Tobacco treatments boost DCCCA facilities

More than a month ago, Monica Wilson was at one of the lowest points of her life. She was using meth and marijuana and had recently lost custody of her 11-year-old daughter. Things only started to turn around when she got connected to DCCCA’s Women’s Recovery Center (WRC).

She’d been at the substance use treatment facility three years ago, but things were different this time. In group therapy, she learned about healthy lifestyles, the negative effects of tobacco and the high success rate of quitting both tobacco and illegal drugs at the same time.

After listening to the instructors, Wilson took advantage of enrolling in a separate group that focuses on attempting to quit smoking. Before she knew it, she was taking one of several nicotine replacement medications offered at the center and went from half-a-pack of cigarettes to an occasional one or two, and now none at all.

“After I did it, I felt free. I wasn’t enslaved to something. Something wasn’t calling my name,” Wilson said.

When she arrived three years ago, the center wasn’t addressing the client’s tobacco use – neither was the men’s treatment center, Options Adult Services. Smoking was used as a treat for clients.

But thanks to a $156,633 Kansas Health Foundation grant, Wichita DCCCA staff received tobacco treatment specialist training and both facilities started screening for tobacco use, teaching the “Breathe Easy, Live Well” curriculum, and offering education and nicotine replacements.

KHF’s Tobacco Treatment and Recovery in Behavioral Health Initiative supports efforts to reduce tobacco use by Kansans with mental health and/or addiction issues.

Donna Gorman, WRC’s clinical coordinator, said staff members were blown away by how well the clients responded.

Almost 1 in 3 new clients last quarter enrolled in the quit-attempt group. Around 62 percent of these women who utilized nicotine replacement therapy, and those before them, told staff they had more energy, money, could breathe better and didn’t notice how badly their clothes smelled when they were smoking.

Women who kept from smoking found their sense of smell and taste returned to their pre-smoking days as well.

Crystal Ornelas has gone one step further than educating and assisting the clients as a tobacco specialist at the center. She’s been helping her colleagues quit smoking too.

Willa Atkinson, who also works at the center, has tried to quit smoking twice in the 48 years she’s been a smoker.

“I don’t know that I was motivated. I don’t know that I really wanted to quit or really looked at the benefits of quitting,” Atkinson said, but all of that has changed with Ornelas’ coaching and encouragement.

Ornelas helped Atkinson think differently about quitting – to see it from a financial, health and overall wellness frame of mind. She also wants to see her 6-year-old granddaughter grow up.

While she’s in the beginning stages of her own nicotine replacement therapy, she believes with Ornelas’ help she’ll be able to successfully quit this time.

“I think it’s a good program,” Atkinson said. “I think the people that are working with the clients are, for lack of words, sold on it.”

The success of the grant has helped Gorman think about the center’s future after April 30, 2019, when the grant ends. She would like to include tobacco cessation in the center’s treatment plan, especially knowing that each year, more than three times as many Americans die from cigarette smoking than die from drugs and alcohol combined.*

“If we are really serious about talking about this as a wellness issue, and you look at the facts, most of our clients are not going to die from drug use, they’re going to die from tobacco use,” Gorman said.

Wilson has a few plans too. After getting a job of her own, she hopes to live in an Oxford House, or sober living environment, and finish college to fulfill her dream of being a chiropractor.

She was once told she wouldn’t be able to talk to her daughter for six months to three years. But, by working on her sobriety, she’s already been able to hear her daughter’s voice once a week.

When her life is a little more stable, Wilson expects to see her daughter again.

“It’s something I didn’t expect, and it makes my heart happy,” Wilson said smiling.

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*Statistics used from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes for Health (NIH) and National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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