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National Substance Use Prevention Month: A Q&A with Bridgewell Clinician and Prevention Coordinator Michelle Simons

Published: October 21, 2019

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October is National Substance Use Prevention Month. People struggling with substance use are supported in their recovery through Bridgewell’s Recovery and Prevention Services, which aims to improve quality of life through consultation, collaboration and coordination of care. In a Q&A, Bridgewell Clinician and Prevention Coordinator Michelle Simons shares why seeking help is so important.

How can prevention programs help reduce the impact of substance use disorders?

Through primary prevention, our goal is to prevent someone from using substances in the first place or delay the onset use. People who use substances before the age of 25 are more likely to develop a substance use disorder because the brain is not fully developed.

Our approach in primary prevention involves teaching youth positive coping skills, self-esteem, drug refusal skills and emotional regulation. We encourage people to get to know themselves better through meditation and introspection so they can understand why they drink and use substances. I’ve learned that scare tactics don’t work. Encouraging youth to pursue avenues such as art, music and sports helps them express who they are and develop self-confidence. Our goal is to show that the need to use drugs to escape from reality is not as powerful when there is a strong sense of self.

As a Prevention Coordinator, you play an integral role in helping people combat substance use. What does your day-to-day work at Bridgewell entail?

My work at Bridgewell Counseling Services in Lynn consists of supporting people with substance use disorder (SUD) who are seeking outpatient counseling services. I help them in their recovery in any way I can, in order to prevent them from returning to their drug of choice or any substance. This includes having conversations with people about what they are doing daily to support their recovery, how they’re feeling both mentally and physically and how confident they are in their personal recovery. The treatment ranges slightly with different drugs, but the treatment we provide is tailored to the individual person and their needs, rather than focusing on the substances used.

I’ve found that most people do things without really paying attention to the motivation behind it. As someone who has personally struggled with substance use, I encourage people to lean on their spirituality to combat their addiction. Understanding they are not the disease of addiction and the importance of understanding how to not identify with that but who they truly are as a human being and be able to separate the two.

We also offer first offender DUI classes, which is centered around prevention and helping people understand the risk of drugs and alcohol as well as helping people understand why they like to drink “to socialize” even if they don’t have an issue with it.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I find it so rewarding to watch someone enjoy their recovery, get to know themselves and have that glow when they start to feel hope that they can live and enjoy their life without the use of alcohol and drugs. It’s a very beautiful process to see someone “get it.” It’s as if a little light turns on and the person starts to become aware of who they are and how they operate. Most people without addictions don’t even know that about themselves!

Through the City of Lynn, Bridgewell manages two grants funded by the state for overdose prevention and prescription drug misuse. You oversee the grant for prescription drug misuse. Can you tell us what that entails?

The grant funds Prevention Werks, and program that features a Facebook page that we developed and manage as well as educational presentations. Our primary goal is to prevent prescription drug misuse among high school-age youth. We do this by providing accessible information across a whole spectrum of substances through social media and by handing out resources wherever we can to parents in our area. We also teach meditation, addiction 101 trainings and how to respond to someone who might be struggling with a SUD.

Resources:

Bridgewell Recovery and Prevention Services

Prevention Werks

Contact a treatment specialist to locate facilities catering to teen-related treatment today.

If you need immediate addiction treatment help in Massachusetts, please visit:
marsi.org/open-beds/
mabhaccess.com/SUD.aspx
helplinema.org/

National substance use disorder resources include:
samhsa.gov/
drugabuse.gov/