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Never give up: ACT celebrates 50 years of overcoming substance use

ORMC's ACT is celebrating 50 years of overcoming substance use.

July 13, 2023
ACT team posing together in the hallway.

Remember the story of the little boy on the seashore throwing starfishes back into the water. With miles of beach and thousands of starfish, an observant older gentleman remarked that the boy simply couldn’t make a difference. Undaunted, the boy continued his work. As he tossed another seastar into the water, he smiled and said, “Well, I made a difference to that one.”

Now there’s a Part 2 to the beloved starfish story:

The next day, the turbulent tides brought in the exact same starfish. The once-saved sea creatures found themselves washed up and laid out to dry yet again. The boy wondered, “What difference will I make if they keep getting pushed back to shore?” Yet, the determined lad did not give up. The boy picked up a familiar sea star and heaved it toward the water. This time, the again-saved creature soared past the tumbling shallows and remained in the deep for good.

Justin Hatch added Part 2 of the starfish story after noticing many patients returning to the Alcohol and Chemical Treatment Center (ACT) within Ogden Regional Medical Center. Justin, who serves as ACT’s director, knows the importance of not giving up — for ACT patients and their providers.

“We know that in substance abuse it takes time to get to the long-term recovery stage. It’s a process,” Justin said. “We have patients who return multiple times. That’s ok. We won’t give up on people. We welcome our patients with open arms every time we care for them. We’re in this for the long haul.”

ACT Team posing outside of the ACT facility.

Long-term loyalty: ACT celebrates 50 years of treating substance use disorders

The ACT has proved its long-term loyalty. The treatment center began 50 years ago when the Sisters of Saint Benedict observed a community need and then took the lead.

“We want to help people on their journey to recovery. We want to help people overcome their substance use. That was the Sisters’ motivation back then, and it is our motivation now. Our mission and desire to help remains the same even though the methods have evolved, and the terminology is different,” Justin said.  

During its 50 years of service, ACT has replaced terms like “substance abuse,” “addicts,” and “alcoholics” with terms addressing the genetic disease that affects the way the brain is wired and the chemical reactions that take place. 

“There’s a misconception that substance use is a choice, and people are doing this to themselves. But people with substance use disorders have brains that tell them they need the substance so badly that if they don’t get it, they will die. Plus, between 60 and 80 percent of people with substance use disorders also have a mental health diagnosis. When we put mental health and substance use together, we have a chicken-and-the-egg scenario — we wonder which came first?” Justin explained. “As far as language goes, if I say, ‘I’m addicted,’ that sounds like I can’t change. It also doesn’t recognize my underlying conditions. So instead, we say, ‘people with substance use disorders’ and ‘people in long-term recovery of substance use.’ I think the way we talk about things really matters.”

Care options: Providing customized care and the power to choose

Just as words contain power, so do the compassionate-filled action plans for substance use disorder treatment. When patients arrive at the ACT, they learn about a variety of tailored treatment paths and have the power to choose which one will best help them.

Usually, each patient begins with three to four days in the ACT’s 12-bed detox unit. As initial withdrawals can be life-threatening, patients receive top-quality care from highly trained medical professionals during the detox period.

Patients may then choose to enter the residential program. The stand-alone residential facility resides on Ogden Regional Medical Center’s campus and opened 5 years ago. Here, patients stay for a month or more while learning vital coping skills to help them discontinue substance use long-term. The 24/7 controlled environment provides structure and safety.

Patients may instead choose the partial-hospital program, which offers the same treatment as the residential program except patients go home at night and then return to the facility in the morning. Sometimes patients jump directly to partial-hospital programs after detox, and other times patients receive care at the residential facility before stepping down to the partial-hospital program.

The next level of care is called the intensive out-patient program (IOP). In IOP, patients receive care three days a week for 3 hours at a time. While less intense than the ACT’s residential or partial-hospital programs, at 9 hours of therapy per week, these patients still receive more treatment than traditional out-patient programs.

Lastly, after-care programs and a robust alumni program help patients maintain long-term recovery through support and commodore.

“The longer people stay engaged in treatment, the greater success they have in recovery. So, we always encourage as much treatment as possible,” Justin said.

The future of ACT: Spreading the joy of recovery

When the ACT first opened its doors to Ogden community members, most patients needed treatment for alcohol use. Today, about 50 percent of patients seek treatment for alcohol use and the other 50 percent seek treatment for other substances (like opioids and benzodiazepines). Of course, as more and more substances become widespread and available, more people need treatment.

“Unfortunately, substance use is increasing and there will always be a need for treatment,” Justin said.

Though the sands seem covered with starfish who need saving, the hope and the work continues. In fact, the work of recovery is spreading at a steady speed, and ACT desires to expand its reach to help more people recover from substance use.

A few years ago, one of Ogden Regional’s sister hospitals, Mountain View Hospital in Payson, opened a detox program under the umbrella name of ACT. In July 2023, a satellite ACT detox program will open at Cache Valley Hospital in Logan. Plus, other hospitals in Ogden Regional’s parent company, HCA Healthcare, plan to learn from ACT and build their own programs.

“The ACT has been so successful here, and now it’s taking off and spreading to other areas and will make a difference all around the country,” Justin said.

One hospital at a time. One program at a time. And most importantly, one patient at a time.
ACT and the work of substance use recovery makes a difference for each and every one.

July 13, 2023
Ogden Regional Alcohol and Chemical Treatment Center (ACT)

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