Assertive Community Treatment, Addiction, and Empowerment

Addiction in the US is a growing epidemic. Everyday there are blotter reports of drug arrests in small towns, overdoses photographed and posted on social media, and headlines addressing the tainted batches of opiates or a new synthetic drug that is circulating. Painkiller use has risen exponentially over the past 20 years and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there has been more than a fivefold increase of the heroin death rate since 2002.

With a rise in substance use comes a rise in need for effective and affordable treatment solutions. Any family that has had to navigate the substance abuse and mental health world has experienced a repetitive and taxing process that often results in shuffling an individual back and forth to inpatient settings in hope that this will be the time they see success.

It has become evident that the model for treating substance abuse and mental health issues needs to change to meet each individual more effectively and help people stay out of revolving door hospitalization. This is where we see Assertive Community Treatment as an option. Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) is a model that utilizes the multidisciplinary 24/7 staffing approach of inpatient setting but applies it at the community level. It is heavily person centered, strengths based, and comprehensive, addressing not only psychiatric and psychological needs, but also the psychosocial factors that are critical to the success of a person’s recovery plan. PACT focuses on lessening or eliminating the symptoms that cause an individual to experience recurrent acute hospitalizations. It does this by meeting their basic human needs, improving functioning across all domains of life, increasing longevity in the community, and restoring familial relationships. PACT is not connecting clients with outside service providers, it is providing the full spectrum of support from within the multidisciplinary team, minimizing the need for the client to run around from provider to provider and allowing them to focus on recovery.

Clients also direct their Roadmap for Recovery, focusing on where they see themselves, how they want to get there, and what barriers may exist in making it happen, as well as how to overcome those obstacles . It becomes the job of the clinical team and the family to help the individual accomplish these goals through an unwavering and strengths based support system.

Anyone that works with, lives with, or knows someone that struggles with addiction issues is aware of the level of shame and self doubt that the individual experiences in both use and recovery. It is critical that we as clinicians, family members, and friends re-frame our approach to addiction treatment if we want to see a long term change. We can work to the strength of the person and not contribute to the trauma one experiences being hospitalized repeatedly. That is our charge as mental health professionals and human beings.

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