Opening the Doors to Recovery

February 12, 2006
Reported by Rhonda Kitchens

Recovering Addict, Jeff Bennett says, "if you've got cancer you go to Houston or one of the good cancer centers and you get treatment for it, I have a disease called addiction."

Bennett says he's one of the lucky ones. After 22 years of addiction he's now two years and 7 months into recovery. But the numbers of those less fortunate are staggering. An average of one drug related death is reported each day in Calcasieu Parish.

Koni Bridges says, "its unreal. In my years of social work I have never seen the problem of substance abuse and chemical dependency as we're seeing now. When I keep thinking its going to get batter it gets worse."

Just as Bennett, social worker Koni Bridges says Briscoe Rehab is where local hospitals used to turn for help. Before Hurricane Rita, the center offered detox and extensive inpatient care, right here at home.

"For everyday its not open, people are dying," says Bennett.

Bridges says, "it really handicaps us in trying to get help for people that genuinely want it."

Even if the state doubled its resources currently allocated for substance abuse, she says the stigma behind the disease would continue to infect communities.

"That's all it comes down to is they label it as "those" people and its not "those" people anymore its "we." I mean its affecting everybody."

Bennett adds, "I'm a good person. I was brought up in a good Christian home and its not about how I was brought up. Its about what I chose to do later on in life. The choices I made. I was actually in my own little prison inside myself."

But now Bennett is coming forward, putting his face on a disease few understand. All in hopes of gaining the funding to unlock the doors to recovery.

Bridges says Briscoe is expected to phase back into operation over the coming months. Still, more needs to be done to address the issue of substance abuse facing the community.