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CDC Warns Doctors About Risk of Opioid Painkillers

For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come out against doctors prescribing highly addictive opioid painkillers, The Washington Post's Karoun Demirjian and Lenny Bernstein report.

The nonbinding guidelines from the federal government recommend that doctors prescribe alternative courses of treatment before resorting to opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain. The guidelines have been developed in light of the national public health crisis of addiction to heroin and narcotic painkillers.

The CDC estimates that almost 28,700 people died from overdoes from prescription opiods and heroin in 2014, The Post reports.

Family will share Laura Elliott-Engel’s ‘wonderful life’ through tribute

On a personal note, I'd like to share news of an event my family has organized in honor of our mother, Laura Elliott-Engel. I was always so proud of Mom for getting sober at the age of 28 and then spending the rest of her career helping people recover from addictions herself. We are holding a showing of It's A Wonderful Life in the Olean, New York, community where she was the executive director of the Council on Addiction Recovery Services for 13 years. Mom always said that movie's message of redemption helped save her life when she was still drinking.

This is the full text of the article that the local paper ran about the event:

Laura Elliott-Engel loved the message from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” so much that she often told her family that it likely saved her life.

Elliott-Engel’s love of the classic film inspired her children to name an upcoming holiday tribute to their late mother, “It’s A Wonderful Life: Remarks and a Film Showing in Honor of Laura Elliott-Engel.”

The public event, slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, will be held in Jamestown Community College’s CUTCO Theater at 305 N. Barry St. The event is free, but optional donations will be accepted in support of the Council on Addiction Recovery Services (CAReS), Inc., which provides counseling, intervention and prevention services in Cattaraugus County. Remarks and a film clip about about Elliott-Engel will begin at 6:40 p.m., followed by the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Elliott-Engel, who died in early November after a brief battle with cancer, was best known in the community as executive director of CAReS from 2002 to 2015. During her tenure with CAReS, Elliott-Engel expanded the agency in the county by adding offices in Machias and Gowanda. The agency also increased its homeless housing to include the Solutions to End Homelessness Program with jail-based services. Additionally, CAReS worked to improve the community’s health through Cattaraugus County’s Healthy Livable Communities Consortium.

Elliott-Engel was named a Woman of Distinction for 2002 by the New York State Senate for her contributions to society. She also received the 2009 Good News Award from the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce.

Her daughter, Amaris Elliott-Engel, and her brother Jeremy, arranged the tribute, as their mother’s funeral services were held in her home community of Rochester. Since their mother spent so much of her professional life in Olean helping people in recovery, they wanted to share a celebration of her life with the community.

Amaris Elliott-Engel said her mother was the face of addiction recovery, as she had just celebrated 40 years of sobriety from alcoholism in June.

“The video we’re going to show of her is an interview when she talked about her experience about being in recovery,” Amaris Elliott- Engel said. “She talked about her sobriety and she didn’t keep it a secret, but I talked about it more than she did.”

She said her mother was her hero because of her candidness with her and others about the disease.

“Her alcoholism was so bad that when she was 28, she almost drank herself to death,” her daughter shared. “She came back from that and went on to have this career where she helped so many other people.”

When Laura Elliott-Engel was in the throes of alcoholism she believed “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the holiday classic’s message of hope and redemption saved her life.

“The message of that movie helped her to get sober,” Amaris Elliott-Engel added. “That’s why we want to show it — and she loved watching it every holiday season.”

Laura Elliott-Engel (1/25/47—11/2/2015)

Submitted by Amaris Elliott-Engel on Tue, 11/03/2015 - 14:17

Laura Elliott-Engel (1/25/47—11/2/2015)

My mother took the next step on her spiritual journey Monday morning, passing away at 3:15 a.m. after a diagnosis with late-stage cancer a brief 32 days ago. My brother, Jeremy Elliott-Engel, husband, Jason Rearick, and I were with her, holding her hands as she passed. As we returned to Mom’s home on a valley hillside after she passed, the sun was rising, mist was gathered on the valley floor and light glimmered on the lake below us. All that light was the love she had for us and the world and the love we and the world still have for her.

Laura Elliott-Engel spent her life taking away the shame for people who have addictions.

Laura herself was the face of recovery because she celebrated 40 years of sobriety from alcoholism in June 2015. Not only did Laura get sober, but she turned her struggle with addiction into a career in helping people beat their own addictions. She helped many, many people get sober themselves as a counselor, as a longtime participant in Alcoholics Anonymous and as one of New York State’s leading recovery advocates.

Laura graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with high honors in 1981 with a Bachelors in Science in Social Work. Her first job as an alcoholism counselor was at the Livingston Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Inc. (LCASA)—where she was recruited—in part because of her own recovery—to work with chemically dependent women isolated in the rural countryside. At LCASA, Laura also developed specialized counseling for couples, families and people who were convicted of multiple DWIs. Laura became the executive director of LCASA in 1991 and served as the organization’s leader until 2002.

Laura earned her Masters of Arts in Theology/Pastoral Counseling from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1994. Her Masters thesis was on Grace and Responsibility: Healing of Chemically Dependent Sexually Abused Women.

Then from 2002 to 2015, Laura went on to serve as executive director of Council on Addiction Recovery Services, Inc. (CAReS), which provides counseling, intervention and prevention services to the Cattaraugus County community. The organization expanded its footprint in the county by adding offices in Machias and Gowanda, expanded its homeless housing efforts to include the Solutions to End Homelessness Program with jail-based services, and improving the health of the local community through the Cattaraugus County’s Healthy Livable Communities Consortium.

Laura was active in New York State public policy about recovery from addictions. She was a member of the Council on Addictions of New York State (CANYS) and the Finger Lakes Consortium on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. Laura also was a founding member of Friends of Recovery New York (FOR-NY), a statewide coalition giving a voice to people in recovery from addiction, their families and allies. She served as the group’s president—and essentially as the group’s executive director—from 2009 until shortly before her death. In seven years, the organization grew from an all-volunteer organization to hiring five full-time staff and growing its budget to almost a half million dollars.

Laura was a credentialed counselor for alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling addictions and mental health. Laura also was a certified trainer for recovery coaches who work with people with addictions or in recovery from addiction.

Laura was named a Woman of Distinction for 2002 by the New York State Senate for her contributions to society, and she received the 2009 Good News Award from the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce.

In her youth, Laura was active in the civil rights movement, including as a participant in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and participating in civil rights marches.

Laura was born in Rochester, New York, and at various times in her life also lived in Michigan, Springwater, New York, and Cuba, New York. She is predeceased by her parents, Hugh Elliott and Dorothy (Bush) Elliott, and her former father-in-law, Adam Engel. She is survived by her sisters, Carolyn Peevey, of Greece, N.Y., Ruth Wells, of Rochester, N.Y., and Sharon Elliott, of Rochester, N.Y., as well as nieces and nephews, Sandra Weagley, William Rivera, Cindy Ingerick, Hugh Gaspar, Tim Gaspar, Johnie Peevey, Joanne “Wendy” Cymerman, Ryan Reigelsperger and Jill Reid. She also is survived by several great-nieces and great-nephews, cousins, the father of her children and ex-husband, James P. Engel, former mother-in-law Elizabeth (Didas) Engel and dear friends and colleagues.

Join family and friends for a Celebration of Life on Saturday, November 7, 2015, at the Samuel Colgate Memorial Chapel at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, 1100 South Goodman Street, Rochester, New York 14620. Guests will be welcomed at 9:30 a.m. with the ceremony to follow shortly thereafter and to be concluded by 11 a.m. A Reception/Calling Hours will be held from 12 p.m.-3 p.m. at 1872 Cafe, 431 W. Main St., Rochester, NY. Her ashes will be interred at a later date at White Haven Cemetery, Pittsford, New York. An event in honor of Laura will be held in Olean, NY, sometime this winter.

Condolences can be sent to 9256 Health Camp Road, Cuba, NY 14727. Contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to Friends of Recovery-New York, 1529 Western Avenue, Albany, NY  12203, for a living memorial to advance Laura Ellliott-Engel’s life’s work in addiction recovery. Contributions in lieu of flowers also can be made to Council on Addiction Recovery Services, Inc. (CAReS), P.O. Box 567, 201 S. Union St., Olean, NY 14760.

Final Rule On Mental Health Parity Hits the Books

NPR's Michelle Andrews did an interview with Jennifer Mathis of Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law on the final rule from the federal government to enforce parity in health insurance coverage between physical health and mental health.

A couple interesting nuggets:

One- Since interim parity regulations came out, only a small percentage of plans have dropped mental health or substance use coverage.

Two- The final rules make clear in a way that the interim rules didn't that "intermediate-level mental health services, including residential treatment and intensive outpatient services," have to be covered in parity.

New York's Sober Homes Are Unsafe--And Even Deadly

New York's rental market is absurdly expensive and it seems to be having an impact on sober homes for people to get treatment, including those coming back into society after being jailed.

According to The Crime Report, Suffolk County sought to pay $500 per resident for sober homes (which is $300 more than the state pays per resident), but one operator told the county that  "'[f]ive hundred dollars is not going to cut it,' [Rosemary] Dehlow [chief program officer for Community Housing Innovations] said. 'Everything in this RFQ I believe in. You want solid housing; you want restrictions on certain things; you want to make sure they're clean.' But, Dehlow said, the legislation and the RFQ ignore the underlying void that sober homes have come to fill." She said that sober homes have 20 people in a house because it's affordable.

TCR, a publication affiliated with John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and ProPublica have been reporting on people who have died while living in sober homes. For example, one mother testified about her son overdosing on heroin despite living in a sober home, according to TCR.

Sober Homes Allegedly Paid Kickbacks to Refer Residents to Drug Treatment Programs

A John Jay College of Criminal Justice study found that New York sober homes, or residences for poor drug and alcohol addicts, are often unsanitary, dangerous and accept kickbacks from outpatient drug treatment programs to require their residences to attend those treatment programs, ProPublica reported today.

ProPublica also notes: "The report estimates that as many as 10,000 New Yorkers currently reside in three-quarter [or sober] houses. Residents are often former prisoners or recent patients of residential drug treatment programs. Most are unemployed and receive Medicaid. A little less than half have been homeless at one point in their lives."

Despite Mental Health Parity, Insurers Still Deny Coverage

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was supposed to ensure mental-health treatment and addiction-treatment services get the same coverage from insurers as physical ailments. "But five years after President George W. Bush signed the law, there is widespread agreement that it has fallen short of its goal of creating parity for mental health coverage," the New York Times reports. One of the issues is regulations to put meat on the bones of the statute have never been written by federal regulators. 


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