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September educates about drug, alcohol recovery
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Many people associate September with Labor Day, but it is also National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

Although some people may not be aware of this awareness month, it has been around since 1989 and is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

According to the center’s staff, the goal of the annual observance is to "educate the public on substance abuse as a national health crisis, provide a platform to celebrate people in recovery and to encourage citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective substance abuse treatment to those in need."

According to local treatment providers, substance abuse affects all demographics.

"It really covers the spectrum. The youngest person that we have now is 18, and the oldest is 62," said Jon Hollifield, treatment director for Agora House, a Gainesville-based treatment center. "And we offer services for both men and women."

Although the facility offers treatments services year-round, Hollifield says that there are certain triggers that spark increased interest in services.

"Typically, right at the first of the year — January and February — we get extremely busy," Hollifield said. "We also see an influx of activity after the major holidays and towards the end of summer."

Different treatment programs offer different approaches to assisting people struggling with substance abuse issues.

At Agora House, the focus is on personal responsibility.

"As a part of treatment, we require participants to obtain employment. Typically, they aren’t used to getting up and going to work every day and paying for things; so requiring them to get a job helps them to build life skills that are necessary to acquire independence," Hollifield said.

"Working also gets them out of the house and gives them something to fill that void time. If they aren’t working, they tend to spend a lot of time inside their head and that compounds the problem. Working gives them something productive to do with their time."

Other treatment programs try to help those who are struggling with substance abuse to turn to a higher power to fight addiction.

"We offer a spiritual-based recovery program; we recognize who God is. We also offer abuse recovery and anger management programs, but they are all also biblically based," said Jeffrey Smith, who volunteers with several recovery programs sponsored by the Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation of Gainesville. "We try to give (those in recovery) skills to help them change their lives and to build them up spiritually."

The goal of the foundation is to "rebuild the community and rebuild the environment." In addition to programs geared toward veterans and youth, the center also offers several different recovery programs.

"Each week, a spiritually based 12-step program is held at C.C. Cloud Youth Center on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and it is open to the public," said Michelle Lowe-Mintz, a foundation staff member.

"We also lead 12-step classes at Hall County Detention Center and provide referrals and coordinate placement for treatment facilities. We assist people struggling to overcome additions as they maneuver through the court systems and connect them with resources to rebuild their lives."

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