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Northeastern Mental Health OK'd to treat substance abuse disorders

Aberdeen American News - 3/27/2018

March 27--An Aberdeen agency long known for providing mental health care is now accredited by the state for handling "substance use disorders."

That terminology isn't as familiar as addiction or substance abuse, but the change of wording is a good thing, said Leah Rath, clinical specialist at Northeastern Mental Health Center.

Substance use disorder essentially means the same thing as addiction, but the language was changed in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a handbook used to guide health care professionals, she said.

Rath hopes the change decreases the stigma often attached to addiction, and that substance use disorder becomes something looked at more openly -- like when somebody is diagnosed with diabetes or cancer or a depressive disorder.

She hopes that and the accreditation allow the Northeastern to help more people.

The accreditation means that the agency has access to more funding, which means passing no to little cost to some individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford care, Rath said.

Northeastern is already serving so many people in a local 10-county swath, it needed to expand.

In 2015, Northeastern decided to consolidate its Aberdeen services on Main Street. It also has three regional officers in Mobridge, Redfield and Webster.

Now, substance abuse services are also moving into the Blackstone Development building downtown at 14 S. Main St. The newly remodeled space increases the privacy of clients, allows room for group sessions and makes it possible to add more staff, if needed.

Northeastern is probably best known for its mental health services, for which it is also accredited.

"It was first and foremost a community mental health center," said Susan Kornder, executive director.

Now, the two services provided now go hand-in-hand, she said.

"I don't know how to describe it as other than as a beautiful marriage," Kornder said.

"The biggest shift is treating that whole person and the need to look at all pieces," Rath said. "It's not just about substance abuse. There's so much more."

While the wording has changed, addiction hasn't.

"Addiction is addiction. Nothing has changed over decades when it comes to what addiction is," Rath said.

The types of substance abuse disorders haven't changed much, either.

"Some of the stuff we're seeing isn't any different than it's always been. Methamphetamine has been around for decades. Cocaine has been around for decades. The opioids have been around for decades. That hasn't changed. It's just more public," Rath said.

While some patients link shame with a substance use disorder, that's not what keeps most from getting treatment.

"Change is uncomfortable in general. So when you're talking about taking away what has turned out to be someone's best friend, that's hard. There's a grieving process. When people are ready to tackle that, that's when they can really start to feel free again," Rath said.

Moving day for Rath and her colleague, clinical specialist Jim White, is set for mid-April.

"This location is just so ideal, downtown, centralized. It's very discreet because people come downtown for a number of things," she said.

Follow @vlusk_AAN on Twitter.

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(c)2018 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.)

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