Just last week, new reports surfaced throughout major news outlets, including CBS, the Washington Post and the NY Post. The leading headline? Two addiction counselors died of opioid overdoses while working at a Pennsylvania recovery home. As discouraging and frightening as this news is, it is imperative for the public to really understand how a recovery home works and operates, and how it differs from other addiction treatment services, including inpatient rehab, outpatient, and halfway houses. Clearly, based on the headline “Two Addiction Counselors Die of Drug Overdose at Halfway House,” much misunderstanding still exists among the public regarding the world of addiction treatment.
What Happened At The Recovery Home
Reportedly, two men, who residents and news reports both referred to as “counselors,” died of heroin overdoses at Freedom Ridge Recovery Lodge in Coatsville, Pennsylvania, a small suburb outside of Philadelphia. Although the identities of both men have not been revealed, one was 33 years old and the other died on what would have been his 25th birthday. These men were responsible for overseeing the 6 residents in the recovery home, monitoring medication while keeping it under lock and key, and organizing daily activities.
When it was time for the residents to receive their medication, they found both men unresponsive in their private bedrooms. After a failed attempt to resuscitate one of the staffers with Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, both men were pronounced dead on the scene. When police arrived at the recovery home, they found drug paraphernalia including a half-full syringe, a spoon, and “baggies” of heroin with two different stamps on them. One stamp was of the “Superman” logo and the other stamp was of skull and crossbones with the word “Danger” on it. As officials on the scene feared, preliminary toxicology reports found both heroin and fentanyl in the system of the two men. For those unaware, Fentanyl is a much stronger opioid compared to heroin, and has attributed to many of the thousands of deaths across our country.
Tom Hogan, Chester County District Attorney said in a news release, “If anybody is wondering how bad the opioid epidemic has become, this case is a frightening example. The staff members in charge of supervising recovering addicts succumbed to their own addiction and died of opioid overdoses. Opioids are a monster that is slowly consuming our population.”
Understanding The Inner-Workings of the Addiction Community
If you have never worked in the field of addiction treatment, been to rehab yourself, or know someone who has, the various levels of care, different names for facilities, such as “recovery home,” “halfway house,” and “inpatient treatment,” and variety of services can be confusing. Even those who know someone or have struggled with addiction themselves have difficulty muddling through the vast array of “treatment lingo” and programming. The headlines surrounding this tragic experience at Freedom Ridge Recovery Lodge is a prime example of that.
The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) said in recent news reports, “The men should not have been referred to as counselors in reports on the incident. Freedom Ridge Recovery Lodge Services is a recovery house, a living arrangement for those who choose to live with others who are working toward continued sobriety. Counselors, as regulated by the state, are clinicians who provide either individual or group treatment services in a license facility.”
If you visit the facility’s website, you will find that nowhere on their page are services offered for a clinical level of care. This is the main distinction between a recovery home and a halfway house. These men were not counselors. They were merely recovering addicts who were responsible for watching over clients and holding 12-step meetings/groups, which they are currently legally able to do. With that said, this situation should only prove further why stricter regulations need to be put in place regarding recovery homes throughout Pennsylvania and the entire country.
Recovery Homes Need More Regulations
These homes have popped up all throughout the state and country, in hopes to teach addicts how to live in society without using drugs and alcohol, while learning to take care of themselves again. Many of times, those who own and operate recovery homes are sober themselves, and are looking to give back to those in need. While there are certain housing and zoning regulations which these owners are expected to operate within, regulations regarding actual “care” have yet to be put in place. This can include, but is not limited to, those hired to oversee the residents, First Aid/CPR training, how, when, and who is allowed to disperse medication, and drug testing for both staff and residents.
Spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Carol Gifford told NBC News that Governor Tom Wolf has been actively pushing for more legislation that would require recovery homes, such as Freedom Ridge, to be regulated and staffed by licensed professionals. To add to that, Hogan also told NBC News that they will not be pursing charges against the owners of the recovery home, because “there were no licensing requirements so they don’t appear to have broken any laws.”
Undoubtedly, Pennsylvania is on the front lines of the opioid crisis in America. No one is exempt to addiction and overdose; that even includes those who have found recovery. As we can certainly use this a learning experience throughout the country, we must remember that these men were somebody’s family; they were someone’s son, brother, and friend. For that purpose alone, our legislatures need to move swiftly and earnestly in passing stricter regulations.
Contact Clearbrook Today
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, please give us a call today. For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing quality treatment to the chemically dependent person and offering education for family members affected by the disease of addiction. Contact our Admissions Specialists today and see how we can help you.