Magazine article Addiction Professional

A Warm Embrace for Opiate Addicts

Magazine article Addiction Professional

A Warm Embrace for Opiate Addicts

Article excerpt

Alice Diorio credits methadone with saving her life. As the coexecutive director of the Opiate Dependence Resource Center (ODRC) in Brattleboro, Vermont, Diorio now tries to help others trying to recover from opiate addiction in finding the resources needed for the task.

Operating on a shoestring budget of $65,000 per year, ODRC manages to cover all of Vermont except for Burlington, although it still sees some people in the state's largest city as well. "We take everyone that no one else wants to deal with," says Diorio.

Diorio once was one of those struggling individuals. Born in tony Greenwich, Connecticut, she was a "Randolph" whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower. Her parents were alcoholics, and she started using marijuana by her early teens. At 16, she was admitted to a New York hospital for marijuana use and started using heroin, which became her drug of choice.

Although Diorio managed stretches of sobriety, including the period during which she gave birth to her son, she struggled with addiction until she started receiving methadone. "Methadone and the people who loved me unconditionally and helped me see what a good person I was really saved my life," she says.

When Diorio began advocacy work for others, Vermont by law did not allow methadone treatment. "I was on a community planning group for HIV prevention, representing the injection drug-using community. I said, 'There's no treatment up here if you want people to be able to maintain positive behavior change so they don't get HIV.'"

Advocates first were able to get a law passed allowing syringe exchange, and finally a law allowing methadone treatment. Around this time, Diorio and codirector Mark Beresky formed ODRC (www.medication-assistedrecovery.org).

Promoting healing

Diorio estimates that 95% of the work ODRC does is free. "It's very difficult to get funding," she says. She bristles at having to "clean up" after better-funded entities.

"There's not enough focus on the healing process--it's not just treatment and then recovery, it's trying to help the whole person," she says. "It's creating a trusting and safe environment, making people feel worthwhile. A lot of addicts have never been loved unconditionally. …

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