Addict's mom says more services are needed

Drug treatment, counseling facilities can't keep up

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

Steven Joy's biological mom, Elaine Joy, describes the 25-year-old as incredibly smart and artistic. But, when he got into drugs, his talents went down the toilet.

"I know (heroin) is hitting kids in the high school level," she said. "It's horrible what it's done to our kids."

According to Daybreak Youth Services, 4 percent of teens admitted in 2008 for inpatient drug rehabilitation services in Clark County reported using heroin. By summer of 2012, that number spiked to 15 percent.

There aren't enough treatment facilities that have the room or expertise to deal with heroin addicts, Elaine said, adding that the area needs a place with longer in-patient services. It can take a couple of weeks to get into Lifeline Connections, a local detox center. Steven has been to Lifeline twice, but told his mother the facility just baby-sat him for five days before cutting him loose. He's racking up medical bills and court documents say he has no money to pay for them.

Elaine's daughter, Kaitlyn, 22, is on the mend from heroin addiction. She started using the summer after her senior year of high school, when she was 18. Over two years, she pawned valuables, scrapped metal and worked odd jobs to help pay for drugs.

On July 4, 2011, Kaitlyn drove home with no drugs and no money, looking to get clean. As others enjoyed fireworks and barbecued food, she spent the holiday vomiting and screaming from the pain of withdrawal.

Elaine was frantic, unable to help her daughter, who started banging her head on the window to knock herself out.

"She got so loud from the screaming and crying and going through the withdrawal that neighbors called police," Elaine said.

The next day, Kaitlyn entered Sunnybrook Addiction Medicine in Portland, where she stayed for a month. She continued with counseling, taking in all the advice she could, and says she's been clean for about two years. She starts an addiction therapy program at Clark College in the fall and looks to become a drug counselor.

Without Kaiser Permanente medical insurance provided by Kaitlyn's father, the recovery service would have cost roughly $30,000. Insurance doesn't cover Steven, whose future remains uncertain. Elaine hopes to get her son in Substance Abuse Court, a specialty program that focuses on sobriety, recovery and stability through a combination of counseling and court.

Elaine grew up in the 1960s with a father in law enforcement who would share horror stories about kids on heroin. She thought the drug had gone out of fashion.

Now that it's back with a vengeance and that many addicts, like her son, are in their mid-20s, Elaine would like to see the drug get under control through education and added recovery facilities.