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The Up Center hopes to combat addiction crisis through new youth program

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Nov 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-01 22:50:05-05

NORFOLK, Va. – The Up Center is tackling the ongoing heroin and opioid addiction crisis head on. With the help of a $690,553 Department of Justice grant, the nonprofit will focus on helping kids 18 years old and younger.

“It’s still a major, critical problem when we have teenagers overdosing,” said Substance Use Disorder Program Manager Richelle Burney.

The Up Center will soon be expanding outpatient services for teens and their families struggling with substance use through a new program called New Visions.

Director of Program Operations Angela Bell said New Visions will be an extension of their current Substance Use Disorder Program.

“The goal of the program is to help participating youth increase opportunities for substance use abstinence, increase positive social activity and peer relationships, improve family relationships, decrease anti-social behavior and increase school attendance,” Bell said.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to new challenges in the opioid crisis.

Burney said the pandemic has caused some people struggling with addiction to become more isolated from treatment.

“We know that self-isolation creates all types of other issues like depression, so in several instances individuals have experienced relapse, folks that have been in long-term recovery,” she said. “We’re hoping that with this increase of services, we’ll be able to reduce some of the struggles folks are going through at this time.”

Experts said that isolation is likely leading to more opioid overdoses.

As researchers work to compile data on the pandemic’s effects, the Association of American Medical Colleges and national lab service Millennium Health recently found an uptick in illegal drug use and an 18% increase in suspected drug overdoses from March to May. After analyzing a half-million drug tests, results showed an increase of 32% in non-prescribed fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

The Up Center’s New Visions program will work to remove barriers to treatment and expand prevention and recovery efforts while providing other help to families.

“What we’re going to be able to do is wrap our arms around them and provide them with comprehensive services,” Burney said. “It won’t just be focusing on their needs from a clinical aspect, but it’ll be tangible things they may need like helping the parents to find employment, or food, other things they may not have access to.”

The new program will start up in a few weeks with the hope of combating the COVID-19 and addiction crises.

A total of $14,330,170 in Department of Justice grants have been awarded to organizations and communities to fight drug abuse and addiction in the Eastern District of Virginia. For a complete list of individual grant programs, award amounts and jurisdictions that will receive funding, click here.

Related: Opioid crisis persists during COVID-19 pandemic