Bringing compassion and comprehensive recovery support to people in need.
William E. “Bill” Rose, Jr. is the Executive Director of CADA (The Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana). With 31 years in recovery, his mission is to facilitate growth and wellness by creating opportunities for discussion and real conversation, where people listen and try to understand “the why” behind the most serious challenges and barriers to recovery. He’s an empowering leader in the recovery community and a voice for African-American equality at a vital time in the recovery movement.
Since 2012, Bill has overseen fourteen recovery programs in four facilities in Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana. Those programs include residential and outpatient services that include medically-supported detox and both high-intensity and low-intensity treatment. CADA is one of the only providers in Louisiana to treat pregnant women, and they also treat women with dependent children up to twelve years of age, and teens 12-17 at an adolescent treatment facility.
CADA also provides residential services and transportation for veterans getting treatment at the VA. They have our own CADA School of Addiction & Behavioral Health, which provides a career path for those wanting to work in the fields of substance use treatment and continuing education hours for professionals. More recently, CADA is the first organization in the state to get a Crisis Outreach Team up and out on the streets, reaching out to those who need opioid-specific treatment and getting them admitted to the appropriate recovery programs. The Team also educates healthcare professionals, educators, law enforcement and the public with relevant, evidence-based information, distributing naloxone (also known as Narcan, a nasal spray that saves the lives of overdose victims) and Dispose Rx packets, which are used to dissolve unwanted opioids.
Bill’s personal journey of recovery involved seriously re-evaluating his perspective on substance use disorder. He said, “My mother didn’t trust people outside of our immediate family and that was a part of my makeup. I realized later in life why my mother said and did the things she did, but I had to re-think some of those lessons my mother taught us. Now, I have a broader perspective on life. As I talk to addicts or people that need our services, it kind of gives me an advantage or a little more insight as to why people do what they do based on what they’ve learned. That’s why I love therapy. We don’t label your behavior. We get to the whys. We shine the light on the way people feel.”
Now, he brings compassion and comprehensive recovery support to people in need. Bill answered a few questions for Facing Addiction With NCADD about the challenges and rewards of working with a predominantly African-American recovery community.
What is one of the biggest challenges your community or organization faces?
Our challenges are not all that different than anyone else’s. Funding, access to resources, stigma—all are impediments to people getting the help they need. Socio-economic challenges do exist, but addiction actually crosses all social boundaries and contributes to crime, poor health, the high suicide rate, the destruction of families, and the abuse or neglect of children.
What can be done to overcome that challenge?
Education on all levels. We have committed a significant amount of staff and resources to delivering the message about the role prevention and education play in any good recovery movement. CADA has gladly taken the lead role in educating the community on the dangers of substance use disorders, from families, students, and their parents, to the criminal justice system, to members of the medical profession and legislators at every level. Unfortunately, there are people who still don’t know the real stories about substance use disorders.
For example, I believe the opioid crisis was created by Big Pharma and the medical community, so we have had to go back to the medical community and educate them about addiction. As we educate people, we always have to point out our areas of need in the community to overcome these challenges. We talk to folks about the tools we need to help fight addiction, but not just with citizens. We have to educate the decision makers at every level. You have to educate your legislators.
What is the biggest challenge in your role?
People become set in their ways. Everybody thinks their perspective is the perspective and it’s not. Trying to influence people to open their minds to other approaches, to other philosophies and theories—to other interventions—can be difficult. We have to train ourselves not to limit ourselves. If I only have two options and neither end up working, I’m not going to be successful. But if I have twelve options, the odds of success become much better.
How are you overcoming this challenge?
By creating opportunities for discussion and real conversation, where people listen and try to understand “the why” behind the most serious challenges. We create these opportunities for dialogue through public forums such as our “Let’s Talk Series,” where we invite speakers from other organizations to talk about a topic, then open the floor to questions and comments from the audience.
We also create more personal dialogue through our outreach efforts, where we distribute information and encourage parents with information on how to talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol. And we are constantly addressing stigma in digital and social media and how that stigma is an impediment to recovery and resources.
What are some of the needs of the African American community surrounding addiction and recovery?
One is access to treatment and resources. Another is that we need to meet people where they are. We have been trying to provide traditional approaches to non-traditional communities. Our approaches can’t be one-size-fits-all. If we’re going to make a difference in our African-American communities we are going to have to figure out ways to get them to trust us. We need to meet people where they are.
For example, in many communities, we could approach churches and community leaders. You don’t go into a community without involving their leaders. We need to invite them to the table. We need to design programs specific to these communities and take it to them. For example, in our Hispanic communities, we should be having someone that looks like them and speaks like them reaching out to them to show we value who they are. We need to recruit people who look like them, whether on our board, on our staff or as volunteers. Anywhere I go, I’m going to look for someone I can relate to, someone like me. It’s human instinct.
What are some of the barriers to recovery African-Americans face?
Some of the barriers to recovery that African Americans face are access to services that can heal, educate and empower them, such as transportation, childcare, communication, and in some cases, insurance. Many people who need treatment don’t even know recovery treatment exists.
How do we knock down those barriers?
Communication is one way, but we need to make every effort to ensure we’re speaking the same language. We’re culturally sensitive. I don’t have any intentions to harm, demean, degrade, stigmatize or be divisive, but sometimes, unless you ask, you’ll assume I’m coming from a different position. We create this system that is so different than where minorities come from. As we counsel people, we need to understand that our counseling is not from their perspective if we don’t meet them where they are. We often make decisions that are convenient to us, instead of the consumer, but the consumer is the one that is in treatment.
We are supposed to have some level of cultural diversity; some people think that is exclusive to race but it’s about language. Sometimes things are tribal, some things are philosophical. One of the ways you connect to African American communities is through faith-based efforts. Hispanic communities often go back to family. If you are dealing with a man, you might want to talk to his wife. People forget those little things.
Cultural characteristics can provide valuable insight but individualized treatment plans are important too. Years ago, I was trained through an entirely different model that was abstinence-based. Because of the opioid crisis, we’re embracing a whole new model. Harm reduction is being embraced because addiction has had such a high rate of recidivism. Twelve years ago, I couldn’t talk to my peers about medically-assisted detox or harm reduction. Medication-assisted treatment is being used to deal with opioid crisis and using harm reduction models is helping people achieve a better quality of life. When someone moves from illegal substances such as cocaine or opioids to legal marijuana they are better off than they were and to me that’s successful.
What is a major win you or your organization has had recently?
A major win for CADA has been the realization that we have become the leader in providing prevention, education and treatment in the State of Louisiana. Our staff at CADA has worked hard to reach out to as many people and organizations in our communities with evidence-based information that people can actually use to help those struggling with substance use disorders – and their families. Our Crisis Outreach Team travels the roads of nine parishes spreading these messages and other outreach staff calls on the criminal justice and healthcare industries with information and assistance, creating collaborations and coming up with new ideas to fill the gaps in services that have existed in our communities for too long.
We realized late last year that we had truly become the leader in Louisiana for prevention, education, and treatment of substance use disorders when multiple local high schools began calling us to educate their students. We realized our efforts had made a real impact when the US Attorney’s Office and DEA wanted to work with us on creating Parent Prevention events and awareness. We knew people were listening when Senator Bill Cassidy contacted us and asked to tour our Bossier Treatment Center to interview staff and former clients in order to gather information to take back to DC and share with legislators. And now, not a week goes by without other nonprofits reaching out to CADA to help them define services and change lives.
What are some of your hopes for the organization in the near future?
My hopes for CADA in the coming years is that it will continue to be a pillar of this community, providing prevention, education and treatment services to those with substance use disorders – and their families. To continue finding new and better ways to help people reconnect with their families and the world around them.