In week 8 of the Hope Dealer series, Ed McDonough CEO of GateHouse Treatment brings on friend and New Hampshire State Representative Philip Spagnuolo on to the show to discuss the issues many in early recovery and those trying to get into recovery. Philip shares on how he came from nothing to being able to run for a State Representative.
On December 14, 2015, Philip decided he couldn’t keep going. He had been arrested again, Phil pointed out that he was an addict that had to be stopped, he couldn’t stop on his own. After awaiting trial and speaking with his probation officer and the prosecutor facing a 3-5 year prison sentence, Philip was given another chance to get his life back on track. Philip met problems that many in early recovery face, he had no insurance and nowhere to go. Philip started advocating for himself while he was going to 12 Step fellowship meetings in his community and speaking with others in recovery about their struggles.
Philip advocated for himself and through the Medicaid expansion received medical benefits that allowed him to get his physical health back on track from the wear and tear of life. He kept advocating and called the Mayor of Laconia and was pointed to a committee that had the mental health head and the head of the Intensive Outpatient Program in the area. Philip talked about how through working with recovery centers he became a certified recovery coach and finally decided to run for State Representative. One of his primary goals is to start making it easier for people struggling with substance misuse disorders and mental health to treatment and recovery.
“You can’t complain about it if you won’t do something about it,” Philip said regarding what fueled his to run for a political office. During his campaign, he was open about being in recovery, while there are many people in recovery in fields we wouldn’t suspect but, is kept secret. The stigma that is associated with substance use disorders and mental health is still extremely prominent in the world today. Philip also wants to present to the other representatives that it shouldn’t be solely focused on substance abuse, as a state New Hampshire needs to focus on the health crisis at hand. Ed and Phil both point out that there is no fix to the addiction crisis, treatment needs to be made more readily available for all of those struggling with it.
With the lack of resources in the Laconia and surrounding areas, first responders are also being overwhelmed whether it be from overdoses, hospital visits where there is no long-term help or just a general lack of health care options due to no medical insurance. Within the absence of treatment options, the small amount there is, there’s a significant disconnect between treatment options. Phil has worked to help bridge those gaps and get the news of the resources available out into the public knowledge. Harbor Homes is a part of the Partnership of Successful Living which offers several services for people struggling with an array of health issues that can’t afford care.
The stigma that’s involved with substance abuse disorders and mental health are one of the main reasons that people suffering do not reach out for help. The harm reduction associated with Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) was also discussed between Ed and Philip. Philip touched on how he had tried to maintain his sobriety with MAT but had to thoroughly reflect on everything to decide that a program of complete abstinence was the best route for him. GateHouse is currently using data tracking to see how many people are seeking sobriety through total abstinence and MAT. Abstinence-based sobriety as taught in many 12 Step fellowships is based on attraction rather than promotion; they do not give an overabundant spiel nor advertise their program of recovery. MAT is also another expense when looking for treatment.
People who are less than fortunate in a financial sense to be struggling with substance abuse disorders cannot seek MAT due to lack of funds or medical coverage. One of the most significant initiatives that Phil is behind is Medicaid Expansion, without Medicaid 50,000 people would be without medical services not just those struggling with mental health diagnoses and substance abuse disorders. One of the ways that funding was going to be proposed was through the alcohol fund where 5% of liquor sales in the state would go towards substance abuse treatment for those in the state of New Hampshire. Phil also works with the Health and Human Services Committee which is part of the state senate to help advocate for those who don’t have the voice to do so on their own.