pay nothing or $5 for services at PCS.
For more information about the programs Piedmont Community Services offers, call (276) 694-4361 or visit the office Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
To contact Alt, call (276) 694-3341.