Mental disorders can trigger drug abuse
- By SULAIMAN ABDUR-RAHMAN
- Posted: 10/27/12 09:18 pm
Cheryl Davis (left) and Karalee Pieluc, who help run the Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton’s Partners in Recovery program on Southard Street in Trenton, say mental illness can trigger drug or alcohol abuse. Partners in Recovery provides comprehensive mental health services to adults diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, including those with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder.
TRENTON — President Barack Obama at the beginning of this month issued a presidential proclamation establishing October 2012 as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, which can trigger bizarre behavior and hallucinations, in many instances lead to substance abuse.
“One of the ways folks deal with their (mental illness) symptoms is to use drugs or alcohol,” said Karalee Pieluc, executive director of a local Catholic Charities program that assists people with a dual diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder and drug addiction.
“It’s a very subtle illness, the way it sets in with a person,” Pieluc said of drug addiction. “Our job is to help them understand what is going on and understand it’s a treatable illness. We want them to be able to go out there and get jobs.”
Pieluc is program director of Partners in Recovery at 10 Southard Street, a Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton operation that provides comprehensive mental health services to adults diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, including those with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder.
“Close to 200 people walk through these doors,” Pieluc said of the daily traffic at the program, which operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. “We’re busy.”
Partners in Recovery is a voluntary program with a mission to provide quality care that empowers members to achieve the highest possible level of independence. Its philosophy is based on a recovery model that emphasizes group therapy and non-confrontational support.
“Confrontation is the old-school treatment,” said Cheryl Davis, a staff member who helps Pieluc manage the program. “We try not to force people. We try to meet people where they are. They are still adults, and we don’t want to strip that from them. This is their life.”
People who participate in the recovery program have access to cardio exercise equipment and are encouraged to express themselves through artwork. Much of that artwork hangs in the halls of the 10-year-old building at the corner of Southard and Ewing streets.
“Finding happiness is the key to recovery,” Pieluc said.
Partners in Recovery serves people of all races and religious backgrounds. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of the population is between the ages of 50 and 75, and the next largest group is people between the ages of 30 and 50, according to Pieluc, who said about 10 percent of the population are people in their 20s.
“I think the younger population gets scared (of mental illness symptoms) and they mask it by abusing drugs,” Davis said, “This is a safe place for them.”
Gov. Chris Christie, who in March said “drug addiction is a disease that can and must be treated,” in July went on to sign landmark legislation that will phase in a program over the next five years to provide mandatory drug treatment to nonviolent offenders.
“We will no longer simply warehouse individuals in prison who are not a threat to society while the underlying cause of their criminality goes unaddressed,” Christie said. “And we won’t wait for them to come to the conclusion that they need treatment on their own. With this legislation we are building on our record of reducing recidivism, reclaiming lives by breaking the vicious cycle of crime and addiction, and doing so in a way that is less costly and more effective in getting results.”
“I applaud him,” Pieluc said of Christie. She said imprisoning non-violent, drug-addicted offenders has the effect of “growing the number of people who can’t get jobs.”
Pieluc said about 20 percent of the participants in Partners in Recovery are working, going to school or actively seeking employment. “Very many want to be valued members of the community. They may not be looking for a paycheck, but they want to be valued.”