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Addiction treatment center outlines plans for live-saving COVID relief money

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 11:26 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A global health crisis unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, hit people working through substance use disorders particularly hard.

The interruption of meetings and reduced in-person contact can test those who rely on consistency and support through such a vulnerable time.

But, federal aid from the $1.9 Trillion dollar Covid Relief Bill recently passed, will make a difference for many treatment centers in Nebraska; helping them balance the changes brought on by the pandemic. Among those eager to receive the funds, is CenterPointe Campus for Hope.

Like most non-profits, the center has a budget for regular supplies, but unlike hospitals, tele-health equipment and personal protective gear wasn’t on their list.

So outfitting 250 employees, head to toe with the proper gear - to ensure they could continue helping people battle addiction, for a year- put a huge dent in their spending.

Not only that, but the organization transformed an outpatient center into a tech hub with socially distant computer rooms for tele-health, in order to bring the services people needed into the community.

Topher Hansen, CenterPointe’s President and CEO said the majority of the clients they assist are below the poverty level, making between one to ten thousand dollars a year.

Hansen said communities disproportionately impacted by poverty don’t have internet access or computers so the Center had to become resourceful to continue offering services.

CenterPointe also maintained a full staff, understanding they couldn’t afford not to be there, when someone asked for help.

“It’s like an emergency department. You don’t send everybody home when nobody’s there. You keep it staffed to then handle the influx,” said Hansen.

Although donors have helped them close some of financial gaps and afforded the the opportunity to add 20 beds to the 52 they already have for their residential program, it still isn’t enough. Again, why federal aid would mean the difference between more lives saved, than lost.

“One gentleman who was waiting for our services, basically died of an overdose and had we those beds available, that person would be alive,” Hansen shared.

Between both their Omaha and Lincoln facilities, CenterPointe has 40 programs that help people work through their addiction by encouraging them to utilize their strengths.

Unlike many programs which offer steps or specific guidelines for recovery, Hansen says their programs allow people to explore the layered issues at the root of their substance use disorder, while working with then to help determine what works best as a treatment plan.

And it’s a system that Paul Weishapl said saved his life. He battled addiction to heroin and meth for nearly 20 years.

Weishapl grew up in a mixed race family and said he was exposed to racism at an early age, which fueled his addiction, landing him in jail several times and causing him 13 failed recovery attempts.

In April of 2019 though, Weishapl said he’d had enough and began his journey at CenterPointe Campus for Hope. He credits the counselors and programs, coupled with his hard work, for helping him turn his life around.

Now coming up on two years clean, he helps other people restructure and rebuild their lives after addiction disorders.

But the milestone didn’t come without sacrifice and pain. “I lost 27 friends in one pandemic to suicides, overdoses and alcohol poisonings,” Weishapl said. One of those people, was also his best friend.

So for him, the prospect of federal funds coming to the same organization that helped him is more than just great news, it’s a life saver.

CenterPointe’s monthly expenditures are estimated around $1.2 million dollars and Hansen said he has to wait for guidelines on how to use the federal aid, but any addition relief will help them offset the expenses incurred during the pandemic.

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