VALPARAISO — David Lee sees the Region's drug problem from a unique vantage point.
He is a committed member of traditional recovery. But as founder of the Heartland Recovery Center and Intervention Services, both based in Lowell, he teaches a nontraditional approach to breaking free from the grips of addiction.
The nontraditional approach does not seek to eliminate the model that helped Lee recover from his own drug and alcohol addictions. Rather, it is based in an understanding that one approach does not fit all.
"We have to meet these kids where they're at," Lee said.
Lee will present his approach as part of a naloxone training and distribution workshop Tuesday at the Memorial Opera House, 104 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso. Sessions will be held for professionals during the morning and for the parents/public from 6-9 p.m.
Lee, a native of Griffith, had gone through 25 treatment facilities on his quest for sobriety. Each followed a traditional treatment model that is still commonplace today, and each applied it to everyone equally no matter their age or unique perspectives.
Lee was careful to clarify that he is not criticizing the approach, but does feel more of an effort needs to be made to meet people where they are.
"The evolution of treatment hasn't really changed, but the landscape has changed dramatically," he said.
There are now younger people seeking help for a variety of different drugs in a different culture, all the while facing a much higher risk of a fatal overdose.
"They're not going to live through 25 rehabilitations," Lee said, referring to his own experience in the 1980s.
The growing acceptance of naloxone is an example of the nontraditional approach taking hold, he said. As little as a few years ago, it would have been unheard of to offer addicts the assistance of a drug that reverses an opioid overdose.
"The traditional treatment industry is very heavily abstinence-based," he said.
Naloxone training and distribution will be part of Tuesday's workshops. It will be provided by Overdose Lifeline, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing opioid deaths and reducing the stigma of addiction.
Mitch Peters, who serves as president of the board at Valparaiso's Respite House men's residential treatment facility, said his group supports many different efforts aimed at curbing addiction.
"There are all kinds of avenues for recovery," he said.
One approach he does not support is the use of replacement drug therapy, such as methadone.
"It's just substituting one drug for another," Peters said.
Lee said these changes and alternatives are welcomed by a lot of clinicians and are arriving none too soon for those seeking recovery.
"We don't have a lot of time," he said. "The OD rates are getting worse."