This is the third in a series of articles about the rising opioid epidemic in the area.
ROCHELLE — News stories paint a similar picture of the opioid epidemic sweeping the country, from the staggering statistics to law enforcements’ efforts to curtail the issue.
While some only view from a distance, others see firsthand how it affects their loved ones, including one local resident.
Known as “Luanne’s” grandma, the Rochelle resident shared the heart-wrenching story of how heroin led her granddaughter down a path of destruction.
Below is a summary of the story:
Luanne grew up like so many other kids, involved in several activities including sports and poetry. During her senior year of high school, Luanne’s boyfriend died suddenly. Luanne’s grandma said it was “possibly of an overdose of drugs or suicide or both.”
“This leads me to believe she had become involved deeper in substance abuse as she gradually became more withdrawn in family gatherings,” said Luanne’s grandma.
At the age of 19 Luanne started culinary classes, pursuing her love of cooking. Not long after that, she began stealing from home and running away until being arrested and placed in a treatment center for substance abuse. This continued at least three more times.
“Each time she would return home, she would be back on the street in a couple of days,” Luanne’s grandma said. “I saw her the last time at Thanksgiving… she was quiet but seemed to really like being with us again. We thought perhaps this time she would make it. But she didn’t. It got really bad then.”
The story took an even darker turn for Luanne as she fell under the control of heroin and the world of prostitution. Many times being controlled by her pimp, Luanne tried to break free. One time her father found her unconscious and had to revive her. Another time a friend found her under a bridge. Luanne’s grandma remembers receiving a wonderful letter that seemed to be promising, and one of newfound love for Luanne.
“But getting that necessary high one more time inevitably lead to being arrested again. Her life was a living hell. Either she was out somewhere looking for the next fix, drugged up or in prison. She wrote me when she was in prison,” Luanne’s grandma said. “That is when I rediscovered a beautiful, loving, sensitive granddaughter who eventually found God’s love for her.”
Luanne endured solitary confinement, at times for three months. In the times to follow and after being released from jail, she went to meet with someone and never returned.
Luanne’s case, as many others related to opioid addiction, are like ripples in a pond impacting more than just the person with the addiction. Families are often left feeling hopeless as they try and intervene with the best of intentions to help.
Treatment methods can be successful but the first step in breaking the addiction is making a commitment to stop.
Stacie Kemp, Vice President/Chief Clinical Officer with Sinnissippi Center in Rochelle said typically those with opioid addictions need intensive services, such as an inpatient detox. Those patients are referred to several residential treatments centers including Rosecrance in Rockford, depending on where beds are available.
Once a patient completes a detox, they will need continuing support from family and friends. They will also need further treatment to prevent a relapse and help to build support systems and encourage healthy alternatives. That’s where places such as Sinnissippi help those on the road to recovery.
Kemp said during Sinnissippi’s last fiscal year (Jul. 1, 2016-June 30, 2017), the facility served 154 individuals with an opioid diagnosis. Of those, 60 were from Ogle County. Sinnissippi serves not only Ogle County, but also Carroll, Lee and Whiteside counties.
Kemp explained the process to enter Sinnissippi’s intensive outpatient treatment begins with an initial screening and is individualized. Most have already spent time in a residential center before coming to Sinnissippi for outpatient treatment.
“The person would see a therapist to assess the severity of addiction and level of treatment, and if they are appropriate for medication-assisted treatment to curb the cravings,” Kemp said. “Sometimes they are coming out of the jails or have sobriety under their belt already.”
In Sinnissippi’s intensive outpatient program, patients spend a minimum of nine hours a week where they will follow a recovery plan, learn how to prevent relapses, and develop recovery goals. This is followed with an aftercare program once a week.
Kemp discussed the relapse rate and said those involved in the legal system might be more inclined to stay on track.
“There is an 83 percent relapse rate in general, and it is typically a part of treatments regardless. We recognize it is in particularly high with opioids,” Kemp said. “If they are involved in the legal system, drug court, probation, DCFS, there is more motivation and there are more folks working with them to help.”
Kemp echoed what so many across the country have come to realize with addiction, is that it doesn’t discriminate and affects people of all backgrounds.
Sinnissippi has several resources for treatment centers in Chicago and the suburbs, along with Freeport, Rock Island, Bloomington and Peoria, and also has a crisis hotline to assist with resources available.