Tammany Times: SAM expands programs to help addicts and their families

August 1, 2018 – Sharon Edwards 

When there is an addiction, the whole family needs to be treated, says Louis Bauer of the Substance Addiction Ministry in Slidell and Mandeville.

Since 2011, the faith-based model has offered help, healing and hope for those afflicted with or affected by addictions.

There is often a basic disconnect between addicts and their families, Bauer said.

Families may think that if an addict wants to quit, “all that is needed is a personal decision to change,” he said. But an addict can need anything from alcohol and drugs, to food and gambling, “like they need air, and they will do what they need to do to get it, without considering the consequences.”

Both the addict and the family may become isolated, trying to treat the problem themselves because of fear of being judged or treated differently.

“When they realize they can’t do it alone, it can be treated,” Bauer said.

To help them find the help they need, SAM is holding two community outreach programs.

The first, on Aug. 8, is an overview of Operation Angel, an initiative that lets addicts go to any parish law enforcement agency and ask for help — without fear of arrest. 

The second, on Sept. 25, is a community forum on the opiod crisis and a “one-stop shop” for prevention, treatment and recovery resources.  

“People can go table to table to talk to a live person” about resources for addiction, Bauer said. “Everyone will be in one place on one night, including representatives from sober living houses, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, NAMI and others bringing information about their services.”

Linda Hudson, coordinator for the St. Tammany Operation Angel program, and Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz will be the guest speaker at 7 p.m. Aug. 8 at St. Margaret Mary Church, 1050 Robert Blvd. in Slidell. 

Treating addiction as a disease, and not a crime, removes one of the many stigmas that the SAM hopes will encourage people to seek treatment.

From 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 25, “You’re Not Alone,” a community forum on opioid addiction, will be held at Mary Queen of Peace Parish Center, 1501 W. Causeway Approach in Mandeville. Doors open at 6 p.m. and speakers begin at 6:30 p.m. The forum is free to the public.

Bauer said the goal is to help the public understand the causes, signs and consequences of opioid abuse, and to provide resources for those in need.

Speakers will include A. Kennison Roy, medical director of the Dual Diagnosis Unit at River Oaks Hospital in Harahan and medical director of Addiction Recovery Resources in Metairie; Kevin Gardere, executive director of development at Bridge House/Grace House in New Orleans; and John Antonucci, a licensed addictions counselor who facilitates the Smart Recovery meeting in New Orleans.

The forum is offered in collaboration with the Counseling Solutions program of Catholic Charities. It is the third in a series of community education programs on the opioid crisis SAM will hold throughout the New Orleans area.

Bauer learned first hand about the pain of addiction while serving as chaplain for the past 12 years at what is now the Fountainebleau Treatment Center, the former Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville. But he learned about the suffering of the addict’s loved ones while ministering to families at his church, St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, where Bauer serves as a deacon.

The church is also where SAM began. It has spread to churches in six of the 10 deaneries in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, including Mary Queen of Peace in Mandeville.

Bauer remembers clearly the weekend he asked for a show of hands of how many people were “afflicted with or affected by addictions.” He said more than 80 percent of those in attendance at five different Masses that weekend raised their hands.

That was the catalyst for forming the SAM, based on a model developed in Palm Beach, Florida.The ministry has provided a safe place for people to find help and is an umbrella for many support groups such as a “ladies only NA group” as well as Nar-Anon and Al-Anon groups.

There is also spiritual support, Bauer said. The family may have given up on the addict, and there are often feelings of guilt, hurt and shame, he said. The ministry is where they have seen the healing of people and families begin.

“We saw the need and that we need to do more as a church to end this epidemic, what Pope Francis has called ‘the new slavery of addiction’,” he said. “I see the SAM ministry as one way that Jesus is fulfilling his word of setting people free and bringing good news to the poor in spirit that they are loved and that there is help and support for them, and that they are not forgotten.”

The SAM Group meets the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 7 p.m. at St. Margaret Mary and at Mary Queen of Peace on the fourth Tuesday of the month. For information, call Bauer at (985) 707-7261 or email [email protected]. For more information and links to resources, visit saintmmchurch.org/substance-adddiction-ministry-sam.

View the original New Orleans Advocate story.