Up­per Bay Coun­sel­ing offers new ad­dic­tion services

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— Up­per Bay Coun­sel­ing and Sup­port Services re­cently un­veiled a new set of out­pa­tient services that seek to help ad­dress the county’s grow­ing sub­stance abuse is­sues.

Up­per Bay, his­tor­i­cally a non­profit that offers men­tal health treat­ment, be­gan to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­i­ties of sub­stance abuse treat­ment over the past few years through its pro­gram­ming aimed at co-oc­cur­ring dis­or­ders, or those who have both a sub­stance abuse and men­tal health dis­or­der.

Its of­fer­ings in sole sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders be­gan Oct. 1, how­ever, after staff worked to ob­tain proper li­cens­ing, said Becky Kier­sznowski, di­rec­tor of co-oc­cur­ring and ad­dic­tion services at Up­per Bay.

“The re­ally great thing about this pro­gram is that now when you en­ter our doors, we can serve you no mat­ter what,” she said, not­ing that if a pa­tient only had a sub­stance abuse dis­or­der pre­vi­ously, Up­per Bay had to di­rect them to the county health depart­ment or other providers for treat­ment. “With in­te­grated care, we can work with the pa­tient en­tirely un­der one roof, which is best prac­tice.”

The pro­gram, lo­cated at Up­per Bay’s Elk­ton of­fice at 200 Booth St., offers out­pa­tient coun­sel­ing, tiered to dif­fer­ing lev­els of in­ten­sity, that will each run about eight weeks on av­er­age, Kier­sznowski ex­plained.

Un­der the lower tier of care, a pa­tient would be as­sessed and then meet with a coun­selor about once a week or once ev­ery two weeks to dis­cuss their treat­ment plan. In the higher level — aimed at pa­tients who have a greater dif­fi­culty re­main­ing sober — pa­tients would meet three times a week for three-hour group

ELK­TON

coun­sel­ing ses­sions and once a week for one-on-one coun­sel­ing. Kier­sznowski also said that in the in­ten­sive out­pa­tient pro­gram, coun­selors would also try to meet with fam­ily mem­bers who could aid the pa­tient in their re­cov­ery.

Kier­sznowski said she be­lieves Up­per Bay’s pro­gram could serve those who are not good fits at 12-step pro­grams. Un­like “old-school” ad­dic­tion doc­trine, Up­per Bay op­er­ates on a be­lief of “harm re­duc­tion,” or that peo­ple don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be 100 per­cent sub­stance free to be in re­cov­ery. While she is a strong pro­po­nent of 12-step pro­grams, not ev­ery­one is made for that for­mula, Kier­sznowski said.

“The goal re­ally is to help peo­ple get to a bet­ter place,” she said, not­ing pre­vi­ous pa­tients have suc­cess­fully stopped us­ing “hard” drugs, although they may con­tinue to drink so­cially or use an as­sis­tance drug, such as subox­one. “No. 1 so they don’t die and No. 2 so they can have a bet­ter quality of life. So is 100 per­cent so­bri­ety an end goal? For some peo­ple it is and some peo­ple it isn’t.”

Up­per Bay has dis­cussed re­ceiv­ing re­fer­rals from Union Hos­pi­tal, the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment and subox­one pre­scribers along with its word of mouth traf­fic, Kier­sznowski said. Cur­rently, the non­profit is not re­ceiv­ing court-ap­pointed re­fer­rals, but the pos­si­bil­ity ex­ists to do so in the fu­ture, she added.

Up­per Bay has cur­rently hired one coun­selor to run the pro­grams, with up to 15 pa­tients al­lowed to the higher tier pro­gram and 30 pa­tients per week al­lowed to the lower tier, un­der state reg­u­la­tions. Kier­sznowski hopes to ex­pand with need, but she noted that state reg­u­la­tions will also make that un­der­tak­ing dif­fi­culty.

Up­per Bay — like many other coun­sel­ing cen­ters — is strug­gling to con­tend with state changes to the li­cens­ing of drug and al­co­hol coun­selors. Sev­eral years ago, Maryland chose to forgo the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized cre­den­tial­ing that many other states use in fa­vor of its own stan­dards re­viewed by the Board of Pro­fes­sional Coun­selors and Ther­a­pists.

“It’s a huge is­sue,” she said, not­ing many other providers voice the same con­cerns dur­ing meet­ings of the Ce­cil County Drug and Al­co­hol Abuse Coun­cil. “We have peo­ple dy­ing and ev­ery­one says we need more treat­ment, but we can’t pro­vide treat­ment be­cause we can’t hire staff who we know are com­pe­tent.”

Kier­sznowski noted that the changes even af­fected her, although she has decades of ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I have many dif­fer­ent li­censes, but when I ap­plied to Maryland, they re­quire li­censees to take sev­eral dif­fer­ent col­lege and grad­u­ate level cour­ses on drug and al­co­hol coun­sel­ing,” she said. “But when I went to col­lege, those cour­ses didn’t ex­ist. Mean­while I have tons of con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion cred­its and training hours, and have passed the na­tional ex­ams.”

As fur­ther ev­i­dence of the flawed sys­tem, Kier­sznowski said she was able to ob­tain a state su­per­vi­sor’s li­cense with her cur­rent ex­pe­ri­ence. That meant that while she could not coun­sel pa­tients per­son­ally, she could su­per­vise the training of and rec­om­mend ap­proval of such coun­selors.

But as Kier­sznowski ex­plored ful­fill­ing the needed re­quire­ments, Maryland ex­panded the breadth of drug and al­co­hol coun­sel­ing li­cens­ing to those with men­tal health coun­sel­ing li­censes — some­thing she al­ready holds — on Oct. 1.

While the ad­dic­tions services pro­gram just be­gan at Up­per Bay, the non­profit al­ready has eyes on the fu­ture: it wants to open a third lo­ca­tion in Ce­cil­ton to of­fer ad­dic­tions ser vices.

“There’s a need down there and there’s no one down there aside from Dr. ( Paul) Katz,” Kier­sznowski said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Becky Kier­sznowski, di­rec­tor of co-oc­cur­ring and ad­dic­tion services at Up­per Bay Coun­sel­ing and Sup­port Services, re­cently an­nounced a new set of out­pa­tient services that seek to help ad­dress the county’s grow­ing sub­stance abuse is­sues.

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