Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Pat George: Combating Addiction for Half a Century

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Pat George: Combating Addiction for Half a Century

Article excerpt

In August 1967, Valley Hope leased its first building on the former Kansas State Hospital grounds a few miles east of Norton, a small community in northwest Kansas.

The vision put forward by Valley Hope's founders, physician Merlynn Colip and pastor Bob Adams, was simple yet almost unheard of for the times. They wanted to provide the best care and compassion possible to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.

From that unassuming start, Valley Hope has grown into a nonprofit organization with 16 residential and outpatient treatment centers in seven states, including Kansas centers in Atchison, Moundridge, Overland Park and Wichita. Since our founding, we have helped more than 300,000 individuals overcome addiction.

On Aug. 18-19, Valley Hope will celebrate its 50th anniversary. We call it a celebration because we want to recognize and honor the lives that have been saved and transformed for the better. We also understand that our work is far from over.

In 1967, addiction was considered a moral failing, which is why treatment -- mostly alcoholism back then -- was considered somewhat out of the mainstream. The thought was those who drank too much should simply have the willpower or desire to stop. Many alcoholics ended up in jail or confined to hospitals with limited hope of overcoming their addictions. Today, we understand it is much more complicated. We focus on the mind, body and spirit to treat addiction as a chronic disease -- one that can affect multiple generations of the same family, much like heart disease and cancer.

While alcoholism remains a critical issue, our communities face a new crisis from the growing opioid epidemic, including both prescription and illicit drugs. From 2007 to 2016, the number of patients admitted into Valley Hope treatment facilities for addiction to opioids more than doubled from 12 percent to 29 percent. The average age of these patients decreased from 34 to 29 years old. Even more troubling, in the 18-25 age range, patients battling opioid addiction dramatically increased from under 30 percent to more than 51 percent. …

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