Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series of conversations with staff at drug rehabilitation programs, beginning in Carter County before branching out into greater Southern Oklahoma. An outreach worker with Oxford House talks rural drug abuse. 

Question: Have you noticed an uptick in folks you take in over the past month? What is your capacity?

Answer: Most of our applications have been consistent, but the warmer months are usually our slowest months. In Ardmore, we currently have two men’s Oxford Houses (Oxford House McLish and Oxford House Rockford) and two women’s Oxford Houses (Oxford House Broadlawn and Oxford House Amina). We have 14 beds for men and 13 beds for women.

Q: Do more men or women appear to have a greater need for rehabilitation?

A: I would say it’s a pretty even number. We do have more men’s houses in the state but I believe it’s a need on both sides. I also believe it’s important to take account the single mothers and fathers seeking rehabilitation and can’t due to a lack of treatment facilities that accept both the parent and child. We do have a few here in the state, but not many. I see a lot of parents out there struggling, wanting treatment, but not having anywhere safe for their children to go while they are gone for 30-90 days.

Q: How difficult has it been to meet the needs of those affected by drug abuse? Do you find it hard to meet the needs of each person who seeks help?

A: From a housing standpoint, we have adversity in the communities, especially smaller communities where we may not have as much support as a major metro area. We do work alongside the drug courts, mental health facilities, detox facilities, crisis centers, local counselors and many others within these counties. We also do not have as consistent applications as a metro area, but there is always a need for sober living, or “transitional living” such as Oxford House, especially in rural areas.

Many of our residents are moving in straight from treatment, jail, prison, homelessness and even those who have a home with their family, but it’s just not a safe environment for them to stay clean/sober. All of our residents come in at all different levels where some are more established and some may need more help as far as food and clothing. We’ve been very successful with the environment they are immediately plugged into once they move in. From a family standpoint, we look out for each other and make sure the seasoned residents look out for the newcomers in any way they can.

Q: How pervasive do you think drug abuse has been compared to years past? Do you foresee it rising or going down?

A: I believe it’s always been consistent, but it’s gotten worse. The trends are really what drug is prevalent at the time. We see an uptick of methamphetamine use in these rural communities and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. We are also seeing more residents coming in with opioid addictions such as heroin and prescription drugs. It is definitely becoming an epidemic, especially in these more rural areas.

We foresee it rising in part due to all the budget cuts that are coming across the state. These cuts will greatly affect mental health and substance abuse clinics, department of corrections and acceptance into treatment facilities. We just don’t have enough resources to help meet the need of substance abuse throughout the state of Oklahoma.

Q: Are local nonprofits in a crunch for resources lately?

I can’t speak for others, but we are very fortunate with how our model is set up so that we don’t rely on outside enterprises. All of our support and revenue comes internally from our individual houses, our local chapters, our State Association and our Alumni Association. This greatly helps allow us to be successful.

Q: Can any normal citizen do anything to help?

A: We are always in need of furniture donations, kitchen appliances and things of that nature. One of the biggest things I would like to stress is that there is a great stigma with people who have substance abuse issues. Everyone in our houses are maintaining employment, becoming productive members of society, recreating those relationships with their family, and overall, just trying to be better than they were the day before. We would love for more people to have an open mind about who we are, not who we used to be.