Treating substance use disorders requires a holistic approach [column] -LNP | Lancaster Online | Wonder Mind Kids

As the leader of an organization that helps local youth who are working to overcome addiction, I appreciate the LNP | The editors of LancasterOnline address the mental health crisis among the country’s youth in their October 26 editorial (“Please Note”). No one is unaffected by this situation, and I believe our nation cares deeply about it — but we avoid openly discussing its causes and solutions among adults, and even more so when it comes to conversations with our children.

I am the parent of a teenage daughter and the idea of ​​children her age contemplating suicide is untenable. It is heartbreaking, as the editors wrote, to think of a 12-year-old Columbia seventh grader suffering so much that he took his own life.

The rising rate of mental health problems among adolescents – rising even before the pandemic – has predictably led too many of them to turn to drugs and alcohol to “manage” conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the editorial noted, one Columbia student’s teacher developed the practice of having students log to personal Google Docs during the pandemic. This illustrates the kind of novel thinking and interventions we need to employ when teaching life skills to teenagers — particularly those who are most at risk of developing a substance use disorder, and particularly during their school years.

Like me and my colleagues at Manos House, this teacher clearly recognized that therapeutic, evidence-based approaches work. As an inpatient treatment facility in Colombia, Manos House works with males ages 14 to 18 dealing with substance use disorders and a range of related issues.

Our campus, along with Manos House, is home to our Supervised Independent Living program for men ages 16-20 and Prospect Grove High School, all under the umbrella of Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Services Inc.

This year we are celebrating our 50th anniversary of service for Lancaster County. Since 1996, Manos House and the Independent Living Program have served 2,670 young residents of Lancaster and surrounding counties.

Our leaders at Manos House focus on evidence-based practices and interventions that are individualized based on the young man’s present and underlying needs. Prospect Grove High School is a result of these efforts and has educated 2,262 students since its inception in March 2000.

Prospect Grove is a recognition of the tremendous positive impact that continued education has on the success of patients undergoing treatment for substance use disorders. Located on our beautiful campus – the site of the former St Joseph’s Convent – Prospect Grove is open year-round. It is a private academic high school licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This means it can issue transferable credits, award high school diplomas, and serve as a GED testing site. In the 2021-22 academic year, Prospect Grove educated 102 students and issued seven diplomas and 12 GED certificates.

The treatment must go beyond the surface. As part of our holistic approach, Prospect Grove recently received membership status with the Pennsylvania Academic, Career and Technical Training Alliance, which aims to improve the training youth receive in residential treatment programs like ours, as well as in their home communities upon their return .

Another result of this approach is our partnership with Lancaster Art Room, a new tenant on our campus. Owner Beth Harrison runs a weekly art class for our clients.

Our campus is also home to our in-house music studio, built last year by local company Creative Hope Studios. (I think the tracks our guys create are as good, if not better, than what you hear on top 40 radio stations – but I’m admittedly biased.)

These initiatives are helping us to address the mental health and drug use crisis among young people, and they are made possible through community support.

As we receive more requests for treatment at our facilities, our need grows – as does our dependency on this support. Prospect Grove, for example, costs $130,000 to run in the summer; We receive funding from each student’s home district during the normal academic year, but this funding does not continue through the summer.

We give our customers opportunities to engage with the community through service offerings and extracurricular activities, and it is critical to be able to offer a wide variety.

For example, leaders at the Bright Side Opportunities Center recently asked the boys for help preparing for their community’s weekend event and emailed our staff raving about their efforts.

Local business owner Josh Hollinger gave welding lessons to some of our customers after they heard about their project to build a demolition derby car.

Please consider working with us to offer more such opportunities.

And please speak out on our behalf. The financing of psychiatric and addiction therapy offers is always precarious. The $100 million American Rescue Plan Act, which would fund the state Legislature to improve the Commonwealth’s mental health infrastructure, is still in flux, and many local governments continue to cut funding for mental health programs their budgets.

Perhaps one day we will no longer need to be fundraisers for our own endeavors and can focus solely on helping our youth live confident and fulfilling lives. Until then, organizations like ours continue to depend on the support of people in our communities.

Chris Runkle is Managing Director of Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Services Inc. in Colombia (

Leave a Comment