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Recovery Programs Evolve to Treat the Whole Person

Kristie Wolbers was the only nursing student in her graduating class to go into behavioral health.

"My patients who had substance use disorder and mental health disorders were treated like second class citizens," Wolbers said. "They were treated as though it is a matter of willpower, and they were looked at as less than. I knew in my heart, it's a chronic disease."

After 20 plus years in the field, Wolbers is finally seeing addiction treatment expand beyond acute detox.

"What they call treat 'em and street 'em," Wolbers explained. "Three to five days, make sure they're completely stable, give them discharge recommendations, and 'bye,' you're out the door. When in reality, that doesn't work."

What Wolbers said works better is an individualized approach. With the growing opioid epidemic, the goal is get people into recovery who are dealing with addiction.

But it's a complex condition that requires tailored treatment.

"Now we're starting to look at the entire person: physical, spiritual, emotional," Wolbers said.

Wolbers is the director of nursing at Integrative Life Center in Nashville, which treats addiction, eating disorders and other mental health conditions. The prevalence of fentanyl in Middle Tennessee is adding another layer of danger to the opioid epidemic.

"People are getting a hold of fentanyl and they're mixing it. So you can have a person who is buying street drugs, whether its OxyContin, Xanax, Norco, and you have no idea if that's what's in the pill,"Wolbers said.

Many times that results in an overdose. Narcan revives some who OD, but Wolbers said treatment and recovery programs keep them alive.

"We have to, without a doubt, supply adequate treatment at a price point that people can afford that addresses the whole person, not just that drug," she said.

As part of our daylong look at Fentanyl: the Third Wave, we'll meet a Belmont University student who overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl four years ago. He went through treatment at Integrative Life Center. Now he's working there and helping others get into recovery. You can see his story on News 2 at 4 p.m.

For more information on the programs at Integrative Life Center you can call (615) 891-2226 or visit

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