This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Teen Challenge

On Wednesday morning an informational meeting was held to present ideas that are stirring in parts of the community about ways to deal with the drug epidemic that is raging in our part of the state and nation. The invited guests were from Northern Central Indiana Teen Challenge (NCITC), which despite its name, does not deal with teenagers but with men with ages from 19 to the mid 50s.

Rein Bontreger, president of the County Council, and Chief Deputy Pat Williamson of the Sheriff's Department made some introductory comments. They briefly noted that addiction is a serious problem in our area. It wrecks lives, destroys families, and is a drain on  the community. People who are addicted often land in jail where they detoxify, but once released find it almost impossible not to fall back into old habits. I learned later that the major impetus for this reaching out to Teen Challenge came from law enforcement, who are concerned that we lack effective programs to deal with addiction.

The main speaker was Andrew Collins from NCITC, which is located in Elkhart, Indiana.  He explained that the origins of Teen Challenge were in New York when a young and naive preacher from Pennsylvania reached out to the youth gangs. He found that he could convince the young people that they needed to change their lives and that they wanted to do so, but given the environment that they were in, could not. They needed a safe place outside the community where they could learn new behaviors, lean a skill, and become productive members of society. Fifty-eight years later there are over 200 centers in the U.S. and about 1100 world wide.

He said that Teen Challenge, a faith based solution to the drug epidemic, has a much higher success rate than secular programs. About fifty percent of those who enter the program complete it, and a study that is now a bit old found that 86% of those who completed it were drug and crime free after seven years. He said that a large study of the problem found three keys to successful programs: they were long-term, residential, and faith based. He said that addiction is a symptom of deeper problems and that treating symptoms is not enough. People who do not like who they are find that drugs make the problem go away, at least temporarily. Underling causes include physical and sexual abuse and divorce. Teen Challenge helps them heal.

The Elkhart Center is only about a decade old and is in the process of completing an expansion. Looking to the future, NCITC is toying with the idea of establishing feeder centers and that is what the interested local parties want to get established in Jasper County. Planning is at an early stage, but the thought is that it could be an eight or ten bed facility that would house men for thirty to forty five days, detoxifying them and getting them ready for transfer to the Elkhart campus. Although the idea has much support among county officials, it will not be eligible for government funding because it is faith based. Only time will tell if this gets established and what it will develop into if it does get going.

(There was floating ice in the river today, the first I have seen this winter.)

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