The Intersections



  By Gretchen Rachel Hammond



 With the Opioid Crisis still climbing unbated towards a zenith of unknown heights, health and addiction recovery resources are at a premium particularly in Will County where Opioid-related deaths remain unchecked.

On March 15, the Illinois-based drug treatment facility Soft Landing Recovery opened its sixth location in the state—this one based in Joliet.

The organization, which is in the process of changing its name Symetria Health, will host an open house at 229 North Hammes Avenue on April 26.  

Free to the general public, the open house will demonstrate the comfort of the state-of-the-art facility, which has the capacity for up to 300 patients, while educating people on then Opioid epidemic and the services available to them.

Founded in 2007, Soft Landing Recovery offers outpatient treatment that “fills the gap that existed between the medical and behavioral communities” through “a cost effective and successful continuum that covers most stages of recovery from detoxification, medical management, continued care and relapse prevention.”

Samantha Berta, LCSW, CADC is the Joliet facility program director which aims to fill a massive gap.

The interior of the Joliet Soft Landings facility is pictured. Comfortable black leather armchairs surround a flatscreen television.  
“I was born and raised in Joliet and live here currently,” she said. “There’s nothing in Will County—no all-encompassing services like the ones we offer at Soft Landing.”

According to Berta, those treatment programs differ from most others because they are constructed around Evidence Based Practices (EBP)­ which, according to the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network (ATTC), are “interventions for which there is consistent scientific evidence demonstrating that desired outcomes are obtained.”

For Soft-Landing clients, that translates to every Opioid addiction tool under one roof including well-established wrap-around services for MAT (Medicated Assisted Treatment), physician guidance, and counseling support which, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, is customized to each individual.

“Somebody can walk in and see a psychiatrist, a counselor, go to a group therapy or support group session and receive medication dispensed on-site,” Berta site. “It means you don’t have to leave one place to go to another while feeling all the stigma brought on by these multiple trips. When people come in for treatment and they don’t have a lot of motivation, having more things for them to do means that they can be lost in the shuffle.”

For Berta, her arrival at the organization in late fall 2017, is part of a lifetime spent in social work and community mental health.
“I knew I just wanted to make a bigger difference,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to help people. I had my own childhood trauma and tragedy I had to overcome. I just want to help other people get through.”

Of the numerous theories that have been offered as to the explosion in Opioid use (from over-prescription to gateway drug use), Berta does not believe any one issue can be labeled as a cause.

“It’s hard to pin point exactly what caused this epidemic to reach its current status,” she said. “Over-prescribing and gateway drugs are a factor. I personally think there’s a lot of social pressure that plays a role.”

Within the LGBTQ population, addiction rates are significantly higher than that of the general population. While reasons include emotional trauma and depression due to discrimination, hate crimes and self-blame as well as the need for a method and, often, financial means of survival, treatment options outside of urban areas remain limited due to continuing stigmatization and lack of knowledge within the healthcare industry.
Berta asserted that Soft Landings is experienced with and open to anyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, anyone afraid of stigmatization should be reassured.

“All of our services are 100 percent confidential,” she said. “If someone calls our facility and asks if a person is receiving treatment, we will not speak to that. Even the outside of our building does not say ‘Soft Landing Recovery’ and our entrance is in the back of the building and private. We respect both a person’s privacy and their hesitancy to come to treatment.”

Success in breaking addiction varies from person-to-person.

“We at least want people to give the medication 90 days to work through their system,” Berta said. “It takes a lot of time to make behavior changes especially if someone has been using for several years. You have to make brain changes and get yourself to a different place mentally.”
However, as with any addiction, there must be a level of self-motivation.

“Somebody has to want treatment and do more than just receive medication,” Berta said. “They should want to participate in counseling and make changes within themselves.”

She added that a lack of insurance or personal financial means should not stop someone from seeking treatment.

“People have to be able to have access to our services,” she said. “We offer competitive cash rates on a case-by-case basis. So, we will talk to a person and find out what they are able to afford and we will make a scale that works with them.”

“The help starts here,” Berta added. “I know it can be scary and hard to make that initial step but, once someone is here, we will make them feel as comfortable as possible and really try and work through everything that’s going on in their lives.”