HAMSA — A Jewish Lifeline for Substance Abuse
By Leslie Lubell, HAMSA Program Manager, JF&CS
Every day, clients and their loved ones come to us at HAMSA because they are struggling so deeply with drugs and alcohol that they don’t see a way out. We help them see that there is a way out – and that we can help. We offer a Jewish response to addiction.
This was how the story began for Barbara* and her son, David*. Barbara was shocked when her adult son revealed that he had become addicted to opiate painkillers which had led him to using heroin. He had a graduate degree and a thriving career, a relationship with a significant other, and a close bond with his family. He had attended good schools, and the family was actively involved in their synagogue. Barbara just couldn’t understand how this was possible. Sure, he had seemed a little “off” lately, but Barbara attributed it to the depression and anxiety he had struggled with his whole life, and which seemed to run in their family.
Never could she have imagined that her son was using heroin daily, he didn’t fit the image she had in her mind of an “addict.” But he was addicted and realized he couldn’t stop on his own. Feeling helpless and not knowing the first thing about SUD (substance use disorder) treatment, Barbara remembered the HAMSA ad in her synagogue bulletin and gave us a call.
HAMSA was able to help her navigate every step of the process for her son, starting with getting him on the phone so he could engage in his own recovery. We completed an intake interview to help determine David’s level of care, financial resources, and the type of program that would work best for him. We made direct referrals to coordinators at treatment centers that fit his specific needs so he and his family could determine what felt right. David chose a residential program that offered detox, and an outstanding clinical team, where he could utilize his in-network benefits, engage in a family program, and become active in a peer recovery support group. HAMSA had previously worked with this program to deliver our Jewish Sensitivity Training — it’s how we increase cultural competency of clinical staff so that they are equipped to meet the needs of their Jewish clients. This gave David and his family an extra level of comfort, knowing that his Jewish identity would be honored and respected.
Following David’s time in treatment, we collaborated with his case manager to coordinate aftercare including sober living (what was once called a “halfway house”) and outpatient counseling. We helped his parents find much-needed family support for themselves; making sure they had Narcan (opioid overdose antidote nasal spray) and taught them how to look for the signs of overdose in case David relapsed.
We’re happy to say that, while it’s important to be prepared, Barbara hasn’t needed it — and David now has almost five months in recovery from heroin addiction. We’re truly hopeful for his future, and so proud of the progress he’s made.
Sometimes clients reach out to us in a state of desperation, often times not even knowing how we’ll be able to help them – but grasping for any sliver of hope that they can find. We are so grateful to be able to give these individuals and their families so much more than a sliver, but to push the door to hope wide open so they can walk through it and begin their journey to recovery.
Recovery is hard. No one can do it alone. HAMSA is here to help. To learn more, visit www.hamsahelps.org or call 1-833-HAMSA-HELPS (1-833-426-7243).”
*Names changed to protect anonymity.