“Blah, blah, blah.”
That was the inspired headline on Rex Nelson’s column on the editorial page taking Little Rock to task a month ago.
In the process Rex also rejected the word “Journalist” to describe what he does and asked that he be called, instead, a “newspaperman.”
As a “newspaperman” myself for a good part of my life. I am in total agreement with Rex and the thrust of his column. I hope our readers feel the same way.
I should stipulate that I have strong opinions focused on reducing the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. More about that in a minute.
Rex’s indictment of the city’s lack of progress includes his observation that “Little Rock has been relatively stagnant for years. We look five hours to the east on Interstate 40 and see construction cranes towering over Nashville. We look five hours to the west on Interstate 40 and see the same thing happening in Oklahoma City.
“In Little Rock, there hasn’t been an office skyscraper built in downtown in decades. And those that were built in the 1970’s and 1980’s now appear worn on the outside with giant bank lobbies on the inside that are vacant.
“Despite some recent progress in bringing downtown back, what should be the most prominent business intersection in the state-Capital and Main-is dominated by the empty decaying hulk of the Boyle Building.”
“If local organizations such as ‘Think Big’ were to ask me,” Nelson said,” the most important thing they could do would be to lobby the city to fully staff the Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) and lobby the Legislature to better fund hospitals like UAMS and UALR. Do these things and watch the private sector take off.”
I agree completely with Rex, and would like to advance a proposal that we at ODAT have been developing over the past three years which focuses on helping people get over their addictions.
ODAT’s mission in Little Rock and in each community we may serve is to reduce levels of substance abuse by providing information on addiction recovery and ultimately to provide individual treatment plans through a local organization we call ”the “Roundtable.”
Part I. Our information component
Our emphasis now is on providing information to help visitors to the site deal with their own addictions and those of family members and others who may need help.
As we attract visitors seeking information we are beginning to work with local organizations on forming a community “roundtable” with members who will provide not only information but also the actual resources needed to help others recover.
Part II. The Roundtable
Members of the “Little Rock Roundtable” will represent churches, hospitals, schools, businesses, prison systems, veterans groups, lawyers, legislators and others. Some will be in recovery themselves.
The principal treatment components of the Roundtable include:
- Mental health evaluation and treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other conditions.
- Addiction treatment for those struggling with alcohol, opioids, heroin and other drugs through 12 Step programs as well as psychiatric care provided on both an outpatient and inpatient basis.
- Faith based programs offered primarily by Christian evangelical churches and other organizations such as the Salvation Army and Union Rescue Mission, both founded more than a century ago.
- Physical fitness regimens provided by local fitness facilities and through the development of programs for home use.
- Employment programs developed by local businesses for the jobless.
Part III. Resources and planning
Little Rock’s assets include excellent hospitals (dealing with both mental health and drug addiction problems), community-focused and entrepreneurial churches, traditional 12 step programs and a history of proactively dealing with addictions dating back to 1940, five years after the founding of AA in Akron, Ohio.
Our ODAT Little Rock plan focuses on:
- Reducing the demand for alcohol and other drugs by promoting recovery while maintaining adequate law enforcement protection to limit the supply.
- Forming collaborations with organizations with complementary objectives such as the hospitals.
- Promoting healthy lifestyles in spirit, mind and body.
- Soliciting the continued support of state and local government for our mission.
Part IV. Key components
In his book, “A Common Struggle. A personal journey though the past and future of mental illness and addiction,” Patrick Kennedy describes his own harrowing struggle with drugs and alcohol and advocates for more aggressive treatment of both mental illness and addictions. He makes a good case.
Patrick, 63, is the first Kennedy to really talk openly about the mental illness, addictions and tragedies that have plagued him and his family, but he is not the first to propose reforms that would address the nation’s drug problem. He reminds us that when his uncle John F. Kennedy was President, he sponsored the Community Health Act of 1963, which was designed to provide “mental health prevention, diagnosis and treatment services to individuals residing in the community.”
President Kennedy was assassinated that year, and the goals of his initiative stressing individual community involvement were never fully realized. Now Patrick reminds us of the need for community-based, comprehensive solutions providing mental health, addiction, and spiritual resources.
Dr. John F. Kelly, an associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke at a convention several years ago about his support for Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs.
“Twelve step meetings,” Dr Kelly said, “work as well as professional interventions and have the advantage of being available in most communities. Meetings are free, there’s no paperwork, and patients can attend as intensively and as long as they desire. Also, meetings are available at high-risk times.” (At the cocktail hour, for example, or at daybreak when hangovers raise the ante.)
AA is the single most popular recovery program of all, Dr. Kelly noted. It attracts about 2.4 million a year.
Alcoholics have a specific problem: They drink too much. But instead of addressing that problem with the psychic equivalent of a precision guidance missal, Bill Wilson founder of AA, set out to change people’s whole identities, author David Brooks noted in a recent column.
AA co-founder Bill Wilson, Brooks said, “sought to arouse people’s spiritual aspirations rather than just appealing to rational cost-benefit analysis. AA would help people achieve broad spiritual awakenings, and abstinence from alcohol would be a byproduct of that larger salvation.
With regard to today’s opioid epidemic, an article by Christopher Caldwell in the April issue of “First things” magazine provides a glimpse at what communities are up against.
Caldwell’s article focuses in part on the powerful drugs that have emerged combined with sophisticated delivery systems and ruthless dealers, and he calls for a response by the citizens of individual communities that is aggressive, informed and focused.
“Fifty two thousand Americans died of opioid over-doses in 2015,” Caldwell tells us, about four times as many as died from gun homicides and half again as many as died in car accidents.
Individual Evangelical Christian protestant churches have become significantly more engaged in addressing drug addiction building on its long standing Salvation Army and Union Rescue Mission programs which go back more than 100 years.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, a 25-million-copy best seller urging people to follow God’s plan for them and to serve others, Rick Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback Church, provided the spiritual underpinnings for his world-wide Celebrate Recovery ministry founded nearly 25 years ago. It is now offered by thousands of churches worldwide.
Warren says, “I believe great churches are built on broken people, willing to abandon pride, pretensions, and self-righteous posturing. When we reach the end of our rope and give up our self-sufficiency, that is when God moves into our lives with healing and growth.”
Teen Challenge is a “Christian growth program” for troubled men, most of them recovering drug addicts. Founded more than fifty years ago in gang-ridden Brooklyn, New York, by a Pentecostal minister, twenty-six-year-old David Wilkerson, Teen Challenge is one of the oldest, largest, and most successful programs of its kind in the world.
Most of the centers (178 in the U.S. and 150 in other countries) offer twelve- to eighteen-month residential programs designed to help individuals learn how to live drug-free lives. The programs are discipline oriented and offer a balance of Bible classes, work assignment, and recreation.
Exercise is vital. Joining a club can help prescribe individual exercise plans and has the added benefit of doing it with others and making friends. Verify your plan with a physician
Two years ago, Joseph Hooley, Chief Executive officer of Boston’s State Street Corporation launched Boston Workforce Investment Network (Boston WINs) to strengthen the city’s workforce by teaching disadvantaged young men and women the ways of business.
Through his work with local philanthropy, as reported in the Harvard Business Review, particularly as an active supporter and a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Hooley became convinced that if he could help fix just one problem in the world, it would be urban education.
Hooley, who joined State Street in 1986, launched WINs in June 2015 and committed to investing $20 million and hiring 1,000 graduates of urban schools over the next four years.
The WINs program has three fundamental goals:
- Help increase college enrollment rates for Boston Public high school students
- Ensure that once a Boston Public High School student gets into college they stay there
- Enhance career pathways leading to stable employment and economic mobility
Part V. Into action
Our focus now is on reducing levels of addiction in the nation beginning with families in the neighborhoods of individual communities. We have begun the process by providing information to individual citizens on how to get well. Ultimately, we will help them take the necessary steps to do it.