Walking through the halls of Daybreak Youth Services on Wednesday, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s presence was immediately noted.
Several teen girls looked on in awe of the small group getting a behind-the-scenes look at the adolescent recovery center, remarking how exciting visitors armed with cameras, notepads and blazers were.
Herrera Beutler took the impromptu opportunity to ask one of the female patients what she thinks of the Daybreak center.
The girl’s answer: She likes how much free time they have.
The Southwest Washington congresswoman from Battle Ground was on-site at the RWC Center for Adolescent Recovery to get a feel for how the center works, and possibly use that experience to advocate for additional substance abuse and mental health treatment funding in the future.
“We need more beds, quite frankly,” Herrera Beutler said. “There really are not enough options. The jails are not a good option. Hospitals, those are a short-term thing.”
Daybreak features 43 residential treatment beds, 12 mental health treatment beds and three beds reserved for detoxing clients. The facility, which opened in May, is the first of its kind in the Northwest. It also means local teens may not need to travel long distances for treatment — as long as beds are available.
Nick Shanmac, Daybreak’s director of marketing and outreach, said the boys’ side of the center has a waiting list, the girls’ side may have a bed or two available. Teens stay in the facility anywhere from 20 to 220 days to receive treatment for acute mental health issues, assistance with detox and outpatient substance abuse treatment.
Jacob Helms, 17, graduates this morning and heads back to Longview to continue his recovery. He plans to find a support group, go to a Narcotic Anonymous meeting and find a sponsor.
“I just really need to try something new,” Helms said. The skills he learned at Daybreak will help him stay clean and find success, he hopes, but he admits he’s nervous to leave and start fresh.
Herrera Beutler commended the teens on their hard work.
“Everything you’ve been through, someone’s going to get to benefit,” she said.
Ongoing research into substance abuse treatment and recovery is still changing the national approach to teens dealing with addiction and mental health issues.
“That’s one of the things I’m taking away from here,” Herrera Beutler added. “Probably 15 years ago, someone has a run-in and they get put in jail, versus recognizing the disease and saying how do we divert and make sure this person is getting treatment so they can enter recovery?”
Lawmakers still have a lot to learn, she said.
“There’s a lot of pieces where we’re learning with regard to substance abuse and mental health and how people overcome those things,” Herrera Beutler said. “We’re kind of on the back end. But we’ve been trying to push more money in this direction.”