Centers offer treatment, support for those battling addiction
When Ashley Miller goes about her day as executive director of Lifeline Recovery Center in Paducah, she is practicing what she preaches. Miller isn’t just the director. She is also a recovering addict and a 2014 graduate of Lifeline’s recovery program.
According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, 2,250 people in Kentucky died from a drug overdose in 2021, up 14.5% from 2020. An opioid was involved in 90% of those deaths.
Drug use is so rampant in the region, it’s a part of Miller’s childhood. Both her parents were addicts and she described her upbringing as “chaos.”
By the time she was 13, Miller was abusing prescription pills. Her husband, also raised by addicts, joined her in a cycle of dysfunction that eventually led to Miller’s arrest and a court order to enter a treatment facility. The facility Miller landed in was Lifeline, served by Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative (JPEC).
The recovery center seemed too good to be true, at first. Miller, a consumer-member of JPEC, felt the people were “too nice.”
“I didn’t trust it,” Miller says. “When you’ve never had positive people and honest love in your life, it seemed very foreign to me.”
Don’t go it alone
Lifeline has separate men’s and women’s campuses offering long-term residential treatment and transitional housing, and also provides counseling and classes on skills like money management and anger management.
Since taking on the role of executive director in 2020, Miller has been investing in her staff and the facilities. Lifeline Recovery Center has increased staff numbers, adopted ongoing enrollment and opened a new 46-acre men’s campus called The Ranch. Miller hopes to keep increasing the number of beds because she knows that recovery centers are vital to achieve sobriety.
“I’m not saying you can’t get sober alone, but the chances of success are slim to none,” Miller says. “We are not made to do this on our own.”
Professional and peer support are components that Addiction Recovery Care (ARC), based in Louisa, uses in its treatment programs as well. ARC operates 36 recovery facilities throughout the state.
Vanessa Keeton, vice president of marketing for ARC, says it’s important to recognize the grip addiction can have on the human brain and why a “mind, body and spirit” approach is needed.
“Addiction is very misunderstood,” Keeton says. “Addiction lodges into the part of your brain that says you need the substance as much as you need food, water and shelter.”
Providing a purpose
Breaking free of the physical part of addiction is just the first step. Whether it’s inpatient or outpatient treatment, Keeton says addicts must find their sense of purpose in their recovery journey. ARC uses a Crisis to Career model to offer vocational training to clients so they can reenter the community ready to work.
“Giving people a sense of purpose is so important,” she says. “People leave our centers knowing they can take care of their families, that they have the ability to find employment. Those are things that will help someone stay sober.”
Keeton says 1,850 people are in treatment through ARC daily. While working to increase the number of treatment centers, ARC is also expanding services that meet the growing needs of clients. A new facility in Greenup County will have specific psychiatric care to treat psychosis associated with drug use.
“With addicts you do have a lot of mental health needs,” she says. “We see a lot of people experiencing meth psychosis and you have to get them stable before you can even address the addiction.”
Dr. Tiffany Slone, regional vice president of WestCare Kentucky, a nonprofit organization, saw the need for quality addiction recovery while working as a counselor in treatment centers. WestCare operates substance abuse recovery centers internationally, including in central and eastern Kentucky, as well as the Judi Patton Center for Families, a new long-term facility for women.
Slone sees recovery centers as an investment in the community, taking people with addictions and helping them become gainfully employed, service minded citizens. But before they can do that, people with addictions have to face the underlying issues.
“In treatment, it’s cognitive,” Slone says. “There are family relationships, medical history, peer support, trauma. If you don’t address all pieces of the puzzle, it’s not going to be complete.”
WestCare receives grants to fund their programs focusing on veterans services, job skill training, homelessness intervention and suicide prevention—all issues that frequently tie in with addiction.
Slone knows there are many factors at play when it comes to “getting clean.”
“There is a difference between sobriety and recovery,” she says. “Sobriety is time clean. Recovery is the big picture. We try to set residents up for their best chance at recovery by developing foundational skills.”
Kentucky received a $35.9 million grant in May 2022 from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help fight the opioid epidemic. That grant money can assist recovery centers, and ultimately Kentuckians like Stephanie Pannell, a June 2022 graduate of Lifeline.
“Emotional roller coaster”
Pannell started dabbling with alcohol at age 12 and tried meth for the first time at 17. She went through treatment and had some time clean, but after her mother’s cancer diagnosis, she spiraled and relapsed. After being arrested and losing custody of her three children, Pannell was given an application for Lifeline Recovery Center. She knew she had hit rock bottom when she came home from her intake interview with Lifeline.
“My house was so still and so quiet,” she says. “I thought, ‘This was supposed to be a happy home.’ I was by myself and had nothing. I had to do something, or I wasn’t going to make it.”
The counseling provided by Lifeline helped Pannell navigate the “emotional roller coaster” of recovery and get to the root of her addiction. She says she uses the lessons learned in treatment in her daily life.
“It’s the stability, the routine, the structure,” she says. “I don’t care if you’ve been an addict for 30 years or one year, you always think this will be the last time and it never works out that way. The accountability a recovery center offers is what makes it work.”
Pannell regained custody of her children in October 2022 and is honest with them about her journey. Pannell wants to show her kids that recovery is possible, and she hopes others can believe it, too.
“Addicts don’t like the way they’re living,” she says. “They just feel they are too far gone, or they’re just scared of change. But people can change. My kids have their mom back.”
The actions of an addict have a ripple effect on the entire family. Many recovery centers include family counseling in a treatment plan to help an addict rebuild the relationships that were strained during active addiction. Loved ones can also find peer support in groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.
These meetings have a 12-step program designed for family and friends of addicts to share their experiences and find empathy. Alateen and Narateen are groups for teens affected by a loved one’s addiction.
Where to go for help
Deciding to enter recovery for an opioid addiction can be difficult, but finding help doesn’t have to be. Kentucky has a multitude of programs to help with recovery, ranging from long-term residential treatment to outpatient recovery, employment and housing assistance and more. Below is a list of online resources designed to locate the right option for anyone interested in seeking help with addiction.
KSP ANGEL INITIATIVE: Any person battling addiction can walk into a Kentucky State Police post and ask for help finding a treatment center, or call (800) 222-5555.
KY HELP CALL CENTER: Kentuckians struggling with substance abuse can call (833) 8KY-HELP to speak with a specialist about treatment options or text HOPE to 96714.
NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS: NA hosts meetings for those working through addiction recovery by offering peer support and a 12-step program. Find a meeting through its website search feature.
OPERATION UNITE: Addicts seeking treatment and family members needing support can call (866) 908-6483 to find information on treatment programs in their area.
RECOVERY KENTUCKY: These 14 centers across Kentucky provide housing and recovery services for individuals seeking to live stable, sober lives.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION: This website collects information on state-licensed providers for addiction treatment. Individuals can search for treatment options through its website.