Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Victory through faith and family

Adam and Shannon Sawyer and family

Healthy Families participants Adam and Shannon Sawyer and family visit Tallahassee to meet with members of the legislature and share how Healthy Families helped their family.

Guest post by The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Healthy Families Florida is a nationally-accredited family support and coaching program that helps parents provide the safe and stable environments children need for healthy growth and development. The program has proven to be highly successful in preventing child abuse and neglect. Healthy Families participants Shannon and Adam Sawyer share their experience.

When we enrolled in Healthy Families, Adam was incarcerated and fighting drug addiction. I was pregnant and bouncing between family members looking for a place to sleep. We were without jobs, without a home, and without much hope for our future.

Then I met Joan, our Healthy Families Support Worker. With her guidance, I learned positive ways to deal with stress and how to be the best mom I could be, even when times were tough.

When Adam was released from prison, he was connected to a residential rehab program. We knew that most addicts have a low rate of success and that we would face a lot of challenges when he came home for good. Joan helped us set goals for when he got out. It has been hard work, but I’m happy to say he has been sober for 3 years now.

We wanted a place of our own, so Joan taught us how to save money. Within five months we had saved enough to move into our own place with our children. Our family was doing much better but we knew we had a long way to go. Joan helped us get job training and today we both have good jobs.

Healthy Families also helped us become better parents to our children. Having little ones is tough, even when things are going well. Joan showed us how to discipline our children in positive ways, how to play with them and how to help them learn.

She helped us improve our own relationship, too. We learned how to communicate with each other, how to set goals and achieve them together.

We wanted to have a better life, and Healthy Families helped make that possible. They believed in us when no one else did. Now our family is stable and our children are thriving. We are so grateful for Healthy Families.

To learn more about Healthy Families Florida, voluntary program for expectant parents and parents of newborns, visit

Saving the little baby’s life

A Florida adoptive mother came to one of our staff members to express her concerns about a baby her adopted children’s biological mother just gave birth to. The staff member stepped in to inquire about the baby’s status and discovered that the baby was kept in the hospital with withdrawal symptoms, although both parents tested negative for drugs.The adoptive mother who had approached the staff member adopted five of the infant’s siblings after drug use and physical abuse led to parental terminations. 

After looking into the couple’s court history, the staff member discovered that both parents had been given only a single-panel drug screen for cocaine but had not been tested for other substances.

The staff member contacted LifeStream Behavioral Health Center to learn more about drug testing and learned that drug use could be hidden by taking a certain substance. As a result of the staff member’s inquiries, both parents were ordered to take a 12-panel drug screen – during a hearing to shelter the baby – and the test results led the judge to order the baby be placed with the adoptive parent of her siblings.

The staff member met repeatedly with the child protective investigator, Children’s Legal Services and the Program Administrator to monitor the infant’s status and safety, and ultimately her decisive action saved the child’s life.

This is one of many inspiring stories – we’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks and months!

Leaps and Bounds

recoverypicRecovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness that emerges from hope and gratitude. This principle lays the foundation to DCF’s SAMH program office. DCF received the Access to Recovery (ATR) grant in 2010 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. This substance abuse treatment grant continues through September of 2014 and emphasizes client choice. The grant allows individuals to choose where they receive clinical treatment and recovery support services in the community among a network of community-based and faith-based providers.  Research has found that client choice in treatment is crucial to a successful recovery. 

Our clients put a real face on ATR:

I came to New Beginnings Women’s Program in April 2013 after I lost my job in January and became homeless. I have a long history of severe Depression and Bipolar Disorder. The devastation of my situation caused my depression to worsen severely and I was hospitalized.

The New Beginnings program has been a godsend to me and the ATR benefits I received allowed me to settle into the program the first month I was here. I wouldn’t have been able to pay for my housing, transportation or counseling had I not received assistance from Access to recovery.

I am extremely grateful to ATR and am now working for the church. My life is improving by leaps and bounds!

Thank you so very much!



When I entered the New Beginnings recovery program, I was homeless, broke, badly addicted to cocaine and fresh off a week-long binge. I had nothing but a small shopping bag with a t-shirt and pair of shorts in it. The last thing I was going to be able to do was find a job to pay for my program fees. ATR funding gave me an opportunity to be able to focus on getting clean and staying clean for my first couple months in the program. I’m not sure I would have made it otherwise. Now I have about 16-months clean and independent and have reconnected with my family. Thank you for the help! It was much needed, and much appreciated!



I am 59 years old; the second oldest in a family of four children. We are second- generation Ukrainian-Americans and our family did not have much addiction. I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church with a devoted family until I still resorted to alcohol and drugs for 20 years. ATR was a gift from God on my second month of recovery when I came to New Beginnings’ Women’s Program. ATR’s assistance took the pressure off me worrying about rent and finding a job right away in order to afford the program at NB Faith House.

The ability to jump start my recovery has been a huge gift! I hope and pray that more needy people will be able to benefit from the services provided by Access to Recovery. I am safe and secure in the women’s house I live in, which provides the needs necessary to get my life together.

I volunteer in the church office, which makes me feel like I’m giving back. I thank ATR and pray that you keep helping New Beginnings’ clients and many sick and needy people in the Tampa Bay area.

Sincerely with love,


Hitting the streets with the Party Patrol

DCF Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Rob Siedlecki recently observed the Party Patrol, an initiative funded in part by DCF’s federal Collegiate Success Initiative grant for Leon, Hillsborough, Alachua and Orange counties. The patrol goes out regularly and makes sure drinking laws are enforced. 

Rob Siedlecki and Officer John Beeman, Rob's partner in crime fighting

I recently hit Tallahassee’s “Tennessee Strip” with the city police department’s Party Patrol. For those of you who aren’t from the Capital City area, the Tennessee Strip is a main road near the Florida State University Campus with bars frequented by college students.  We were on the streets from 11 p.m. – 4 a.m., which is prime party time. It was even more crowded and rowdy because it was an FSU football night.

When we went into a bar or club we’d walk up to someone who looked to be underage and ask for their ID. We confiscated a few fake ones, but most of the people were over 21. While walking the street we looked for people with red Solo cups that might be filed with alcohol, which is against the open container law.

Officer Beeman impounding a confiscated fake ID

Only one person was arrested that night, and that was because he was belligerent and tackled the police. Everyone else – the bouncers, bar owners, kids (even the ones who admitted to being underage) were polite.

This effort accomplishes four things:

  • Prevents underage drinking
  • Prevents drunk driving
  • Protects kids from getting drunk and wandering into unsafe locations/situations

Recently the Party Patrol noticed a young female student being helped to a car by a young man at a bar.  She appeared extremely intoxicated.  We stopped them to investigate and it turned out the male did not know the student.  The student kept calling him her boyfriend.  In the end, the male was charged with drug charges and resisting with violence.  The student was transported to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.  A few days later she called the police to thank them.  She had thought the person she was going home with was her boyfriend.  When I described the male escorting her, no one she knew, she was horrified.  Our young student is convinced we prevented her from being sexually assaulted, or worse.  

If you notice someone intoxicated or in need of help, please call 9-1-1. If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse issues, please visit our website to find resources in your area.

The Underage Drinking Task Force at the Tallahassee Police Department

Keeping siblings together

Guest post by Neighbor to Family’s Director of Donor Relations, Karen Chrapek. Neighbor To Family is a national child welfare agency that provides sibling foster care and prevention programs for abused and neglected children. Florida offices are located in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. 

In 2010, four adorable siblings aged 5, 7, 9 and 10 and their mom addicted to prescription drugs came to Neighbor To Family’s FIRST program to keep the children out of foster care. Despite the intense in-house services delivered to help the family, the mom’s battle against her drug abuse was not immediately won. We felt it was unsafe for the children to remain in her custody and so they were placed into a Neighbor To Family foster home. We succeeded in keeping the siblings together when they entered foster care. This placement minimized the trauma that the siblings felt from being separated from their mother.

Mom then entered Haven Recovery and successfully completed a six-month residential program for addiction treatment.  Now clean from drugs, the mom received housing assistance from Haven Recovery and was able to have her own home. Neighbor To Family’s foster caregiver continued to mentor the mom. She was even chosen as the speaker for our Siblings of the Year event in 2011 as an example of our program’s success.

The children have been reunited with their mom and have been living with her for the past four months. She continues to utilize all the Neighbor To Family services including the help of staff, her case manager, family advocate and other supports.  Neighbor To Family continues to strengthen this mom’s parenting skills and supports so that the children can be reunified permanently in the next two months.

If you are already involved in Neighbor To Family in some capacity, WE THANK YOU! We really are healing families – one sibling group at a time. If you are interested in supporting our agency, please callKaren Chrapekat 386-523-1440.