A haven in the opi­oid cri­sis

The Progress-Index - - OPINION -

Our na­tion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an opi­oid cri­sis. Cur­rently more than 2.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are ad­dicted to either opi­oid pain re­liev­ers or heroin. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, opi­oid-re­lated deaths have more than quadru­pled since 1999. All drug over­dose deaths, many caused by opi­oids, in­creased by 17 per­cent from 2015 to 2016 (about 64,000 peo­ple died). Most of us are part of or know a fam­ily who has suf­fered be­cause of the ad­dic­tion of one of its mem­bers. Mar­riages are ripped apart. Par­ents are dev­as­tated as their adult chil­dren fre­quently refuse to seek help for their prob­lem, lose jobs, steal to sup­port their drug habit, are in­car­cer­ated, and some­times die. This calamity is tak­ing a tremen­dous toil not only on opi­oid users but on po­lice, first re­spon­ders, doc­tors, nurses, par­ents, grand­par­ents, and chil­dren.

Chil­dren whose par­ents abuse opi­oids face huge risks from preg­nancy through their youth adult years. Many are neg­a­tively af­fected by th­ese drugs be­fore their birth. Thou­sands are ne­glected by par­ents who are pre­oc­cu­pied with ob­tain­ing and us­ing drugs and do not re­ceive the nur­ture they need to grow prop­erly and thrive. Count­less chil­dren are in­ad­ver­tently ex­posed to drugs, and many end up in fos­ter care be­cause of their par­ents’ drug abuse.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has rightly called the opi­oid epi­demic a “pub­lic health emer­gency.” He ap­pointed New Jersey Gover­nor Chris Christie to head a na­tional opi­oid com­mis­sion, which will work to re­duce the cri­sis by in­creas­ing fed­eral fund­ing to com­bat ad­dic­tion and eval­u­at­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of treat­ment cen­ters, state pre­scrip­tion drug-mon­i­tor­ing pro­grams, and pub­lic cam­paigns to mon­i­tor both pre­scrip­tion opi­oids and heroin.

Like most pub­lic-sec­tor ef­forts to al­le­vi­ate our na­tion’s so­cial ills, th­ese gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives must be sup­ple­mented by pri­vate-sec­tor ones. Thank­fully, many com­pas­sion­ate in­di­vid­u­als and cre­ative or­ga­ni­za­tions are work­ing to com­bat the cri­sis. One such min­istry is Haven in Wilm­ing­ton, North Carolina, which was founded by physi­cian Dwight Lysne in 2009. Reared in north­ern Min­nesota, Lysne earned a med­i­cal de­gree at the Univer­sity of Min­nesota fol­lowed by a res­i­dency in child psy­chi­a­try. For 10 years, Lysne di­rected a childpsy­chi­a­try fa­cil­ity con­nected with the Univer­sity of North Dakota.

Lysne was earn­ing $400,000 a year, but was deeply dis­sat­is­fied with his life. He kept think­ing that there must be more to life than what he was do­ing. Through par­tic­i­pat­ing in a Nav­i­ga­tors’ 2.7 dis­ci­ple­ship group hosted by his church, Lysne recom­mit­ted his life to Je­sus Christ and be­came pas­sion­ate about his faith. Lysne also be­came con­cerned with the plight of so­ci­etal out­casts and be­gan work­ing to help pris­on­ers in Min­nesota. He then earned a Master of Di­vin­ity de­gree at Bethel The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in St. Paul, which en­abled him to “in­te­grate his med­i­cal and psy­chi­atric back­ground with the gospel.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing his M. Div., Lysne felt led to move to North Carolina. Fol­low­ing three years as the med­i­cal di­rec­tor at the Wilm­ing­ton Yah­weh Cen­ter where he aided child vic­tims of vi­o­lence and aban­don­ment, Lysne founded Haven to as­sist in­di­vid­u­als strug­gling with drug prob­lems. Its mis­sion is to pro­vide “peo­ple suf­fer­ing the ef­fects of trauma, men­tal ill­ness, and sub­stance abuse ac­cess to com­pas­sion­ate com­pre­hen­sive eval­u­a­tion, treat­ment and heal­ing that is Christ-cen­tered, Gospel-in­te­grated and Wor­ship-fo­cused.”

To help its clients, Haven uses a holis­tic ap­proach that ad­dresses in­ter­con­nected emo­tional, spir­i­tual, and phys­i­cal prob­lems. Haven spon­sors four min­istries—a med­i­cal clinic, a women’s re­cov­ery cen­ter, a church, and a thrift store. The clinic sup­plies med­i­cal treat­ment to peo­ple strug­gling with drug ad­dic­tion. At 6:30 a.m. Mon­day through Satur­day, 25 to 45 in­di­vid­u­als who are new to the pro­gram re­ceive med­i­ca­tions un­der su­per­vi­sion. Par­tic­i­pants are sub­ject to ran­dom drug screen­ing. They also re­ceive in­di­vid­ual coun­sel­ing to help them deal with prac­ti­cal ev­ery­day prob­lems. The women’s re­cov­ery cen­ter pro­vides tem­po­rary hous­ing for women try­ing to over­come their ad­dic­tion.

Haven’s church holds a wor­ship ser­vice and Sun­day school classes ev­ery week, a half-hour de­vo­tional ev­ery week­day morn­ing, a heal­ing ser­vice and a Cel­e­brate Re­cov­ery pro­gram ev­ery Wed­nes­day, and weekly dis­ci­ple­ship groups led by for­mer ad­dicts who have suc­cess­fully com­pleted its pro­gram. Lysne and four other staff preach at the Sun­day morn­ing ser­vice on a ro­tat­ing ba­sis, typ­i­cally us­ing sev­eral months of ser­mons to com­pletely cover a bi­b­li­cal book. “Trea­sures in Haven” sells fur­ni­ture, kitchen wares, books, clothes, and shoes and op­er­ates a cof­fee shop both to aid com­mu­nity res­i­dents and gen­er­ate in­come to fund Haven’s other min­istries.

To over­come their ad­dic­tions, Lysne con­tends, peo­ple need a re­cov­ery net­work that in­cludes well-de­signed pro­grams, sym­pa­thetic men­tors and coun­selors, and a sup­port group of car­ing in­di­vid­u­als. Dozens of in­di­vid­u­als tes­tify that their in­volve­ment in Haven’s pro­gram has trans­formed their lives. Its two re­cov­ery co­or­di­na­tors— Chad Suggs and Brian Hol­land, both in their mid-30s—be­gan us­ing drugs as teenagers. They were “lost and bro­ken” be­fore Haven’s min­istry en­abled them to stop us­ing opi­oids. Now they pro­vide coun­sel­ing and sup­port to the 75-100 peo­ple in Haven’s re­cov­ery pro­gram.

Like many other min­istries, Haven op­er­ates on a shoe­string bud­get. More than 75 per­cent of its $315,000 bud­get goes to pay salaries, but none of its seven staff mem­bers, in­clud­ing Lysne, make more than $3,000 a month.

Lysne gave up a large in­come, a promis­ing ca­reer, and sub­stan­tial pres­tige to min­is­ter to peo­ple strug­gling with sub­stance abuse who are of­ten ig­nored or looked down on. He works tire­lessly to pro­vide med­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and spir­i­tual as­sis­tance to many in­di­vid­u­als who are try­ing to es­cape the hor­rors of ad­dic­tion, and he lives sac­ri­fi­cially to help sus­tain his min­istry.

Since its found­ing, Haven has helped hun­dreds of peo­ple over­come their ad­dic­tions, rec­on­cile with spouses and chil­dren, keep or find jobs, deepen their faith, and be­come pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens. Or­ga­ni­za­tions like Haven de­serve our thanks, pray­ers, and sup­port.

Dr. Gary Scott Smith The Cen­ter for Vi­sion & Val­ues Grove City Col­lege Grove City, PA

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