Susan Loughery, director of operations, left, and Adriana Torres-O’Connor, behavioral health service area director, stand in Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton’s new ambulatory detox clinic in Trenton. John Blaine photos

Susan Loughery, director of operations, left, and Adriana Torres-O’Connor, behavioral health service area director, stand in Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton’s new ambulatory detox clinic in Trenton. John Blaine photos

By Jennifer Mauro | Managing Editor

It can begin innocently enough: a pain that needs to be alleviated or a family habit planted subconsciously. But before long, and without intent, an addiction to drugs or alcohol has formed, leading to withdrawal from family, friends and activities once loved as isolation into a destructive lifestyle takes root.

“Very few people have a ‘Hallelujah’ moment where they realize they need to change their lives,” said Rich Glickstein, director of addictions recovery services for Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton.

But with the help of Catholic Charities’ new ambulatory detox clinic, perhaps they won’t have to.

Beginning in December, Catholic Charities will be offering level I and II withdrawal management from opioids, pain medications and alcohol through an outpatient detoxification and rehabilitation program located at North Clinton Avenue and Southard Street.

“We felt that this was mission-based and something we needed to take on,” said Susan Loughery, director of operations, explaining that the nearest ambulatory detox facility is more than an hour away.

Where a residential detox facility would include inpatient care, Catholic Charities’ level I and II ambulatory services will include an outpatient day program overseen by licensed on-site nurses, physicians and addiction and mental health practitioners. Open to the public, most clients will likely be referrals from hospital systems and be assessed upon arrival. Once medically cleared, clients will undergo a tapered detox program that could last anywhere from seven to 14 days. After the critical three to five days has passed, intensive clinical components such as evaluating social support systems and housing and employment status will be introduced.

Looking at a person’s entire profile helps in the recovery process, Catholic Charities staff said, which is one reason the agency has numerous services in place to treat clients as a whole.

“Ultimately, the physical withdrawal is a finite process with a clear beginning and clear end,” said Glickstein, a licensed professional counselor, while the psychological challenges continue for much longer.

The ambulatory detox clinic is the final component of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC), a federally sponsored initiative that integrates behavioral health with physical health care. The initiative, launched July 1, was made possible by a CCBHC grant awarded to only eight states.

“The addition of this new clinic, offering safe and cost-effective treatment for individuals seeking recovery from opioid and other substance dependence, is much needed,” said Marlene Laó-Collins, CCDOT executive director.

Glickstein agreed. “We’ve seen an increasing number of individuals who have developed a serious problem, especially with opiates. Working on attitudes and behavior that defines their addiction is a big part of the challenge.”

Developing stable support systems is essential, he said.

“Oftentimes, because of the guilt and shame [of addiction], people start to withdraw from individuals who were part of their world,” he said, explaining that those struggling with addiction isolate themselves with others who are practicing similar destructive behavior. 

“Unfortunately, the reality is that by the time they come in for treatment, the family relationship has been damaged and supportive relationships have fallen by the wayside,” he said.

Where Catholic Charities can help, Glickstein said, is in equipping clients with an ongoing care plan, including access to in-house services such as mental health and family counselors, medications and healthcare, as well as linking them to other groups such as Nar-Anon and Al-Anon.

Key, he said, is “helping folks realize the need for external support and expressing emotions in a helpful way.”

“People do recover and rebuild their lives,” he said, “but the idea that they can go back to social using? That’s a fantasy many people have and a setup to going back to old norms.”

When it comes to prescription drug abuse, Glickstein said it is essential to look at alternatives to pain management. 

“The goal of being pain-free may be unrealistic,” he said. “It’s about learning how to manage that pain and life. It’s about a what you can do, not what you can’t do [mentality]. Failure to lay that foundation leads to a less-than-optimal outcome.”

The ambulatory detox clinic will be open weekdays and weekends; to access or learn more about detox services, the agency’s Access, Help and Information staff are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 800-360-7711.

Adriana Torres-O’Connor, behavioral health service area director for Catholic Charities, advises prospective clients to call the phone line to set up an appointment for a thorough professional assessment.

In addition, though families looking for more information can contact Catholic Charities, she offers some cautionary advice: “If individuals are not ready to make the call themselves, they are typically not ready to get help.”

All agree, however, that the ambulatory detox center will be a boon to the Trenton area and nearby communities as the facility begins to take on clients in December.  

“The more help that’s out there, the better,” Torres-O’Connor said.