Meet Cam

“I’ve played sports my entire life. Throughout the disease progressing, I ended up selling all my equipment, pawning everything, for heroin money. And in sobriety, I’m better than I was when I was 18 and at my prime. I’m bigger, I’m faster, I’m stronger, I have the skill, and it blows me away… it’s the rewiring, the brain is fascinating, totally fascinating, and it can rewire. It can find a new route, like a river cuts a new path.”

  • Cam Lauf, Recovery Support Supervisor and person in recovery

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cam+4.jpg

TOGETHER, WE’RE BUILDING A COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO THE OPIOID CRISIS.

THIS IS CAM’S STORY.

 Cam was a college freshman with a baseball scholarship and aspirations of becoming a professional player. He would later drop out of school and pawn all of his sports equipment for money to buy heroin.

Cam lost his father, a professional hockey player and Cam’s idol, at a young age. At the same time, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. This experience, he says, helped contribute to his disease: “I was seven when he died and it was painful. It still hurts.” He began to drink heavily and use opiates and other drugs in high school to be more sociable and try to fill the emptiness he felt.

Cam began to use opiates almost every day and was soon introduced to heroin by a friend. When he first tried it, he felt better than he had ever felt. The first time he experienced withdrawal symptoms, he thought he might have the flu. “You’re dope-sick,” his friend told him. “I didn’t even know what that was,” Cam says.

At 19, Cam was hospitalized while detoxing from drugs. “My mom took me to the hospital. She didn’t know what to do or how to respond.” At the time, Cam was treated for his medical symptoms and he and his mother were provided a pamphlet of information on where to seek treatment. Cam would later learn that this method is not enough for those struggling with substance use disorder.

GLOBAL_Banner_placeholder.jpg

HELPING OTHERS FIND THEIR PATHS TO RECOVERY

Cam is now five years free of substances and is using his experience to help others. Cam is a Recovery Support Supervisor for Turning Point Center of Chittenden County. His program, supported in part by gifts to United Way, connects patients of UVM Medical Center with signs or symptoms of substance use disorder to peer support that helps them navigate the next steps.

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection,” says journalist and speaker Johann Hari, who has spent his career exploring the true cause of addiction. For Cam, these are words to live by. Whether it’s finding treatment for someone immediately after overdose, or establishing a relationship long before someone is ready to take the next step toward recovery, Cam is committed to connecting to people who need support.

“As a recovery coach, we support people and we offer all these different routes of recovery, all these different paths for people where they possibly wouldn’t have known that these options existed in the past,” he says.

One of those options is medication-assisted recovery, which Cam will recommend to someone if they’re ready and direct them to a treatment facility. Chittenden County Opioid Alliance (CCOA) and United Way were instrumental in setting up a low-barrier treatment program and eliminating the waiting period, a dangerous road block for someone who is ready to seek treatment. This, combined with other systems-change efforts by CCOA, has resulted in a dramatic reduction in opioid-related deaths over the past year.

CCOA is a group of committed partners from the nonprofit, government and business sectors working together to address the ongoing challenges of the opioid crisis. united way provides both funding and staffing to the alliance, which addresses multiple strategies to tackle one of our community’s toughest issues.

this story highlights just one piece of the work that the alliance partners are doing to help our community members get and stay well.

(Link to original WCAX story here.)

It’s no secret that opioid use disorder has had deep and devastating effects on families, workplaces and our entire community. It continues to impact people of all walks of life. Like any chronic disease, the addicted brain is very difficult to treat—that’s why United Way invests in prevention, treatment and recovery—three separate but essential supports needed to help people get and stay well.

In 2016, United Way rallied stakeholders from across the community to more deeply address the growing opioid crisis. From 2017 to 2018, Chittenden County reduced opioid-related deaths by 50 percent.

GLOBAL_Banner_placeholder.jpg

 WHAT’S WORKING:

REDUCING OPIOID PRESCRIPTIONS

CCOA worked with UVM Medical Center to reduce the prescribing of opioids in the community

CHANGING SYSTEMS FOR BETTER ACCESS

CCOA partners created the ‘hub and spoke’ model: 9 regional “hubs” for intensive medication-assisted recovery with methadone and buprenorphine; “spokes” provide ongoing treatment and counseling in a community setting

IMMEDIATE ACCESS TO TREATMENT

CCOA worked to reduce the waiting time for medication-assisted recovery to provide treatment on demand

HELPING PEOPLE IN RECOVERY GET HIRED

CCOA has created and marketed a recovery-friendly workplace toolkit to provide guidance and support for employers hiring people in recovery