“The money and resources sought to fund safe injection sites can and should be invested in what has already been proven to work: rehab centers, healthcare benefits that cover relapse treatment, counseling and social support services, vocational and life skills training.”
Pointing the harm that illicit drugs do not only to those who use them, but also to the millions exploited globally by drug cartels, Chaput stressed that while drug addiction is a serious wound for individuals, families, and communities, supervised injection sites are not the solution.
Instead, he pointed to proven recovery options including “medical treatment, abstinence, counseling, support groups and above all the love of Christ.”
“Ultimately, healing from addiction is found not in a clean needle or Narcan, but in a heart renewed by its creator,” the archbishop said.
A holistic approach
Renee Hudson-Small is the assistant director of Housing and Homeless Services for Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia. She said the agency has found that a broad approach focused on the whole person offers the greatest likelihood of successfully helping people recover from addiction.
“Definitely the holistic approach is, from where we sit, very effective in helping those individuals try to cope with something that is very difficult to overcome, but can be overcome,” Hudson-Small told CNA in an interview earlier this year.
This holistic approach includes connecting individuals struggling with addiction – and their families – with resources offered by Catholic Social Services and throughout the City of Philadelphia and surrounding counties.
One way in which Catholic Social Services does this is through a recovery facility that it runs for single women and women with children. Shelter and support services are combined with case managers to help the women get back on their feet.
“They reside in our facility while they’re in recovery, and we assist them with case management services, as well as support services,” Hudson-Small said. This support includes “making sure they obtain the necessary life skills and a plan for housing, getting basic needs met – identification, maybe birth certificate, things that they may have lost while they were in their addiction.”
Counseling and mental health care are included in case management support services. Catholic Social Services helps connect patients with mental health professionals if they need resources. They also help ensure that they are following through with appointments, working to resolve transportation issues or other obstacles.
“Every individual is different and is going to receive things differently, at different points or stages in their life,” Hudson-Small said. “So one of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we know that at times, there may be individuals that fall back into addiction. We’re there to be a support for them, at whatever stage, when they can get back to the point where they’re ready to take on services. We’re there to be available to them.”
Providing support for families is also an important factor in helping individuals overcome addiction, she stressed.
“When someone is in an addiction, it’s not just that person that is affected, but the entire family that is affected,” she explained. “It touches everyone’s lives - family and friends - because they are part of that person’s network. So you want to provide services to that individual, but you also want to be a support to that family, so they can be prepared to address some of the concerns that they have about their loved one.”
Part of this support for families is teaching them how to best help their loved ones with addictions, and how to be patient, especially “when the family is just so tired, which sometimes is the case, and understandably so.”
“It may take several times for people to get to the point where they’re able to maintain their sobriety,” Hudson-Small said. It can be very difficult, she acknowledged, “for a family member who may have watched that person fall more than two, three, four, five times, and just get really frustrated and not know what to do next.”
In these cases, she said, it is crucial for family members to “just be really patient and not to give up hope on them, because if you just stay in there, get them connected to those services that can continue to bring hope to them, eventually it will stick and they will reach that sobriety and hopefully maintain it.”