NEW ULM - For James (JJ) Johnson and his staff at the New Ulm Medical Center Substance Abuse unit, every month is Recovery Month.
But September is a special month when they hope to draw public awareness to the ongoing problem of chemical dependency and substance abuse.
The month has been declared National Recovery Month in New Ulm by Mayor Robert Beussman, who cites the stunning statistics provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) in the US Department of Health: 2.6 million people aged 12 and older nationwide needed treatment for illicit drug or alcohol problems in the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Some of the staff members of the Substance abuse department at the New Ulm Medical Center are from left: Kara Boerger, BS casual counselor;Drew Hester (back), substance abuse intern from Minnesota State Mankato, Joy Wieland, BS LADC Evening Outpatient Counselor; Dayne Bartlett, social work and substance abuse intern from MSU; Marie Larsen LADC Residential Counselor; James Johnson, Manager Sub A Services; Kay Witt RW Nurse Manager and Joan Kirkava MD Medical Director.
Johnson said his department has a 10-bed unit for inpatient treatments, where the average patient stays 30 days. The department also has 125 outpatient visits per week, people who keep coming back for the help they need to tackle their addiction.
Johnson said substance abuse is better treated as a chronic disease, rather than an acute problem. He compares it to diabetics, who live nhealthy lives by controlling their blood sugar levels every day, and with regular visits to their doctor to monitor and adjust their treatment. People with chronic substance abuse problems, even if they have it under control, need the reinforcement of regular counseling and treatment.
The Substance Abuse Unit has eight full-time employees, five in New Ulm and three in the Mankato office that NUMC operates. It is the primary care provider in the Brown, Blue Earth and Watonwan County drug courts.
Johnson has been marking Recovery Month every year for the past dozen or so, ever since he arrived in New Ulm. National Recovery Month goes back 24 years.
The local program will celebrate with its almni, and any community members who want to help celebrate, with a picnic on Sept. 26.
There will also be Recovery Walks in Mankato, and in the Twin Cities.
The Substance Abuse Unit will also be taking its clients to a Twins game on Sept. 10.