ALTON - Centerstone has a wide variety of programs to help those struggling with mental health and substance use. The Preventing Youth Overdose: Treatment, Recovery, Education, Awareness & Training grant targets youth ages 10–25 who need extra support.

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Kristin Degler, LCPC, explained how the PYO:TREAT grant works and how it can help young people in the Riverbend community. Based out of Alton, Centerstone offers alternatives to punishment by instead promoting recovery and sobriety. With three main programs within the PYO:TREAT grant, there are a lot of options to help young people who are struggling with substance use.

“Everyone has what I call maladaptive coping skills, skills that we use that aren’t necessarily the healthiest for us, whether it be food, hanging out with the wrong people, substances,” Degler said. “No matter what it is, the program does educate on healthier ways to cope — healthier people to be around, healthier situations to put yourself in, not just substance-based.”

The PYO:TREAT grant offers early intervention education for those who have used substances a few times and need “more information, more education, more resources to be able to not go down that full path of addiction,” Degler explained. There are also two evidence-based practices, called Dimensions and MATRIX, that are used for people who have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

Dimensions focuses on tobacco/nicotine cessation. As vaping becomes more popular among young people, Degler said this is one of the most common referrals they receive, usually from schools.

“Addiction is real, right?” Degler said. “And vapes are unfortunately marketed toward the youth. I mean, it’s no coincidence they’re colorful, they’re small, they’re bright, they have specific flavors, they taste like candy or fruit or whatever it may be. So if someone is using a vape, they would qualify for one of our programs.”

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The MATRIX program is for alcohol and other substances. This 16-week program is “a little bit more intensive” and the most utilized of the three programs within the PYO:TREAT grant. The PYO:TREAT grant also offers medication-assisted treatment.

Some local schools have begun to partner with Centerstone. For example, instead of suspending students who are caught vaping, the school might refer them to the Dimensions program. Degler said this is a great alternative to punishment, which can breed mistrust and a lack of communication among young people and the adults in their lives.

“It’s usually the same kids getting caught, the same kids getting in trouble,” Degler explained. “They want to stop that pattern and stop that recurrence within their students, so they offer treatment as an alternative, which I think is so great because we know that punishment doesn't necessarily change behavior. So that’s something that we’ve been doing, trying to partner with our local schools to be that support system.”

In addition to clinicians, the PYO:TREAT program has a recovery specialist that can help participants “break down any barriers” to their recovery, from transportation and housing issues to connecting with a primary care provider. Centerstone hopes to help people manage all of the challenges that may affect their recovery.

Degler noted that Centerstone also focuses on mental health. She believes that substance use and mental health often correspond, and Centerstone makes a point to address the whole person, not just one facet of a person’s experience.

“It’s usually mental health and we’re self-medicating with a substance, and Centerstone embraces that. We’re embracing the fact that these things go hand in hand with each other, and we support both needs,” Degler said. “A lot of the treatment within the different levels of care and the different programs within our program focus on mental health and overall wellness as a way of decreasing substance use.”

Centerstone offers many other programs and resources for people throughout Illinois. If you or someone you know would be a good candidate for Centerstone’s services, you can visit RecoverWithUs.org to learn more. For more information about the PYO:TREAT program and how to be referred, email treat@centerstone.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

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