New rehab program up and running

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Thanks to a $150,000 alcohol and detoxification treatment program grant from the New Mexico Department of Finance, residents of Socorro County with substance abuse and addiction issues have a new place to seek help.

In September, the Socorro County DWI and Misdemeanor Compliance Office began offering a free in-house outpatient treatment program run by Charlene Alfero.

Although the majority of people in the program are referred by the courts as a condition of their sentencing for DWI and domestic violence convictions, Alfero said she accepts self-referrals as well, from anyone who wants help.

“We’re not turning anyone away,” Alfero told members of the Socorro County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force Monday.

The program opened its doors Sept. 7, and has 20 participants, with five more slated to begin treatment this week.

Three levels of treatment are available, based on the courts’ recommendations, an initial screening and an in-depth interview with Alfero.

Level 1 treatment is a six-week program, and makes use of educational CDs, DVDs and other materials from programs such as “Who’s Driving?” and “Make This Your Last One.”

Level 2 uses some of the same tools, Alfero said, but lasts for 12 weeks. It incorporates motivational interviewing strategies developed specifically for substance abuse professionals.

In both Level 1 and 2, clients meet with Alfero, one-on-one and in group, for two hours per week.

Level 3 is a whole different ball game. It’s an intensive outpatient program lasting up to 10 weeks that requires participants to attend nine hours of group sessions per week — three hours each Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening — as well as one hour of individual counseling per week with Alfero.

“All of these levels are open enrollment, so people are floating in and out of group all the time,” Alfero said. “As new people come in, we review and it helps create a peer support system.”

To make it as easy as possible for clients to attend the program, the DWI Compliance Office can provide rides to and from the meetings.

Alfero said clients are also encouraged to begin attending Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.

“The goal is to move them out of the in-house outpatient program and into support groups,” she said.

However, she and case worker Duane Baker are looking into setting up an alternative to the 12-step program model in Socorro, based on a trademarked program called SMART Recovery, where SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training.

“SMART Recovery is for anyone who wants to change any behavior, not just addiction,” Alfero said.

On Jan. 2, Alfero will extend the program to inmates at the Socorro County Detention Center who are incarcerated for at least six weeks and who make the commitment to enter the in-house program after their release. For the inmates, Alfero will conduct a two-hour group meeting once per week, using strategies developed by author and speaker Terence Gorski, specifically directed at “changing criminal behavior.”

The program in the jail will be limited to 10 participants. The outpatient program can serve as many as 20 in all three levels, and she’s currently working with eight in Level 3.

Alfero said she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and is licensed by the state to provide drug and alcohol counseling. Her experience includes five years working at Socorro Mental Health, and she said she continues to have a strong, collaborative relationship with SMH.

Assistant District Attorney and task force facilitator Keith Valles asked Alfero what kind of help she needs from the community to make the program successful.

“More support for my clients who are in recovery,” she said.

Alfero explained that to be greeted and treated as equals means a lot to people who are accustomed to being looked at and handled as offenders.

Valles asked about preventing relapse.

“It’s all part of the program,” Alfero said. “Part of it is learning to recognize family patterns and cope with toxic family members. The largest amount of relapse happens after people have been in recovery for a year.”

The DWI in-house program is the only local agency to receive the detox funds this year, but it’s not the only treatment option.

Socorro Mental Health offers a weekly substance abuse class, and provides outpatient treatment to people covered by private or public insurance. Terra Luna Counseling also offers outpatient rehab services, mainly to clients at Alamo and through Drug Court, Alfero said.

Other outpatient and inpatient programs are available outside Socorro County, however most aren’t free and have long waiting lists.

The need for an intensive, local outpatient program has long been a concern of the DWI and Misdemeanor Compliance Office, which serves about 320 clients, and Alfero’s program hopes to serve that need. The detox funding is granted for a one-year period and must be reapplied for every year.

 


-- Email the author at sbarteau@dchieftain.com.

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