One of the Reno area’s few substance use, and gambling, addiction treatment facilities is the Bristlecone Recovery Center. The nonprofit is named after bristlecone pine, a tree found in Nevada, Utah and California.
The center uses this analogy: This remarkable tree can fully regenerate itself, even on the brink of death. Just like the Bristlecone Pine, the people who seek help at our facility for addiction, gambling, and mental health issues have experienced negative environments, weathered many storms and come dangerously close to death.
On today’s show we talk with Peter Ott. He is the executive director of the center and he speaks candidly about the realities of addiction in the Reno area. He also discusses his hopes for the future of the community.
Learn more about Bristlecone at https://www.bristleconereno.com/.
Thank you for listening to the show on KWNK Community Radio at 97.7 FM and on your favorite podcast player.
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Heroin, meth, some of these other drugs even though the withdrawal symptoms are painful and very uncomfortable, your your body's function functionality or its your bodily functions actually improve during with withdrawal. But that's a very vulnerable time for somebody because that uncomfortable feeling, they're going to want to go back they know what will make them not feel uncomfortable. And getting to that point is very crucial. One of Reno's few substance use and gambling addiction treatment facilities is the bristle cone Recovery Center. The nonprofit is named after the bristlecone pine, a tree found in Nevada, Utah and California. The center uses this analogy. This remarkable tree can fully regenerate itself even on the brink of death. Just like the bristlecone pine, the people who seek help at our facility for addiction, gambling and mental health issues, have experienced negative environments, weathered many storms and come dangerously close to death. On today's show, we talk with Peter odd. He is the Executive Director of the Center and he speaks candidly about the realities of addiction in the Reno area. He also discusses his hopes for the future of the community. For this week in Reno news, I am Bob Conrad with this is reno.com. Thank you for listening to the show on kW and K community radio at 97.7. FM and on your favorite podcast player. Peter recently became the Executive Director of the Bristlecone Recovery Center. The center offers what is called social model detoxification. It provides substance use treatment with resident and outpatient services. The Center also provides gambling addiction treatment. Here is Peter Otte. I've been a jack of all trades most of my life, I've spent 40 years in management 30 years ago, I got clean and sober. And I was in the middle of raising a family and dealing with California 20 years ago, I was able to escape California and moved to Nevada with my family settled in and and started working. I was unfulfilled. It. Everybody knew it. And eventually, I was divorced. My stepdaughter had moved out on our own and, and I found myself looking for purpose. I woke up one morning and it was clear as mud that I needed to go back to college, I needed to finish my degree in psychology. And that led me to a master's degree in addiction treatment that felt at home I felt at peace with where I was going and what I was learning. While I was doing that. I decided that student loans were probably not the best idea. So I started working part time. And I wanted to work in the industry that I was studying and I looked and I saw that bristle cone was hiring for weekend. Treatment AIDS is what they call them at the time and the treatment aid we call a mental health techs now but they they're there 24/7. They work with our clients, they provide their medications, they they get them to groups, they wake them up in the morning, and they put them to bed at night. And they honestly I think they run the agency. But I did that for a couple of years as I finished my degree. I wanted more once I gotten my degree I was able to become licensed as a counselor. And I asked bristle cone to give me more counseling work. They then made me the administrator of their Veterans Program. And I built and worked that Veterans Program for close to four years. And when Tamra hired me five years ago, during our interview, she said, Peter, what's your five year goal? And I said, Tamra, don't take offense, please. But in five years, I'd like your job. And she smiled and she said well, that might be a possibility. You know? Well, in June of last year, I took over as executive director. She had retired a couple years before and there was a couple of interim executive directors that didn't quite have bristlecones best interest in mind, I would say. And I took over a company that was months from failing. Wow. And My heart broke. And I went to the board and I said, you have to give me the ability to do something. They did. In January of this year, they elected me the permanent full time executive director. And now we are lush. We are we've brought back contracts that were lost. We've engaged with our community again. Grants are in place and when I took over we were at 20 some odd employees 25 or six. We're now at 37. Our beds are full. And you know, it's time to grow. I mean, most people I'm going to assume as a lay person here, no bristle cone from the facility over on Milla McCarran Can you talk a little bit about that and what happened in that facility? It was I believe, the flick Ranch is that yes. The the old mission Yes, they've changed wind Yes. Back in the 60s, Sage when and North Star were to longterm, are very old nonprofits in this town that in 2004 merged to become bristle cone family resources that took place in the old mission over on melon McCarran. And that was a awesome building in many ways. But it also had its challenges. Because of its proximity to the river would flood just about every year. There was mold and sinkage and asbestos and specialists and all kinds of things in that old building that just were not healthy. And about 10 years ago, 2012 I believe it was Tamra decided to move to our current location on the corner of wells and mill. That building is a three storey building with a penthouse and had the square footage to move over 90% of what we did. Some of the family services were put on hold temporarily until we could bring counselors back and such. And in the 10 years we've been there. We've developed our women's program, we've developed our Veterans Program, the men's program has been ongoing. But the legacy of the mission was was to involve families, and not just in substance use treatment it was you know, mind body and soul type treatment they want to do involve everything. And this would include reintegration into the community and just treating all sides of an addiction issue. We are one of the few if I think there's only one or two residential gambling treatment facilities in Nevada, we are one of them. We've been doing gambling treatment since 2006. That started back over the mission. You say gambling not gaming. I say gambling. I do too. But I want to hear your reason why? Well, gaming can take on a number of connotations, it can be everything from playing on your phone, you know, Tetris to sitting at a computer and, and playing an MMO or a PPO or a, you know, some kind of a game on a computer or it can be sitting in a casino. Gambling involves finances. Okay, it involves risk. It involves a number of things that affect the brain. And gambling can because of the way the types of gambling that are available in the state are are designed with intermittent reinforcement. So you know, you can pull a handle or push a button and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. And that's very enticing to the brain. For most people. It doesn't affect them to the degree that it destroys their lives and they gamble away mortgage money and college money and so on and so forth. But for others who do not have the coping mechanisms or the resiliency or certain factors that tell them no, this is enough, it can become problematic. And we call what we You do Problem Gambling treatment, okay, it's not that gambling is bad, it's that when it becomes a problem when it starts affecting, you know, three main areas of your life, personal, professional and and home life, then something needs to be done about it. How much of that and I, maybe we're going to divert from the discussion a little bit, but how much of that involves environmental factors and, and maybe this is a discussion about the well, the modalities that sure on with addiction counseling, the most common assessment tool we have today is called a bio psychosocial assessment. Okay. And in its very name, it tells you the different modalities or the different areas of someone's life that we delve into biology could be the, the genetic predisposition to repetition or chance or substance use, we've, we've seen empirical studies that show that certain cultures that have got a long history of, of drinking have built up more of a tolerance, you might call it to alcohol, others have a lower tolerance, we know that women have less tolerance to alcohol than than men. So there's biological issues that have to be considered. Then there's the psycho bio psycho, the Psycho is the psychological effects. This could be repetition, this could be habit forming, this can be the way the brain works with that information. Then there's social, which can be everything from the community you live in, if you're living in an area of town where there is a liquor store on every corner and a casino in every liquor store, and so on and so forth. And maybe it's in an area where there's less job opportunities or lower education levels, or, I mean, there's a lot of societal factors that can play a part here. Not that everyone in those areas succumbs, but we've seen that societal issues play a part in raising the numbers and the absence of those eliciting stimuli. You won't have those issues for those people, correct? Yeah. So bio psychosocial has been pushed a little further by some. And they call it bio, psychosocial spiritual, because they've discovered that involving a spiritual aspect. If you've seen a a or na programs, they look at higher powers. You look at houses of faith in this town that are embracing treatment. I don't want to call it treatment, social support in the form of 12 Step style meetings that are more spiritually based. Because when people have hope in something, it helps them recover. And this is empirical. This is information that we've seen for years, that developing hope in a human being will help them turn from things that are not good for them. Yeah, so that's the assessment tool that we use the bio psycho social spiritual. Gambling has its own assessment, they call it the Gypsy. It's a gambling placement criteria. The acronym, they call it Gypsy, but it it not only covers the same bio, psychosocial, spiritual aspects of a substance use assessment, but then it goes a little deeper. And there's actually an assessment, it's two questions. And it's 98% effective to see if somebody has problem gambling traits. It's called the lie bet. You know, have you ever lied about gambling? And have you ever bet increasing amounts to make up for your losses? And if the answer yes to both of those 98% of those people have some form of gambling issue, whether it's full blown diagnosable disorder or whether it's just problem gambling, that live at can, it's very effective. Interesting. It's very intriguing, the bio psychosocial assessment digs into other past childhood and such and what we started realizing in tracking data is that the emotional age of our client tends to be very close to the age at which they started using. For instance, if somebody started using substances at age 14, and now they're in their late 30s. Emotionally, they still respond to things as if they were 14, they can be very immature, very impulsive. And so that led us to start investigating down a path of early on when the brain is that frontal lobe is still developing, we know that it doesn't become fully developed in adults until 24 to 20 years old. That it can be different also for men and women. Yes, it is. Yeah. And it can, it can input or implant habits and, and, and it can stunt emotional growth. That can be very intelligent, most of them are but the way they respond to things is what we would call emotionally stunted or emotionally in mature. So a lot of our work is in emotion development, or emotion recognition, and developing emotional intelligence. Most people know three or four words for angry. So if it's upset, angry, pissed, and rage. And if those are the only four words they know to describe anger, then if they feel something, they measured against those four things, and well, I'm a little more than irritated, I'm more than I must be rage, and they will fly into a rage, where as people with an increased emotional vocabulary, and an understanding, they might have 12 or 14 different gradations of of angry, and when they feel something, they're able to more appropriately choose the response. Well, this goes for all of our emotion is substance use or addiction? Is that a symptom? Or is that the problem? Or does it depend? I believe it's a symptom. Okay. I believe it's an outward expression of an inward emotion. You know, it's a coping mechanism. It is a it is a tool that people use to adapt or get through situations. You mentioned, beds are full. They are what I hear a lot from people I talk with in this communities, Reno can be a very painful place to live. Talk about Risa con bristlecones role in the Reno community and what you're hoping to achieve here in the near future. Thank you. That's why I'm here. This is a passion of mine. When I drive through Midtown, and I see storefront recessed doorways with people sleeping in them. When I walk along the river, and I see people huddled under the bridges. And this isn't a homeless issue. Don't get me wrong, this is a societal issue. And now that I'm an executive director and my peers and I have discussions over what's going on out there, I've had discussions with the hospitals in town. And they're woefully ill equipped to handle the the quantity of people that are struggling out there, and then you add something like a pandemic, to the mix, where now hospital waiting rooms and emergency rooms, may have may be overflowing onto the sidewalk with people with other more pressing matters. I've seen hospitals actually offer somebody detoxing from alcohol, a cup of alcohol, you know, drinking alcohol to keep them from going into the DTS or, or going into, you know, some kind of a seizure while they're waiting for treatment. This led me to understand that what bristle cone does, we bring people in, in early recovery. And we are equipped now to do what's called a social model detox. Social model detox works for most substances, almost all substances except for alcohol and benzodiazepines, alcohol and benzodiazepines you can actually die from the withdrawal effects Heroin, meth, some of these other drugs even though the withdrawal symptoms are painful and very uncomfortable, your your body's function function allergy or it's your bodily functions actually improve during with withdrawal. But that's a very vulnerable time for somebody because that uncomfortable feeling, they're going to want to go back they know what will make them not feel uncomfortable. And getting to that point is very crucial. So Bristlecone has long offered social model detox will bring people in that are not actively high or intoxicated, but are starting to come down from the effects of whatever substance they're on. And we give them specialized care to get through that point. Not have a lot of intensive programming yet, because mentally, emotionally, their mind is not focused on that. And once we get through that social model, detox, then treatment can begin. Well, that works for some things. But alcohol is an illegal substance. And a lot of people struggle with it. And alcohol detox can be dangerous. And that's why hospitals will offer alcohol to keep them from going into that heavy detox until they can be brought in and see a doctor. Well, most hospitals, the detox protocol for alcohol is a tapered regimen of benzodiazepines, because benzodiazepines mimic alcohol in the brain. But a benzo can, is something that can be precisely measured, and tapered, you know, titrated, down to zero over a period of time so that the body can slowly and gradually come back to a normal state. And that has to be medically monitored. We've seen people go into seizure or have the DTS as much as a week or two weeks after their last drink. So it depends on how long and so on and so forth. Well, we brought people into treatment, and a week down the road, they start to have alcohol detox syndrome. And I discovered that bristle cone has long offered a fairly complete continuum of care. The two things that we have lacked, have been medical detox, and aftercare. Okay, once they get there, we can treat them but it's dealing with the medical detox part of things. And then what happens post treatment? How do we keep them engaged? As I said earlier, the longer treatment lasts, the longer the engagement is, the better the outcomes. They can't stay in our facility forever. They have to move on at some point and it's that aftercare that becomes vitally important. So that's where I'm currently at. We have a built Go ahead, is that considered an outpatient treatment? Outpatient Treatment is not aftercare. It is what leads to aftercare. Okay. So once you've gone through residential treatment, if it's needed, residential and outpatient are all based on what's called ASAM. It's American Society of Addiction Medicine, possibly I'm quoting my textbooks, and I messed that up all the time. But it's, it was a group of doctors that said, you know, we're seeing people coming into the hospital with this, we're going to have to create some kind of a rating system, so we know what to do. And those ratings systems are based on six criteria that we can do an assessment to figure out and that tells us, which is the least obstructive or Least Restrictive, clinically appropriate level of treatment for that client. So it may not be appropriate for a father or mother that has kids and a job and, and a safe place to live to do residential treatment, because we're going to keep them there for for three to 12 weeks, you know, and not all employers are understanding and, you know, partners and spouses need help and such. So it's not always clinically indicated for that. So outpatient treatment with a regular outpatient or intensive outpatient may be better because then the person can live at home in that safe, supportive environment. That safe supportive environment doesn't exist for everybody. Some people are homeless, some people are couchsurfing. Some people might live in a place where there's active drug use or active drug trafficking. When the living environment becomes toxic, that same person with the same levels of use that we just said would be okay for outpatient now because their living environment is toxic resident Initial treatment might be clinically indicated. Maybe they're out of work, maybe their their living situation is toxic. So that would, would indicate that they need that residential care. With the same amount of usage the same everything. The level of care is determined by looking at all six of these criteria. You're full? Yes. So consequently, we end up with a waiting list. And that was going to be my next question is how long is your waiting yet? Well, it varies daily. Yeah, we're taking. We had four people leave yesterday, we have four people coming in today. So our admissions department is the busiest department there. They're constantly working with all of our partners with outside sources, we partner with the courts, we partner with companies, we partner with other agencies in town, to develop this continuum, so that we can get people in we work with the cares campus, we have counselors out there during the week to be available, should somebody want treatment. So we work with all of our partners in town to keep them aware, there's a an online system called open beds that tracks how many beds are available. And when that just maxed itself out, then it's kind of hard to use. But as we work down our list, we, you know, we have a criteria. And our criteria, this is all on our website that our criteria says pregnant IV users are our top priority. Okay, then it would be pregnant. Okay, then it would be IV, then it would be veterans that don't fit in the above category, and then all others. If you doubled your capacity tomorrow, would you still be full? Yes. Expanding beds is a priority. The cost of that can be overwhelming. But we have a little print shop that's been in Reno for many, many years. That's nestled in next to our building there. And that's big enough inside for us to create a woman's mental health wing, and it will open up 12 more beds for women to come into treatment. Our second floor is our men's floor, and it's the whole footprint of the building. But on the third floor or women's floor, it's only half of that building was very oddly built. So expanding our women's programming will help with the women's waitlist. As I said, pregnant IV users pregnant, you know, and then IV use, so our highest intensity as far as priority or majority women. And so expanding our women's programming was vitally important to me. What can the community do? What do you need from the community? The needs of a nonprofit treatment facility are many. We have grants that help pay for treatment, we have contracts that will help pay for treatment. And those grants and contracts will typically cover counseling counselor wages, pays the mortgage pays our insurance. But those grants are subject to whatever administration is in place. So if the community would like to be involved, there you go. It's monetary, it's tangible. It's putting your boots on and getting on the board so that you can be a part of what this amazing agency is building in Reno. What's the best way for people to contact you? They can call bristle cone. What's the website URL? It's www dot bristle cone reno.com. By the end of the week, the bristle cone rino.org will target the.com But we've had that.com back before there was a.org I think so and then they can always call the 775954 1400 and ask for me. Peter rod thank you so much. Appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you but I mean this is amazing. This this is what Russell co needs that's it for this week in Reno news, please visit us online at this is reno.com. If you liked the show, please leave us a review online through your favorite podcast app.