As clients and staff of REACH Health Services, Darrell, Patrick, Rebecca, Karen, and Dr. Yngvild Olsen know about the efficacy of MAT in treating opioid use disorder. In this gallery of photographs by Phylicia Ghee, we share some of their story.
Patrick’s opioid use became a full-blown addiction without his even realizing it. He tried to quit on his own, but recovery in earnest did not begin for him until he started taking medications for his opioid use disorder as prescribed. He values the guidance of his doctors, continues taking medications for addiction treatment, and is thriving.
Patrick counts himself lucky, and credits the good medical and therapeutic care he has received over the years for his ongoing recovery. In this photo, he sits outside the Mount Royal Tavern, where a friend of his (portrayed in the black and white image beside him, a street art homage to his passing) died from an overdose. Patrick credits medications for addiction treatment for that fate not being his own.
As a young girl, Rebecca had much to run away from: an unsafe household, an emotionally and physically abusive environment. Misuse of substances became a natural part of her teen and adult years, ultimately leading to stints in prison and an opioid addiction. She tried unsuccessfully to stop using many times. Only a methadone program combined with other therapeutic supports allowed her to finally put her life in order.
Rebecca credits medications for addiction treatment (MAT) with saving her life, viewing her daily dose of methadone as no different from any other medication: it helps her stay well. She now lives a full life free of substance misuse—a life indistinguishable from that of anyone who not taking MAT.
Medications for addiction treatment (MAT) save lives, and restore lives. During her life, Rebecca has experienced much pain and felt much gratitude. Now that she is in recovery (thanks in large part to MAT), she has records her story in a personal chronicle.
Karen understands that her opioid use disorder is a disease like any other disease, and as such requires treatment as any other disease might. That is why she is a patient at REACH Health Services: to receive professional care, including medications for addiction treatment, for what ails her.
Wellness involves a holistic approach to healing, which is why Karen’s treatment for her opioid use disorder brings with it a full complement of medical and psychological health screenings and support. Here she is shown having her blood pressure taken as part of a regular visit to REACH Health Services for treatment.
Karen, who receives treatment for her opioid use disorder and other health conditions at REACH Health Services, is shown here consulting with Dr. Yngvild Olsen, Medical Director at the program. Dr. Olsen understands her patients will only begin to listen to what she has to say if she cares enough to listen to them as well.
Recovery work is compassion work, but not compassion work alone. Medical expertise combined with authentic valuing of each person’s distinct worth is what is required to increase the chances of successful recovery from substance use disorders.
As the Medical Director of REACH Health Services, Dr. Yngvild Olsen oversees interactions with over 700 patients each year. Anywhere from 300 to 400 individuals come daily to the program for methadone and other medications. Every patient sees a medical provider when they first come to treatment, and then afterwards as needed based on their overall medical and health condition.
Dr. Yngvild Olsen is responsible for all medical and clinical care at REACH Health Services, making sure the program provides the best quality of care possible. Dr. Olsen is also an active advocate for those affected by substance use disorders, pushing back as a public educator on the stigma surrounding addiction at every opportunity. She is committed to educating people on the efficacy of using medications for addiction treatment to treat opioid use disorder.
Under the leadership of Medical Director Dr. Yngvild Olsen, REACH Health Services is committed to serving patients in ways that work. For example, whereas once it was required that patients seeking treatment make appointments in advance, the program now offers walk-in services. “That’s not necessarily the standard, but it is the goal: treatment on demand, meeting people where they are,” says Dr. Olsen.
Dr. Yngvild Olsen has been the Medical Director at REACH Health Services for eight years, and has spent the past 15 years treating patients for addiction. As a young medical intern working on an Indian reservation, she saw the devastation resulting from addiction, and knew then she would need to learn more about the disease to become an effective doctor.
Addiction is a complex brain disease. Dr. Yngvild Olsen, the Medical Director at REACH Health Services, emphasizes that simple truth with patients and the public alike. Once the the ailment is understood as a disease, attitudes toward treatment for substance use disorder can become as free from judgment and misguided passion as any other disease.
Darrell is a Peer Recovery Specialist at REACH Health Services. The position allows him to support patients seeking treatment and in recovery, and model for those with substance use disorder how they might live well despite carrying the chronic disease, as he does.
Darrell began drinking at the age of five, and by the time he was a teenager was using cocaine and heroin. With the help of medications for addiction treatment (MAT), and after decades of substance misuse, he has now been in recovery for years. Were it not for MAT, he does not think he would be alive today.
Darrell experienced personally and has born witness to what evidence clearly shows: medications for addiction treatment (MAT) work. He regrets the stigma surrounding MAT, and fervently believes fellowship programs would be well-served were those leading and attending such groups better educated about MAT and its efficacy.