CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — In July, the Highland-Clarksburg Hospital launched a therapy program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to treat patients with substance-abuse issues.

The main difference with this program is it treats children ages 13-17.

Children who receive a dual diagnosis of both substance abuse and behavioral health issues can be enrolled in this program at the hospital, where they will go through detoxification therapy over the course of about a week.

"We recently opened up a substance-abuse unit for adolescents ages 13-17 who are in need of detoxification and intensive substance-abuse treatment,"?Leesa Jackson, program manager for Children's Services at Highland-Clarksburg

Hospital, said. "So we offer 12-step and SMART?recovery groups. We offer psychoeducational groups, harm reduction, coping skills, education groups, recreational and individual therapy sessions, group therapy and family sessions as needed."

According to Jackson, kids in the program have issues dealing with mental anguish, and may have turned to using recreational drugs as means of escape. When enrolled in the program, they work together with therapists and each other to overcome the abuse or addiction toward better mental health.

"It's difficult at first to see children struggling. They are children, but we work them through the detoxification process,"?Brianna Hardman, therapist for Children's Services at Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, said.

For Hardman, seeing kids in this condition can be difficult, as they often go through symptoms of withdrawal when they first come in and begin therapy. The program can take from a week to 21 days for kids to complete, during which they stay day and night at the clinic.

"We focus on the SMART?Recovery system Monday through Friday that teaches them how to manage themselves and their problems,"?Hardman said.

The SMART plan stands for Self Management for Addiction Recovery, which is a plan developed to combat addiction and addictive behaviors. The therapists also outline goals for the patients to stay on track during their stays.

"The treatment plan is kind of a guide for them while they're in our program to take a look at, 'These goals were identified at the beginning of my stay. What have I been able to work on throughout the stay and toward the end of the stay?' So they're able to see some progress," Jackson said.

Jackson said they have so far treated teens who abuse drugs such as opioids and heroin and have behavioral health issues such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder. To work through this, the therapists and counselors have them participate in group therapy with each other and their families.

"We work very close together,"?Jackson said. "We really work as a team. We work with each other to provide the best treatment route for a specific patient while they're in our care."

The hospital also provides recreational activities inside and outside the clinic for the patients, and has a library and gym, as well as an imagination playground.

"There's huge foam blocks, and the kids can use their creativity skills to create anything like a ship or a fort or a boat. So the groups are really focusing on their addictive personality, relapse prevention, managing emotions, identifying coping skills, so there's a lot,"?Jackson said.

Hardman commented on how the patients' behavior in these activities looks from her perspective as a therapist.

"We keep them busy with fun stuff, and we watch them be silly, be creative, and it's nice, because a lot of them are kids who haven't gotten to be kids in a while and they forgot what it's like to be silly,"?she said.

Jackson and Hardman agree that getting the kids motivated is the most important step in the process. Although it is the most important step, Hardman said it is not the hardest, as many patients do want to get their problem under control and are willing to cooperate once in the program.

"Most kids want to cease abuse to get it to a more controllable point,"?Hardman said.

Therapists like Hardman are with them every step of the way, and when it comes to the last step when the patient checks out to move on, Hardman can see the difference the program has made, especially when comparing the leaving appearance to enrollment appearance.

"It feels good when they leave. They're looking healthier, happier. When they leave, it's a step forward for them,"?Hardman said.

Before a patient is discharged, the staff in the program ensure that he or she has a way of continued treatment and therapy going forward.

For more information about the adolescent Substance Abuse Program at the Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, visit its website at highlandclarksburghospital.com, or call the program office at 304-969-3100.

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Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com