September is National Recovery Month, and the theme this year is especially relevant to us in Oregon: Recovery benefits everyone.
We all know the terrible toll untreated substance abuse takes on people, families and communities. It also takes a toll on our health system. Addiction often complicates the treatment of other chronic illnesses, and many of those who make repeated visits to emergency rooms are people with untreated addiction and mental health issues. Estimates are that untreated addiction costs Oregon hundreds of millions of dollars in medical costs alone.
And the human toll is significant.
The good news is that recovery also creates positive ripples far beyond a single person. Salem mom Amanda Parker struggled with drug addiction during her pregnancy. Thanks to the help of a Department of Human Services (DHS) caseworker, she enrolled in an innovative treatment program before she left the hospital after giving birth to her daughter.
The Intensive Treatment and Recovery Services (ITRS), is a joint Oregon Health Authority and DHS program that works with parents and pregnant women who have lost or are at risk of losing custody of their children. ITRS helped Amanda find housing, connected her with a peer mentor and helped her develop a supportive community. Her daughter is enrolled in an Early Head Start program that makes home visits. Above all, Amanda says, her ITRS case manager, mentor and sponsor have held her accountable. "They helped me be honest with myself," she says. "It was really good for me."
Today, Amanda is making plans to go back to school, where she hopes to study nursing, and she is giving back to her community by serving as a peer navigator with the drug court. She has met reunification requirements to regain full custody of her daughter, and her DHS case will be closed soon.
Integrating behavioral health and physical health care is a key part of our efforts to bring better care at lower costs to Oregonians. A recent study tells us that on average, OHP clients who receive addiction treatment see their physical care costs drop by more than $3,500 the following year.
Recovery truly benefits everyone. Amanda's recovery means she can see a better tomorrow for herself and her daughter. Her community certainly benefits from her contributions. And the momentum created by a successful program like ITRS – which has reunited more than 1,800 children with their parents since 2007, and saves enough in family foster care costs to pay for itself many times over – means a brighter future for all of us.
There are recovery celebrations in communities across Oregon this month. One of the largest is Hands Across the Bridge, a Labor Day event on the Interstate Bridge in Portland that brings together people in recovery, elected officials, faith leaders, community organizations, and thousands of people from the recovery community. Learn more at http://www.handsacrossthebridge.org.