WILKES-BARRE — Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services is both a hub and a haven for those battling addiction in Luzerne and Wyoming counties.
Locations in Wilkes-Barre, Pittston and Berwick have been a “beacon light of hope,” for those who can’t put down the bottle, the needle or the dice.
As clients make their way into the quiet lobby of the Wilkes-Barre location, the relief is palatable. After addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling, there is hope.
That is the message that Executive Director Jason Harlen hopes to bring to those challenged by addiction. Hope is available and affordable.
“There are so many avenues of help available,” said Harlen. “Pick up the phone, write an email, reach out.”
The agency takes all insurances and can assist clients with accessing other funding.
Susan Mizenko, prevention supervisor, directs efforts to spread that message in the community, creatively, with a spirit of concern and commitment.
Her role is to oversee about eight prevention specialists, who provide services which include school-based programs, over 500 community-based programs and even tobacco-use prevention and education.
Those specialists can often be found at community events, sharing information on everything from identifying addiction in teenagers to abuse of substances among the elderly to the effects of spice.
Mizenko and Harlen credit the staff with working together to provide the best services for clients.
Communication and respect among staff members make the organization work, the two say.
Mizenko emphasizes that the organization seeks to meet members of the community “where they’re at.”
From toddler to older adults, the programs are crafted to meet the needs of those the organization serves.
“Some people have asked what we could possible offer to a pre-schooler,” she said. “We can begin by telling them to never put anything in their mouth unless they know what it is. We can teach them to never drink anything stored under the sink.”
Mizenko also reaches out to family members that also are affected by the addiction. The agency provides counseling for the entire family, who are often torn between trying to help the addict and wanting to avoid enabling them to continue in their addiction.
Professionals are on staff to address exactly such a challenge.
The program has not remained stagnant in its 42-year history. Instead, it has adapted to the needs of those it serves, adding such innovative programs as gambling counseling, a relapse-prevention program, prescription drug abuse program and “Stepping Stones,” a 72-hour partial hospitalization program.
Other specialty services include a weapons-deterrent program, military program, perinatal program and Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
If there is a addiction-related need within the area, the agency’s over 30 employees seek to meet it.
Not every client is a success in the short term.
But those who are able to recover remain grateful to the professionals who assisted them in their journey.
“I received a phone call from a former client who did everything he could to recover,” said Harlen. “He moved to Florida, started his own business and is very happy.”
Harlen and Mizenko stress the disease concept of addiction, pointing out that the disease affects neurotransmitters in the brain.
Each piece, they say, is important — attendance at recovery meetings, working with medical professionals, continued counseling and changing people, places and things.
Harlen knows he can’t help every addict and that not every addict is ready to be helped.
But, both he and Mizenko, know the staff and employees at the agency can make a marked difference in their clients, in their community, even in the crime rate — one day, one person at a time.
Both will be appearing on “Newsmakers,” with Jayne Ann Bugda and Andy Mehalshick at 6:30 a.m. on WYOU and at 11 a.m. on WBRE on Sunday.
Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons