Dear Community Advocate,
So many people in Utah are impacted by the continuing opioid crisis that it is easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed. I'm writing to share important information about treatment strategies that save lives and build hope and purpose for those suffering with addiction.
Opioid Use Disorder is a treatable condition. Like diabetes and other chronic diseases, with access to high quality, individualized, and compassionate care, people with addiction can live rewarding and productive lives. At Project Reality Substance Abuse Treatment Program, we are dedicated to treatment that brings about long-term recovery and wellness rather than care motivated by profit.
Project Reality is a non-profit outpatient service provider and a long-standing partner of Salt Lake, Utah, and Carbon Counties. We serve a low-income and uninsured population including pregnant women, homeless individuals, and elderly patients with significant physical health issues. We have been treating opioid addiction since 1970. I have been with Project Reality since 1984, soon after I completed my graduate studies. I am proud to work along side of a diverse team of physicians, nurses, therapists, counselors, and caseworkers who are passionate about helping patients achieve long term recovery and functionality.
Our system of care provides therapy, case management, and monitoring combined with medicines that are dispensed in a highly structured setting to incentivize sobriety. The medicines, specifically methadone and buprenorphine, are FDA-approved to be used to treat Opioid Use Disorder. Unlike heroin, they are taken once per day in regulated doses to help patients control drug cravings and prevent relapse to drug use and addictive behaviors. When paired with behavioral treatments and integrated care, the medicines help patients stay in treatment and learn skills that sustain sobriety.
Many people mistakenly believe that the medicines are needed only to transition an individual off of heroin. That is far from the case. Although they do help alleviate acute symptoms of opioid withdrawal, the target outcomes are increased functionality. For example, methadone or buprenorphine is incorporated into a patient’s recovery treatment plan so that the patient can avoid illegal activities driven by drug cravings, achieve stable employment and housing, and learn coping skills that sustain health and wellness over the individual’s lifetime. Treatment of withdrawal lasts approximately 1-2 weeks while treatment of the underlying behaviors of addiction often requires years, depending on the psycho-social environment and support system the patient has access to.
While the medicines are essential, the most important component of our program that ultimately brings about change in the patient’s thinking and behavior is the long-term psychological and behavioral treatments we provide. This component is also the most costly. Many for-profit programs, as well as private residential detoxification programs, emphasize medicines rather than emphasizing the utilization of behavioral and psychotherapeutic support needed to bring about functionality. We do not. We know, as do so many family members and loved ones, that detoxifying and getting sober is only the beginning of recovery. We know that medicines alone do little to break the deadly cycle of relapse and that they must be integrated into a long term chronic care model centered on behavioral interventions. And so, we do all that is possible to invest in skilled and licensed personnel who are committed to the life-long wellness and growth of each patient. We are successful at securing some grants and public funding due our long track record of cost-efficient, effective care, and due to our reputation for providing high quality and humane treatment, however, these dollars are not enough to meet the demand for treatment services and cannot be used for infrastructure needs or facilities.
We are seeing some small pockets of improvement in this chronic and often fatal epidemic, but overdose deaths continue to disable our communities. Families continue to be heartbroken and shattered by the disease. Opioid Use Disorder is a treatable condition and long-term recovery requires long-term access to care. We hope this letter has furthered your understanding of effective treatment.
As we approach our 50 year anniversary of service to Utah, we seek to build a team of donors and sponsors who understand the work we do and desire to champion our efforts. You can make a difference in the lives of low-income individuals suffering with opioid addiction. Your contribution to Project Reality will help us to thrive and continue to partner with the public in providing excellent long-term care that is needed more than ever.
Please consider supporting us with a donation.
Our warmest regards and appreciation,
Linda Moore, LCSW