Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

JFS Orlando helps those with drug-related problems


Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCWS

The CDC showed that the final 2020 overdose deaths in the United States exceeded 90,000, compared to 70,530 in 2019. It is the highest annual number on record, and the largest single-year percentage increase in the past 20 years.

Synthetic opioids (fentanyl) appear to be one of the reasons causing the increases in death, up 38.4 percent over the past year.

"We have seen an uptick in clients seeking help for drug and alcohol issues since the pandemic started. People are feeling a sense of isolation and increased stress during these times. The pandemic has fueled alcohol and drug use, and fentanyl, plus isolation has contributed to the accidental overdose deaths," said Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW, clinical director for Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando.

So, what do you do when you discover that your child or a loved one has an alcohol or drug abuse problem?

One option is to go to Jewish Family Services for help. "Including myself, we have a total of seven highly professional therapist who are available to evaluate you for treatment. At JFS we see approximately 450 appointments each month. We've seen during the Covid pandemic that drug and alcohol use have increased dramatically. The increase is a result of people feeling a sense of isolation, disconnection, and increase stress during the pandemic," Douglass-Barnes said.

JFS has a separate entrance and a private waiting room in their office for those patients who are looking for confidentiality. During the pandemic the counselors are seeing patients via HIPPA compliant video. They're hoping that sometime in the fall, they'll be able to see patients in their offices once again.

The video platform also helps clients to be able to reach out, as it removes several barriers to care, including confidentiality - as no one will need to know you are coming, transportation or scheduling as patients can be seen on a lunch hour without a commute back/forth to the office. JFS has seen a great increase in people making their scheduled appointments using this platform.

When a patient first comes into JFS, the therapist will assess the client into their "insight into their use" of drugs and alcohol. Everyone is different. Some individuals can use heroin or pain medication one time and then walk away from it, while one use for another will lead them down a path to addiction.

People often use drugs to connect or gain energy (uppers) or disconnect or feel numb (downers). Where the use becomes abuse, is when that substance negatively impacts several areas of one's life - relationships, employment/school, sleep, or their health.

An interesting pattern within the Jewish community that has emerged, is that people are started on addicting prescriptions by a doctor. Unlike other groups, Jews have more trust with doctors. So if the doctor prescribed pain medications as an example, the user will justify that because a doctor prescribed it. Even though this is seen in other communities, it is noted in particular with the Jewish community.

After JFS gets insight into the client's substance use, then a treatment plan will be created with the client. One option is "Medical Assisted Therapy" or M.A.T. The level of care generally starts with detox that can be done in detox centers under a physicians care. "At this point, we will assess to see where the client is at with acceptance of the problem, they may need additional therapy to gain insight into that their substance abuse is problematic, but we will work with them as they come to that conclusion on their own. Treatment is self-determined, therefore the client will need to make the decision to move forward with additional treatment, though this may be challenging for the family, it's important for the client to have 'buy in' into their treatment for long term sobriety success," Douglass-Barnes noted.

"For some clients they might believe they will not be able to continue their religious practices in rehab facilities, but we can recommend a facility to a kosher client for instance that offers vegetarian or vegan options, or only operates during the week, to have them home for Sabbath. We don't want that fear to deter clients from seeking out treatment, often times we have already ran into the concern and figured out a workaround," Douglass-Barnes said.

Jewish Family Services is one of the few offices that accept all insurance plans and has a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish patients.


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