River Region Program Honored; Substance-Abuse Plan Tailored for Women

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carter, Times-Union staff writer

A Jacksonville substance-abuse program tailored to women recently won a major award.

River Region's Women In Need program got the Florida Alcohol Drug Abuse Association award in Orlando. Minerva Bryant, River Region's vice president of clinical operations, accepted the award.

"The program is geared toward rectifying the disparities in substance-abuse treatment and to reduce drug-related HIV among African-American women and their children by providing gender and culturally specific risk-reduction activities," said Dan Murphy, a River Region spokesman.

Bryant said the program started in 1998 to target low-income women in downtown communities that were the most at risk for human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

She said the idea of the program was to provide the kind of educational and behavioral modification information that had been successful in reducing the rate of infection in gay men.

She said research was showing that many heterosexual women acquire AIDS through boyfriends, prostitution, drug use or trading sex for drugs.

"We knew these women were out there and vulnerable and we decided to come up with a specific program to target women and their children," she said. "They don't have to be HIV positive to get in the program, because we want to address the risks before it's too late."

Bryant said women involved in risky or criminal behavior "get into a vicious cycle that's hard to break."

"Even when they get treatment for drug addiction, they often relapse if they don't get some training and group support to learn to redirect their lifestyle," she said.

Since its inception, 336 women have enrolled in the Women In Need program. …