Celeste Roell, Health Guardians’ LCSW, recently attended the Health Care for the Homeless conference in Washington D.C. with staff from New Orleans Health Care for the Homeless (HCH). They presented their Medication Assisted Treatment program (MAT) which is for individuals struggling to stop using substances like cigarettes, alcohol, heroin and/or other opioids. HCH and Celeste work directly with these patients daily, offering buprenorphine and substance abuse treatment. Celeste provides therapeutic services, substance abuse counseling, referrals, and addresses any obstacles her clients may be experiencing.
In 2018, Health Care for the Homeless started a MAT program focused on clients struggling with opioid addiction. Our Health Guardians program has collaborated with HCH and enrolled clients to gain knowledge on how to maintain their sobriety and focus on other life factors such as overall health. These clients learn more about their physical well-being and move through necessary steps to ensure better physical and mental health.
The results have been life-altering with most clients reporting little to no cravings for opioids. Addiction can feel like a full time job, and many people spend their whole day making sure they have enough substances to avoid withdrawal and maintain a lifestyle. Most of our clients report, though, that they are tired of spending their whole life worrying about drugs and making sure they have what they need to get through the day because it prevents them from tending to other basic needs like housing, medical care, or even safety. Once a person establishes a routine in the MAT program, they then have the capacity to enjoy life and address other needs. Many clients also stop using other illegal substances, work diligently on housing stability, and find employment opportunities.
One particular client, “Dave,” found himself homeless, jobless, and isolated because of opioid use. He was not allowed to take part in his child’s life because of years of substance abuse, and he lost his job because he was unable to function without being under the influence. Eventually, Dave found himself homeless and sleeping under a bridge. After struggling for some time, he heard about MAT from other individuals experiencing homelessness and decided to enroll in the program. Dave has not used opioids in over a year and is now in a homeless shelter working with a full time job. He has been allowed to meet with his child again and looks forward to being more involved in his child’s life. His goal is to move into his own apartment soon.
Our Health Guardians staff works to learn new ways to better empower their patients to make drastic changes in their lives. Their mission is to join others in fighting the opioid crisis one patient at a time, one day at a time. CCANO is honored to be a part of the beginning stages of this transformational program to provide services to this incredible population.