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Developing community and responsibility are part of healing

Aware that teen drug and alcohol abuse will be part of society for years, Daybreak Youth Services teaches youth refusal, emotional and regulatory skills. It also teaches peer social skills and helps repair relationships in families, so families can help teens prepare for adult life.

TIm Smith
Tim Smith
To respond to ongoing needs, Daybreak purchased a warehouse at 960 E. Third in Spokane and turned it into an outpatient treatment center.

Teens begin coming at 1 p.m. to meet three full-time counselors and a treatment director, who help them face their addictions in individual and group sessions.

Daybreak volunteers and interns from Eastern Washington University supplement staff.  Some spend time with teens in a storeroom that is now a gym with basketball, volleyball and foosball.  Other activities include a computer club, a public relations club and a group producing a show to air on Thin Air Radio, KYRS.

“We want it to be a community center as well as a treatment center,” said Tim Smith, Daybreak director, who oversees this center plus a secure, 24-hour inpatient and crisis center at 628 S. Cowley, a Spokane office at 960 E. Third and a program started in 1999 in Vancouver, Wash.  It's Spokane Valley outlet has closed. The other buildings are leased, so new property on a two-and-a-half-acre block offers space for future expansion.

The 1,000 clients served there come from Spokane County and Central and Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Daybreak began as a nonprofit drug and alcohol center in 1978, initiated by Whitworth Presbyterian Church and starting in office space at Manito United Methodist Church.  Tim came in 1987.

Now it serves 1,300 teens in Spokane and Vancouver, has 125 employees and provides $4 million of services a year, contracting with state agencies in Washington and Idaho.

About 40 percent of Daybreak’s clients have private health insurance.  Others pay based on family income.  Funds from United Way and individual donations provide some scholarships for about 10 percent of treatment.

“There has been no increase or decrease in need,” said Tim, noting that about five percent of youth from 12 to 18 need drug or alcohol treatment.  “Five percent would be about 2,000 youth in the greater Spokane area alone, so there is need for more services.”

The residential center also accepts runaway teens and teens in family crises.  In counseling to resolve immediate crises, staff find about 25 percent also need drug and alcohol abuse treatment.

“Some dynamics are constant:  Younger teens experiment with alcohol and marijuana, while older teens become involved with a wider range of drugs, including methamphetamine, hallucinogens and narcotics.  Parents play a major role in addressing issues and supporting recovery, so we actively seek their involvement,” he said.

Daybreak’s programs include:
1) A pilot project for behavioral therapy with the University of Washington emphasizes recovery, teaching teens with chaotic lives to manage their emotions and examine their chemical use.
2) Alcohol and drug evaluations, resources and case management for the Tamarack psychiatric center for teens and the Sacred Heart youth psychiatric unit encourage them to seek treatment.
3) Student assistance, education and counseling are provided at East Valley middle and high schools.
4) Inpatient care in Vancouver, Wash., began at the invitation of Clark County Community Services.  Daybreak provides 15 beds for boys, serving 150 teens a year from Southwest Washington, the Puget Sound and Columbia Gorge areas.

As a regional organization, Daybreak Youth Services is the new name of Daybreak of Spokane.  It has new bylaws with board members in both cities. 

 “Unfortunately, drug and alcohol issues will continue to be part of our culture.  We are not close to meeting needs,” Tim said.  “Alcohol is the first drug of choice and marijuana, the second.  The array of other drugs has changed.  About 10 percent of those we see use methamphetamines and narcotics.”
Daybreak warns of dangers of drugs:

• Alcohol does immediate damage, often causing accidental death or injury from driving or falls.  Liver damage also begins early.

• Marijuana has long-term effects on the ability to think and reason, after two to three years of use.

• Meth does immediate damage, and there is high risk of overdose.
• Narcotics use brings risk of transmission of hepatitis or HIV/AIDS through sharing of needles.

Teens abusing alcohol and drugs often put themselves at risk through sexual behavior, criminal behavior and running away,” Tim said.  “Drug use by teens with mental health and behavioral disorders makes their conditions worse.”
He likens teens to “canaries in the coal mines”—on the front lines, mirroring the problems society faces.

“We may remember feeling unsupported, failing a test or not making a sports team, as many teens do,” he said, “so it is important for our staff of state-certified chemical dependency specialists to find a balance, bonding with teens without becoming overwhelmed.”

For many staff, the work is a mission more than a job.  Income alone does not sustain motivation for the overwhelming work.  Many have been with Daybreak five to 10 years, making it a career.

Spirituality—such as in 12-step programs—is a key component for staff and people in recovery, said Tim, who was with Spokane Community Mental Health eight years before heading Daybreak.

 “Working with parents, we can become emotionally involved with their struggles at home,” he said.  “The teens are demanding.  We can’t turn our backs on them. 

“Our staff has a passion to help young people navigate through their troubles.  We balance how to do it each day—as individuals and an institution—so we are not jaded,” Tim said.

“Counselors must be engaged emotionally but stay on an even keel, or they are ineffective.  They can become part of the problem if they take on characteristics that feed the teen’s troubles.  Angry teens may  try to trigger anger in others to reinforce that expectation,” he said.  “It’s hard for many to have a trusting relationship with another person, especially an adult.”

Tim believes it’s important for staff, volunteers, the board and clients to “be mindful” and to take time to meditate, to discern—through self awareness and awareness of concerns in the community—why they are involved. 

“Daybreak’s founders came from a spiritual quest, so we try to continue that in a non-sectarian way.  Without being overtly religious, we can tie recovery to spiritual wellbeing,” said Tim, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Whitworth College in 1972 and a master’s in psychology from Eastern Washington University.

“My work is an extension of my Christian faith values and commitment.  Our work as professionals is not completed in itself, but by God’s grace and love,” Tim said.

We can embody God’s compassion and be conduits that extend God’s grace to teens and their families.  We can invite them to live by their values without imposing ours.  It’s a delicate balance,” he said.

“For more overt assistance from faith, we encourage—but do not require—clients to maintain an active relationship with their churches and faith groups.  Teens at the inpatient center can attend church.  Congregations send volunteers and provide services to the teens, honoring their family’s values.”

Tim, who is active in Shalom United Church of Christ Mennonite Fellowship, said his church’s commitment to social justice combines compassion and empowering community.

Daybreak focuses on helping people in crisis more than dealing with societal causes.  It serves as an instrument of healing more than an instrument of social change.

“Because teens are forming their beliefs, we take care not to manipulate them or impose our beliefs.  Teens in recovery  will do anything to gain approval of those helping them.  They need freedom to develop their own values, to see their family values and to recognize how their behavior affects their lives and the lives of others,” Tim said.

Part of healing and changing is for teens to take responsibility for their actions.
“We promote healthiness, which is more than an attitude or belief.  We help teens see the dangers and consequences of their decision to drink or abuse drugs,” he said.

“Unfortunately, chemicals influence the brain and foster irresponsibility. Teens are still learning what responsibility is.”

Daybreak will help a teen repeatedly until he or she is 19.  The first time teens seeks help, they may not be ready.  They may bounce back and forth. Tim added that parents also may not be ready.  Some teens are in and out of treatment two to three times before they come back are ready to change.

One girl, in and out of Daybreak three times during her adolescence, is in college, has a job and is rearing her children.  It took many times for her to hear what she needed to do.

Our goal is to reduce or eliminate the chemical use, to have the young people attend school, have job training, hold a job and develop healthy relationships with their parents, guardians or caregivers,” Tim said.

About 60 percent of the teens achieve their goals in two years, comparable to the rate in eight other programs in the state. 

Other teen alcohol and drug treatment programs in Spokane are at Excelsior Youth Center and the Native American Healing Lodge.

For 450,000 teens in Washington, there are 150 treatment beds. Most facilities have waiting lists.

“In Spokane with four outpatient and three inpatient treatment facilities, we just scratch the surface of the need,” Tim said.

An optimist, Tim makes peace with the limitations of the program and the difficulties of working with teens.

While doing his part with the resources Daybreak has, Tim has learned to surrender outcomes of “the daunting work” to God, in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed by trying to deal with a never-ending problem.

For information, call 444-7033.

By Mary Stamp, The Fig Tree - Copyright © December 2004