Dina Murray stood tall and smiled brightly as she looked at the people seated to her left and her right.

“You are all sent here like pieces of broken glass in a paper bag and we are told to help put you back together. I’m so proud of all of you. You did the work to get to this day,” said Murray.

Murray has been a substance abuse counselor at Alameda Health System for 24 years. On this day she was speaking to the dozen participants at the biannual AHS Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment Program graduation.

This unique six month program is offered through the AHS Behavioral Health Services unit and there are two options for patients. The day treatment and rehabilitation option is intensive and serves pregnant women and women up to 60 days postpartum. Patients attend three to four days a week, multiple hours per day. The second is the outpatient drug free option, a group focused program serving both men and women. Participants of both programs are offered free childcare and a complimentary lunch. They are also assigned a case worker to help manage their total care including medical appointments, transportation, education or employment.

“My parents taught me to stay away from drugs as a kid, but no one ever told me you could become addicted to medication prescribed by your doctor,” said one graduate.

The room was filled with 2019 graduation decorations, balloons, streamers, a selfie photo booth and loved ones. Many participants received anger management and parenting class certificates that would allow them to regain custody of their children. The ceremony included people singing gospel hymns, reciting poetry and sharing emotional testimonials.

“I didn’t realize how severe of a problem I had until they took my son away. That really scared me, and I really wanted to do what I always do when I need to cope, drink, but I knew that if I wanted him back, I couldn’t drink,” said another graduate. After she finished her speech, her mother walked to the front of the room and pulled her into a tearful embrace and then handed her a graduation gift.

The participants unfortunately all had similar heartbreaking stories from their past, but the message of the day was to focus on the present and take it one day at a time.

“I let patients know that this will not be easy but it will be worth it,” said Karen Wise, PsyD, AHS director of behavioral health services integration. “Half of our patients are here because it was court ordered. Our goal is to help them get back on their feet and give them tools to address their addiction. Fighting addiction is a lifelong battle. It is important for us to create a supportive welcoming environment where our patients know they can seek us for help.”

Patients participate in group therapy and individual counseling. Each person participates in classes that are pertinent to their personal recovery. About 20 percent participate in the “Bridge” treatment program. The Bridge program was created to ensure that people with substance use disorder can receive quality care 24/7, by fully integrating addiction treatment into standard care practice, breaking down access to care.

For more information about the AHS Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program please call 510.437.5192.