News

Courthouse doubles as counseling center for addicts in Sullivan County

Written by Coy Gobble/The Daily Review | Jul 10, 2018 3:30 PM
State of Emergency logo body embed.JPG

Newsrooms across the commonwealth have spent years documenting the opioid crisis in their own communities. But now, in the special project State of Emergency: Searching for Solutions to Pennsylvania's Opioids Crisis, we are marshalling resources to spotlight what Pennsylvanians are doing to try to reverse the soaring number of overdose deaths.

WITF is releasing more than 60 stories, videos and photos throughout July. This week, you will find stories about police intervention, courts and treatment.

gavel_justice_law.jpg

Mountainous, rural Sullivan County is one of the least populated counties in the Pennsylvania, with less than 17 people per square mile. Like any sparsely populated area in Pennsylvania, the residents there struggle with finding good paying jobs - and with addiction.

One of the ways Sullivan County has battled the opioid epidemic, and addiction in general, is right where the county prosecutes its drug offenders.

In April 2017, A Better Today, a substance abuse treatment facility, opened a small office in the Sullivan County Courthouse at the behest of the county commissioners. The purpose was to encourage those in the court system for drug offenses to seek treatment.

"They were gracious enough to give us space in the courthouse to hold group therapy and individual therapy," said Dana Booth, A Better Today's regional director. "I started the office as a counselor and I would spend two days in Sullivan County to connect with other entities in the area to bring awareness to the community. I attended the courts as a presence and perform evaluations for the courts for individuals that have a drug or alcohol related incident. We started with individual counseling until we were able to have enough clients to form groups which are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings."

One of the biggest problems in Sullivan County, besides the addiction itself, is getting addicts into regimented care and getting a job that can provide stability. 

Most of the clients A Better Today helps are assigned through the courts or Children and Youth Services, where they undergo an evaluation to determine the level of care that is needed based on factors such as their drug of choice, surrounding environment and level of motivation.

Although A Better Today only provides individual and group therapy on an outpatient basis, the organization can connect clients with outside mental health and inpatient resources, as well as county insurance and help with the job seeking process.

"I believe that to help the individual succeed then we need to be able to provide them with the resources needed to succeed not only in therapy but in community and their personal environment."

While taking control of their respective addictions can be an arduous task that many cannot do, Booth said the next step of the process can be just as tough as they try to become a productive member of society. 

Although there is more work to be done than one outpatient office can do in Sullivan County, A Better Today is making an impact on numerous addicts' lives.

"We just had an amazing group graduate through this program a month ago in which they participated in the program and grew while they were here," Booth explained. "Recognizing that they had a problem and were willing to work with the counselors to improve their life circumstances, several of those graduates still come to see us once a week to provide continued support in their recovery. They enjoy learning from the groups and other people in the groups. That is what it is about, learning from others in order to make positive changes and growth."

Booth was especially proud reflecting on one 34-year-old woman who hadn't spent a day sober since she was a teenager, and didn't believe she could live without alcohol. She completed the program two months ago and is nine months sober.

" ... and happier," Booth continued. "She was able to move out of her parent's house and attain her own residency. She is working and has excelled in her performance at work without alcohol hindering her performance."

While ABT in Sullivan County is small now, Booth sees a bright future for the program.

"I would like to see the community and other resources know that we are here to be utilized," said Booth. "There is a problem in this area though ABT is only seeing a fraction of what we could be doing for the community and the people we serve."

Published in News

Tagged under , ,

back to top

Give Now

Estate Planning

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Smart Talk

National Edward R. Murrow Awards

DuPont Columbia Awards

Support Local Journalism

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »