Event tackles self-care for health providers

May 4, 2018

The road to recovery is not easy, as Niki Fontaine explained. She’s been through 16 detoxes, several different programs, and was homeless at times before overcoming her heroin addiction.

Fontaine has been clean for five years, and now is part of the Fall River Opioid Task Force, where she educates and works with addicts.

“I go bring them to [narcotics anonymous] meetings, I go into their home,” Fontaine said. “I’ve lost so many friends to this disease. I’m constantly sitting with the parents who’ve lost their children, just playing cards with them, sitting with them, making them know that they’re not alone.”

She was one of many attending Healing the Healers, a mental and behavioral health awareness event on May 4 put on by the Mental Health Network of South Coast. It’s all about maintaining self care for those who on a daily basis provide help to others.

It was an opportunity for Fontaine to reflect on her own struggle with addiction and how to continue to care for herself while helping those who are still in need.

More than 10 organizations, from companies offering therapeutic essential oils to suicide prevention awareness, shared information with the crowd of first responders and healthcare professionals in attendance.

Kevin Stevens, a former Pittsburgh Penguins hockey player, spoke about his own struggle with addiction and how he got clean after one bad decision to try cocaine led to his life spiraling out of control. It led to several rehab attempts and an arrest by the FBI.

He made the decision to begin turning his life around after his arrest. Now, Stevens is back working with the Penguins and sharing his story with the hope he can make a difference in just one person’s life.

“Every day wasn’t great, I didn’t jump out of this thing, doing jumping jacks and feeling my life was going to be great because it took time,” Stevens said. “I guarantee you if you do it a day at a time your life will get better and you’ll feel much better about yourself. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Stevens also shared his own perspective on how providers can help those dealing with addiction.

Susan Hillis, Treatment Director at Adcare Hospital, offered healthcare tips. Comedian Amy Tea, provided comic relief to audience members.

Carl Alves, who worked with a committee to put on the event, said the there are a several benefits to having a day which focuses on self care, mental health and other related topics.

“When you’re exposed the tragedies and the difficulties ongoingly it takes a toll on yourself personally, and unfortunately it can have negative consequences or negative effects and that’s why we see self-harm, substance use and that sort of thing as well,” Alves said. “This is an opportunity to kind of release the pressure valve a little bit, to kind of be in a room with people doing similar work, who have similar experiences.”