City trains addiction counselors to treat patients with other mental disorders

The city discovered that 85 percent of the people in its system being treated for addiction are also being treated for another mental health disorder.

Pat Loeb
October 26, 2018 - 9:00 pm

Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Philadelphia's Behavioral Health Department sponsored a special training this week for addiction counselors to address a startling finding about people in its treatment network. 

The city discovered that 85 percent of the people in its system being treated for addiction are also being treated for another mental health disorder. So officials held the two-day training to help addiction counselors recognize and address conditions, such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, manic-depression and post-traumatic stress, in their patients.

"All you have to do is remain calm. Being calm is 90 percent of it with anxiety," said Laura York, who led he sessions, along with Elizabeth Merrell.

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Merrell says the research is clear that treating both addiction and co-occurring disorders is more effective, but current licensing is only for one or the other.

"It would be helpful if there was a dual license," Merrell said. "It would make it a lot more accessible."

In the interim, the training provides some basic tips, which counselor Joe Williams says he plans to practice.

"[It's important to] to get them into a warm environment so they can feel safe," Williams said. "And I didn't realize the impact it has on people until this training."