New Vitae Wellness Foundation and Caron Treatment Centers hosted Heather Hayes, M.Ed, LPC, CIP, CAI, for a presentation entitled, “Nation Held Hostage,” on Thursday, October 3rd.  The event, held at the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, offered participants the opportunity to consider the parallels between substance abuse and terrorism, using a lens of psychological, emotional, and social constructs.

Following an introduction to the evening, Ms. Hayes initiated the conversation through a review of her own story of substance use and recovery during her college years.  She was ultimately able to attend a rehabilitation program, finish school, and established a private practice to assist individuals and families with behavioral health or addiction challenges.  In the early 2000s, she was asked to participate in hostage negotiations with her local SWAT team, who were hoping to ensure successful outcomes in crisis situations by considering psychological factors.  All of these experiences resulted in building Ms. Hayes’ expertise, which she uses to help others through the process of interventions, negotiations, and behavioral health treatment.

Hayes then built a cogent argument that highlighted the similarities between addiction and terrorism.  After a review of major historical events that highlighted the need to change law enforcement’s response to hostage-taking (Attica Prison riot of 1971, the Munich Olympics of 1972, and a Stockholm bank robbery in 1973), Hayes explored parallels between terrorism and addiction, including the loss of loved ones, post-traumatic stress, and the tragedy associated with the potential deaths associated with these situations.  Ms. Hayes reminded the room that 197 individuals die daily due to overdose – a huge number that amplifies the losses experienced by families, friends, and society.  She reminded the audience that terrorism, while statistically less likely to occur than addiction, is viewed very differently by the public.  Stigmas associated with addiction and the view of substance use as acceptable tend to result in powerful differences in social perception.

Despite the challenges associated with substance abuse, Hayes offered a hopeful view of how families, friends, and treatment providers can assist individuals who experience addiction.  She encouraged families to search for and utilize their strengths to move forward following addiction.  She also reminded participants of the 23 million Americans who are in recovery, encouraging others to draw from this strength to share stories to reduce stigma.  Hayes also recommended more education regarding substance use, and strongly suggested that treatment providers act ethically to ensure quality care and avoid patient brokering or insurance fraud.  She also recommended treatment vs. incarceration for individuals who experience addiction, noting statistics that suggest that 85% of jail inmates are incarcerated due to an addiction.

Hayes summarized the conversation through use of the acronym RESIST:
R – be Respectful and treat people with dignity
E – be Ethical
S – break Stigmas/Speak out
I – be Informed
S – Support each other through the war of addiction
T – offer Treatment vs. punishment and expand resources

Hayes ended the presentation by encouraging the audience to get involved, reduce the impact of addiction, and end the pattern of overdose deaths.  After responding to audience questions, the evening ended on a note of hope and renewed dedication to helping those challenged by addiction.

New Vitae Wellness and Recovery wishes to thank all attendees, many of whom obtained NASW and PCB continuing education credits for the presentation.  We also wish to offer special thanks to Heather Hayes for sharing her knowledge and commitment to ending the challenges of addiction! To learn more about our addiction treatment programs, contact New Vitae Wellness and Recovery today.