Connections Fall 2017

Writing a New Chapter

Few other hot topics hit as close to home as the issue of health insurance, with a majority of Americans understandably concerned and confused about the future of their coverage and their family’s well-being.

New Jersey residents seeking treatment for addiction issues may have already seen significant changes in their access to benefits—through legislation that became effective in May 2017.

Known as P.L. 2017, Chapter 28 of the New Jersey Substance Abuse Law, the act was prompted by the epidemic of opioid abuse that has greatly impacted New Jersey in recent years. Designed to regulate access to opioid drugs—and to establish specific ground rules for treatment of substance use disorders—the legislation requires some NJ-based insurers to cover addiction treatment, on both an inpatient and an outpatient basis, at in-network facilities.

Enacted by Governor Christie, and spearheaded by a major public service ad campaign, Chapter 28 also places initial supply limits and other restrictions on some prescribed opioids.

There’s much more to learn about Chapter 28, concerning length of covered stays in treatment facilities; notification of admission, prescription renewals, and other factors that affect an individual’s access to care and coverage.

There are more questions to be asked regarding exactly which parts of the law apply to you and your insurer. Carrier Clinic® knows that accessing the most comprehensive information is just as important as having access to quality care. Chapter 28 does not apply to all insurance carriers, so it is best to start with a call to your insurance provider to find out more about this new chapter in the fight against opioid addiction.

Faces of Addiction

The person in the mirror can be the most important guide in the journey to facing a substance abuse problem.

We’ve all seen the pictures, whether on social media or shocking photo spreads in magazines and newspapers. The faces of people caught up in the vortex of substance abuse; a tragic timeline that tracks from the smiling portrait of a healthy-looking young person, to the disheveled appearance, mottled complexion and hopeless gaze of a lost and hurting soul.

They are the Faces of Addiction—not just the heartbreaking “after” images, but all of them, up to and including the seemingly well-adjusted “befores” who radiate such promise and potential. For the disease of addiction cares as little for optics as it does for age, race, gender or social status—and now more than ever, chances are strong that one of those faces in the crowd belongs to somebody close to you.

The facts and figures are shocking to contemplate—difficult to accept. Here in New Jersey, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths, with the rate of heroin-related overdoses running triple the national average. Since 2004, the state’s death toll from drug ODs has exceeded 6,000—and the number of New Jerseyans admitted5to drug treatment facilities or programs jumped by an astonishing 700%. It’s a crisis that’s spurred the recent enactment of the “Chapter 28” revisions to the state’s Substance Abuse Law (see related story in this issue of Carrier Connections).

Recent reports have served to confirm the terrible toll that heroin and opioid addictions have had on our population of young people —while equally disturbing have been the reports of increased opioid use among seniors. Charts and statistics indicate that the burgeoning opioid abuse problem hits NJ’s urban communities mercilessly—while hitting even harder in the Garden State’s wealthiest suburbs; places in which, on the face of things, it was long believed “it couldn’t happen here.”

Behind the graphs, charts, and statistics, however, are the faces of the human beings whose lives have been most impacted by addiction, and who all too often have chosen to face those issues alone. But, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the path to real recovery need not be a solitary one.

Every September for more than 25 years, SAMHSA has sponsored National Recovery Month, a campaign designed “to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.” The 2017 theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities.

Whether you or someone in your circle of friends or family is struggling with substance abuse issues, the most important face-to-face to have is with the person looking back from the mirror. The road to recovery originates at that crucial first step—the moment when you recognize that a problem exists and that reaching out for help is the answer. From that point on, you and the face in the mirror need no longer be afraid of making that journey alone.

With over 100 years of specialized experience, and a full staff of medical, counseling and therapeutic professionals, Carrier Clinic® has the resources to help people with substance use disorders and other diseases of the brain. The newly expanded Blake Recovery Center™ on our Belle Mead, NJ campus offers a state-of-the-art facility for the counseling and treatment of addiction-related illnesses—a bold new face on a place with a long history of compassionate care, and a commitment to helping people transition from becoming faceless statistics, to recognizing the healthy individual within.

Seniors in Crisis

They may have arrived at this point from an entirely different path than their younger counterparts—but while much of the attention to New Jersey’s opioid abuse emergency is elsewhere, an overlooked crisis is affecting our state’s older population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the amount of opioids prescribed to Americans —and the number of deaths from such drugs—have roughly quadrupled since 1999. And, since people over 40 are most likely to use prescription opioids such as oxycodone, they are far more likely to be hospitalized for painpill overdoses. As the patient’s age increases, they become more vulnerable to accidental overdose—and less capable of handling a mix of medications that can include a powerful opioid.

As Carrier Clinic® CEO Donald J. Parker explains, the fact that these drugs are obtained not through illicit channels, but from a trusted physician, can make it difficult for an older patient to acknowledge an addiction to painkillers. Add in such factors as isolation, embarrassment, or lack of awareness regarding the warning signs of addiction, and “for all those reasons, this is a group that is hard to get into treatment.”

Dedicated treatment options exist for people aged 45 to 85 and up—but although Carrier Clinic® is the facility best equipped to serve senior individuals, it’s not nearly enough. The CDC has issued recommendations designed to guide doctors toward a lower-dosage approach for older patients. It can be obtained online ( or by phone (1-888-REACH-NJ).

It’s important for the people in an older individual’s life to be observant, get involved, discuss the issue, and, as CEO Parker says, “Help our aging family and friends… return some dignity back into their lives.”

Carrier’s Profile

Newly expanded to serve more of our at-risk population, Blake Recovery Center™ has evolved over 35 years into New Jersey’s leading residential treatment program for alcohol and substance abuse—a place where the spirit of Recovery Month is year-round.

Before working his way up to the directorship of this state-of-the-art facility, Blake Recovery Center™’s Steve Drzewoszewski worked his way back from the disease of addiction, finding his calling in the desire to “base my entire life around the concept of recovery.” Drzewoszewski got his start as an unpaid intern, eventually becoming Blake Recovery Center™
’s first Intensive Outpatient Program Coordinator in 2008. He was named Director in 2016 after serving as Acting Director.

To hear him tell it, the licensed counselor who earned his Master’s in Social Work at USC is “just part of the puzzle.” The native Californian, who oversees a 24-hour nursing staff and full team of counseling professionals, is quick to declare that “it’s the people here, the staff who make this place work….they’re always thinking ahead to the next step.”

For Steve, who shares a Somerset home with his wife and their bulldog, it’s an extension of a proactive approach to life; one that manifests itself in his passion for CrossFit training—and a fascination with “shark photography” that led to the publication of his book “Tiger Beach.”

Keeping program alumni “in the loop” through monthly meetings and other well-received events is an important policy of the Blake Recovery Center™ director, who maintains that “We can keep them sober while they’re here… but real success comes when we keep them connected to the desire to succeed.”

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