As National Recovery Month comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to shed some light on the work NorthLakes Community Clinic is doing to address addiction. I’m often surprised by some of the misinformation that is out in our community about our Recovery Program and the need there is for it in northern Wisconsin. Unfortunately, very few of us can say we have not been touched by addiction—whether it is a friend, family member or loved one. While this is not unique to northern Wisconsin, the collective impact addiction can have on our community is clear and I feel very fortunate to work at an organization so committed to Recovery. It is because of this, I come to work every day with hope.
Since 2014, NorthLakes Community Clinic has been actively building a Recovery Program that is not focused on medication, but rather treatment of the whole human being. Often times, when one thinks of a Recovery Program, pill seekers or a drug clinic come to mind. This couldn’t be further from the truth at NorthLakes. Our patients in the Recovery program are assessed on each individual’s needs, which include medical care, mental health counseling, motivation, recovery environment and overcoming other barriers to care. Medication Assisted Treatment is a very small component to the patient’s path to recovery; and only used if indicated through individual assessment reviewing risks and benefits. Patients attend intensive therapy and group counseling, build social connections with peer support specialists or recovery coaches, engage in employment and volunteer opportunities, and educate themselves on the “why” behind their addiction. As part of our program, we utilize best evidence-based practices by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). These practices are resource intensive and often times not covered by insurance. Despite this barrier, we’re committed to offering these services because we know it is when we engage our clients in the root causes behind what’s causing them to use, we can create real change.
In 2018, 502 patients made contact with the Recovery Program and 432 participated in treatment in northern Wisconsin, 18 of which were pregnant. Seventy percent of them cited an improved quality of life because of our program. The majority of these patients come from Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer counties where we have active Recovery programs. These individuals are not transplants, but rather our friends and neighbors who need help. Many of these clients are on a life long journey of recovery and are still active participants in our program today.
At NorthLakes Community Clinic, we understand that addiction is a disease, and treat it as such. Similar to treating diabetes: you wouldn’t complete a simple training or modify your insulin once and then go on your way. Instead, you enter a life of long-term chronic disease management. It takes a variety of tools and skills to manage a chronic disease. Addiction is no different. Our approach to addiction is meeting people where they are, without judgement, and providing a safe and affirming place to be. Our treatment program looks at the whole person, not just their addiction. We have an integrated team that includes medical, behavioral health counseling, Community Health Workers, Employment Specialists, Peer Support Specialists and other area support groups to ensure we’re helping patients move towards a life worth living sober.
We recognize this approach is intense. But, we also believe that this approach is the strongest way to help those struggling in our community.
Dr. Mark Lim
Board Certified in Family and Addiction Medicine
NorthLakes Community Clinic