The Pace of Guidance: How Do I Recharge & Reconnect After a Natural Disaster?

As people receive the COVID-19 vaccination and cases across the country are in steady decline, daily life is looking more like before the pandemic hit in March of last year. But we know through research and experience that the mental health impact of natural disasters such as the pandemic long outlast the physical impact, and due to the longevity and intensity of COVID-19, experts say we may be dealing with the aftermath for years to come. In this episode of our podcast, Healing Choices: Conversations on Addiction & Recovery, Mel Taylor and Lori Fiester discuss how natural disasters affect us, and how we can help those struggling with substance use and other mental health disorders in the wake of COVID-19 and other disasters.

How Can We Fix Texas’ Mental Healthcare Crisis?

This blog post is co-authored by The Council on Recovery’s President & CEO Mel Taylor, MSW, and Executive Vice President Mary Beck, LMSW.

Substance use is a primary driver of readmission to the hospital and/or criminal justice systems.  If we addressed substance use disorders in conjunction with mental health disorders, the number of people in need of care would significantly decrease. Yet time and again, substance use is viewed as a secondary concern and not as a confounding disease affecting the majority of people with a mental health disorder.

As we read Alex Stuckey’s three-part series How Texas Fails the Mentally Ill, we were met with a mix of emotions. On the one hand, it is heartening to see a light being shined on this decades long travesty – a crisis that strips people of their dignity and basic human rights; that tells people they have to wait, homeless on the streets or in jail to get the care they desperately need. On the other hand, it is concerning to see the pronounced blind spot regarding co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders that exists among healthcare providers, behavioral health providers, policy makers, and the community at large.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, multiple national population surveys show that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa. And the coronavirus pandemic is only making matters worse. A recent study conducted by The Recovery Village asked 1,000 American adults about their use of drugs and alcohol in the past month, and 55 percent reported an increase in their alcohol consumption in the past month, with 18 percent reporting a significant increase. When asked what prompted their substance use, respondents cited stress, boredom, and an effort to cope with anxiety or depression.

At The Council on Recovery, we’ve watched this dynamic intensify over the past year, with more clients struggling with relapse, suicidal ideation, and overdose. So what can be done? First, we must acknowledge and embrace the fact that the mental health care system is in disarray, and if co-occurring substance use disorders continue to be discounted and dismissed, it is unlikely that outcomes will improve.

Beyond that, we know that we cannot overcome this crisis if fragmented policies and underfunding continues. Texas needs a comprehensive analysis and long-range plan for the entire system, led by behavioral health experts who equally represent substance use and mental health disorders. The plan must study leading-edge best practices for the treatment of co-occurring disorders. Most importantly, it must identify multiple financing options that incentivize public and private providers – as well as payers – to participate in the plan and to provide best practice care.

Last fall, The Council on Recovery launched The Center for Co-Occurring Disorders as just such an initiative.

This multi-partner Center will explore and document current best practices, conduct evaluation on models of care, and identify and advocate for financing options. Led by The Council, other partners include The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, Harris County Psychiatric Center, Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health, as well as a psychiatrist in private practice and community members with lived experience.

Over the last 75 years, The Council has witnessed the changes in the landscape of behavioral health care unfold in real time, along with the devastating consequences. In the wake of the pandemic, the oncoming tidal wave of mental health and substance use disorders will undoubtedly inflict even more suffering on the individuals trapped within our broken system.

But we can turn the tide.

Initiatives like The Center for Co-Occurring Disorders can help to educate the public, policy makers, and behavioral health professionals about the crisis in our mental health system. Together we can advocate for legislative priorities that support these efforts. Because doing nothing is not an option.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use or a co-occurring mental health disorder, contact The Council today. We offer telehealth services to all who need it, regardless of their ability to pay.

Join Us in Celebrating our 75th Anniversary & Mel Taylor’s Legacy

Upon reflection, the first ripple is always memorable. Perhaps it was a small wave, a tiny wrinkle that subtly disturbed the surface, growing wider nonetheless. Other times the ripple is rapid and dynamic … a disruptive momentum that may forever change all touched by the waves. In either instance, a ripple is potentially the most powerful catalyst at the start of a new story.

At The Council on Recovery, we know about the ripple effect, it’s how our story – our journey – began. But the story of The Council is not just ours. It is the story of millions of lives touched by our work, and how their recoveries have rippled out across time to make our world a better place.

We have long understood that every person’s challenge with addiction touches everyone and everything around them. This is why we are so deeply committed to helping every individual discover his or her power to harness the momentum of healing and positively impact others.

For 75 years, we have been a powerful center of hope, spreading waves of light across the dark and lonely landscape of addiction. From our humble beginnings with one phone and a single employee, we sought to reach out, to educate and serve. That focus has endured over the years and especially blossomed under the leadership of President and CEO Mel Taylor. Together, we have created models for treatment and collaboration that have become systems of care across the community. We have trained tens of thousands of professionals and strategically mapped our future to ensure longevity in the communities we serve.  

Join us Friday, April 22, 2021, from 12-1 pm for a special 75th anniversary celebration of The Council on Recovery to honor the work of our founders, board members, partners, staff, clients and our supporters. And help us celebrate the retirement of our President and CEO Mel Taylor and the 28 years of ripples he has created through his vision and servant leadership.

At The Council on Recovery, we have always believed that everyone has a contribution to make to the world. That’s why our work is so important and so powerful. Every life touched by The Council reaches out to another and another. The tide swells with every milestone, and together we are forging a better world.

To sponsor this special event, click here, or text COUNCIL75 to 41444. For questions on this event and sponsorships, contact Special Events at (281) 200-9336 or specialevents@councilonrecovery.org.

Helping Families Find North: A Speaker Series for the Age of COVID-19

This blog post is contributed by Mel Taylor, MSW, President & CEO of The Council on Recovery

The Council on Recovery, like many of Houston’s essential nonprofits, has had to re-imagine how we operate as a result of COVID-19. That includes taking the time re-examine our fundraising efforts, as we shift from live to virtual events. While there have been many questions and uncertainties, we have taken the opportunity to look at what is and isn’t working, what we can do to increase interest in the work of The Council, and how we can promote greater understanding of addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

For 36 years, The Council’s Luncheon Speaker Series has been our major fundraiser and friend-raiser, through which we have touched thousands of lives and raised thousands of vital dollars, allowing us to honor our pledge to turn no one away. The new COVID landscape has challenged this effort, so we went to work, boldly asking: what would we like to see in a new event as part of the Speaker Series? How can we increase our outreach? And how can we reach an even larger virtual audience that needs to hear our message?

The result was a painstaking examination of what The Council is and always has been in the face of crisis: leading, steady, reliable, and always here to help people find their way back to recovery from behavioral health disorders. Indeed, it is at the core of The Council’s mission to help anyone with an alcohol, drug or related issue.

We spent many hours re-thinking and re-imagining what was required to create a virtual event that would capture enthusiasm, create curiosity and educate the community. Now, we are proud to present a new look and new brand for the speaker series: Finding North. The concept of Finding North speaks to the heart of who The Council is: a trusted Houston institution, always here to help families find their way.

We remain most grateful to The Waggoners Foundation for their continued support in presenting the Speaker Series. With our new look and new ideas, we hope to increase those who can be helped from our efforts in honoring the life and memory of Jay Waggoner who died from alcoholism. Together with your help, we can help even more families find north out of the maze of addiction. We hope to “see” you on November as we introduce Finding North with our fabulous speaker Sugar Ray Leonard.

To learn more about our Speaker Series, or to become a sponsor for our first Finding North event, click here.

We’ve Been There: Blessings of Recovery

This September is Recovery Month, and to celebrate we are sharing inspiring stories from our incredible staff members in recovery. Here at The Council, we know that the road to recovery can be difficult, because we’ve been there. But we also know that recovery is worth it. To anyone who’s considering taking that first step, we want you to know that we are here to carefully listen without judgement, and provide the vital support and solutions you need to recover. This story is the first entry in a series especially for Recovery Month to celebrate recovery and to honor our amazing staff who share its gifts with so many others.

I am a woman in long term recovery, established December 3, 2001. My journey in recovery began after a 25-year addiction and the thankful interruption of the criminal justice system, which inadvertently saved my life. The most important thing for me in my recovery journey is being able to live and have purpose in my life, rather than existing in the darkness of addiction. Someone told me early in recovery that whatever you go through in life is a blessing or a lesson, and when you learn from the lesson, it too becomes a blessing. Hence, all of my life’s experiences are a blessing. 

My recovery evolved over time from a 90-day treatment program, to aftercare while simultaneously participating in a 12-step mutual aid group and living one day at a time. My recovery means everything to me. Without it, I could not have met the many goals and received the many blessings bestowed upon me. I am an advocate for the recovery movement and speak proudly of my experiential knowledge of addiction and recovery. During my 18+ years of recovery, I have overcome many obstacles and removed barriers for those wanting recovery from their substance use disorder. I love being a soldier for recovery on the battlefield, helping others become recovery soldiers and lifting up our fallen soldiers. There is hope after dope!

The Connection Between Substance Abuse & Suicide, with Dr. Sam Buser & Kimi Buser-Clancy

For Mental Health Awareness Month, we invited Dr. Sam Buser, psychologist for the Houston Fire Department, and his daughter Kimi Buser-Clancy, actor and activist, to our podcast to discuss the connection between substance abuse and suicide, and how we can reach out to others to prevent both during traumatic times.

For more enlightening conversations on mental health and substance use, listen to Healing Choices on our website and wherever you get your favorite podcasts. For more honest and open conversations on suicide in our society, visit Sam and Kimi’s podcast on suicide and prevention, Leaving the Valley.