On the Cutting-Edge
By Jesse Duthrie
Jermaine Cook, 37, has spent more than half of his life addicted to drugs, and in those years has been in and out of prison. Barring a five-year prison stint in his teenage years, he had never been clean until two months ago. Had it not been for his mother who forced him into Yale’s emergency rehabilitation clinic in early November, Jermaine would have turned out to be another statistic: a black male addicted to drugs in downtown New Haven.
The challenge, Jermaine admits, is battling not only his addiction but also his mental illness, depression. A loner from an early age, he preferred isolation to social settings. The symptoms showed early in his life, but due to a lack of psychiatric treatment and any awareness about mental health problems among those closest to him, the problem went unnoticed.
It wasn’t until his chronic PCP use in the fall of 2011 and his eventual breakdown that Jermaine was admitted to Yale’s rehabilitation unit in New Haven, Connecticut, where, unlike most rehabilitation services, they treated both Jermaine’s addiction to PCP as well as his depression.
Upon release from Yale’s one-month rehabilitation clinic, Jermaine entered the Patrick F. McAuliffe co-occurring, 30-day intensive rehabilitation house, one of two co-occurring treatment centers in the state. Using clinical therapists, psychiatrists, and drug and alcohol abuse counselors, the house takes a two-part approach to treating its patients.
Funded by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), the Patrick F. McAuliffe House provides cutting edge co-occurring treatment. Studies have proven a direct link between drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness. For a large amount of treatment providers in the state as well as the nation, there is a pattern of treating either mental illness or addiction singularly. The dual diagnosis program allows treating both congruently.
Anthony Corso is the Chief Officer of Residential Services for Connecticut Renaissance. On top of the co-occurring recovery house, he oversees a halfway house in Waterbury and two low intensive, long-term care houses.
When asked how many of the patients at the co-occurring treatment house have some sort of history of incarceration, his estimate is around fifty percent.
In his one month at the McAuliffe Center, Jermaine has participated in a wide range of treatment options. Family therapy, including group therapy, one-on-one therapy is just some of the forms of counseling practiced.
“This is what I went for school for, and it feels like the first time I’ve found a home,” says Clinical Therapist Matthew Bastiaanse. “Here it’s a dual diagnosis model. They look at the family therapy part of it and they look at the mental health part of it. They incorporate all of that as treatment.”
When asked if this model should be implemented throughout the state, Matthew agreed adamantly. The medical model, which focuses directly on the addiction itself, is outdated. By looking at mental health, mental health history, and other avenues of treatment, new programs can target a population that hasn’t previously been treated the best possible way.
Of the residents of the McAuliffe center with histories of incarceration, Matthew says that the biggest challenge they face is the restriction of opportunities. They have troubles getting jobs and housing because of their criminal background. He also says that many of these men didn’t receive proper mental health treatment while incarcerated, so returning home can be a challenge for people who are battling stigmas of incarceration on top of untreated mental illness.
“I chose the facility because it’s only 20 people,” Jermaine says, “and I felt like I could get the attention I needed instead of being at a 60 or 80 person facility. Since I’ve been in treatment, I’ve come along. I had a real bad depression. Since I’ve been taking my medication and participating in the groups, I’ve had my mind right.”
Jermaine praises the one-on-one sessions for the opportunity to get his problems off his chest. He also likes the group therapy sessions, where he can hear others discuss their problems. He’s still working on the recovery side. He has “drug-dreams,” vivid dreams of being at home with his old friends. In the dreams, he’s about to get high but wakes up before he does. He describes the dreams as scary and they often startle him awake.
This January, Jermaine will be moved out of the McAuliffe Center and into a low-intensity housing unit. Eventually, he’ll find himself back at home and amongst those peers that once led him down a path of destruction. It’s up to him, his recovery, and the treatment he’s received, whether or not he’ll continue to fight the good fight.