An Interview with Vicki, a MAT therapist at North Range
Why does Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) work so well?
In general, MAT works because it employs the use of a prescribed medication such as Suboxone®, Naltrexone/Vivitrol®, and/or Campral® in combination with group and individual therapy to help people stay away from substances long enough to begin the healing process. The medication is not the “cure” for addiction, nor is therapy; however, when the two interventions are combined, I’ve seen people reach a point of clarity where they have eliminated or significantly reduced the cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with substance dependence—and then more fully engage in therapy to begin transformation without those distractions clouding their minds. Suboxone® is especially helpful for those trying to break the cycle of opioid/opiate dependence because it allows the person space and time between their last use so that they can become focused on their treatment goals.
Aren’t you just replacing one drug with another?
That’s a common myth. It’s not true, however, because these medications will eliminate the ability to use other substances without getting a person “high” – improving quality of life and functioning of the individual for long-term success in overcoming addiction.
What do you like about the North Range MAT program?
I am so proud to be a part of this new wave of addiction treatment, especially in this time of national crisis; the opioid epidemic is getting a lot of deserved attention right now. Removing the stigma associated with this disease is a primary focus in our program, and we know that one of the most important curative elements of any behavioral health treatment program is a welcoming, compassionate, and supportive environment where people feel accepted, respected, listened to, and cared for. This is what we do best, and I feel that is one of the things that really makes our program such a wonderful service for our community.
Why does this MAT program work so well?
Our MAT program works especially well because, on top of the warm, non-judgmental care we give to clients the moment they walk in the door, our staff offers clients a variety of other helpful services to meet their needs. We understand recovery is complicated; abstinence from a substance is only the beginning, then a person has to adapt to the surge of intense and foreign emotions once the substance is stripped away, build new and healthier relationships, repair or end damaged or unhealthy relationships, set goals for the future, create healthy supports, gain employment, address neglected health issues, and navigate the human services and/or legal system. These are just a few of the difficult but necessary things one must do to sustain a life in recovery. In addition to supporting them through that process, we offer group and individual therapy, case management services, and connection to medication management for mental health needs.
How do you work with other programs?
MAT is truly a collaborative approach: Sunrise Community Health, Genoa Pharmacy, and North Range share the same vision of integrated medical, pharmaceutical, and behavioral health treatment.
While our MAT program is well-rounded and can stand alone as the only treatment a person may need, we also work closely with other North Range offerings such as Adult Outpatient Program, Jail-Based Services, Behavioral Alternative Services in the Community (BASIC), True North Residential and Intensive Outpatient Services, Adult Recovery Program, and Frontier House (an accredited Clubhouse) to make sure we are providing individualized care tailored to each person’s unique set of needs, be it ongoing therapy, housing, employment, socialization, or other critical determinants of health. In addition to providing a flexible and integrated approach to treatment within our agency, we value our partnerships with such entities as Northern Colorado Health Alliance, Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services, Weld County Corrections and law enforcement. We work to communicate and collaborate with these agencies to provide the necessary community support for clients.
What do you love most about your job?
There are so many things I love about my job, but I’d have to say my favorite is getting to see clients develop self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-esteem as they begin life in recovery. It is so gratifying to watch people start to believe they are worthwhile and capable of creating a new and better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
I, along with our other MAT therapists, are deeply passionate about serving those who struggle with addiction. I love to help people reclaim their destiny, to develop meaning and purpose they have never known, and to be proud of themselves for working hard to rebuild their lives. The job I do can also be heartbreaking, because sometimes people aren’t quite ready to make changes necessary to move beyond addiction and end up relapsing, which is one of the difficult realities of this disease. But it is an amazing and humbling experience to work with someone who has benefitted from treatment you have provided. To know I have touched even one life makes it all worth it, and I am lucky to find myself called to this work.
Victoria Gerber, MA, LPC
Therapist, Medication-Assisted Treatment/Integrated Care
North Range Behavioral Health