RU Texas The Beat

Northern Kentucky Officials Taking Addiction Prevention into their Own Hands

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 21, 2017 11:12:20 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Drug Treatment, Addiction, Rehab, Kentucky

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Every so often, we’re reminded of the power of communities to mobilize and improve conditions for their citizens and outlying neighborhoods. Whether it’s an issue with drug trafficking, relations with law enforcement, environmental impact or anything else, real change starts at the grass-roots level with people who are directly affected by the problem that needs changing. Officials in Northern Kentucky-a region of the United States that has been hit particularly hard by the American opioid crisis-has demonstrated such a commitment to ground-level change with a bold new initiative that makes it harder for addicts to access prescription drugs for illicit use.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department has partnered with Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and several local officials and businesses to launch a program that will provide free drug disposal pouches to ensure that medications are disposed of properly. The organization announced the collaboration in a statement in which they also said officials will announce details of the initiative Thursday at the Boone County Sheriff's Office in Burlington. The initiative makes permanent in the area, the same kind of one-day opioid-disposal events we’ve seen in Kentucky as well as the rest of the country, including Florida and Texas. Further details are expected to be forthcoming.

In addition to federal and state funding, law enforcement awareness, increased treatment options and other vital anti-overdoses resources, community involvement is key to preventing the further proliferation of localized drug trafficking and abuse. In 2015, the state of Kentucky saw nearly 1,250 overdose deaths, an increase of over 200 from the previous year. Local officials have cause to believe the problem is getting worse. Like most areas of the United States, the proliferation of fentanyl has spiked overall overdose rates in the region. Most recently, the city of Louisville recorded 52 overdoses in a 32-hour period, a trend which area hospitals and law enforcement say is likely to continue.

Kentucky’s proactive action reminds communities everywhere of their power to affect change and keep themselves and he people around them safe. A culture of drug trafficking seriously erodes quality of life in any community it touches, and the sooner we realize that, and work to prevent it, the better off we will be. While we can’t expect our friends and neighbors to solve the world’s addiction problems, we can start the process of incremental change by asking ourselves what we can do to curb addiction in our own corners of the world.

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Rebuilding: The Importance of Perseverance in Addiction Recovery

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 10, 2017 12:02:16 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Rebuilding, Tornado

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Recovery Unplugged Texas was recently impacted by a tornado that left us temporarily unable to fully provide the unmatched level of care our patients deserve, and have come to expect. While none of us can control the weather, and we were able to rebuild after only half a day, we were dismayed to be hindered in our mission even for that short amount of time. As conditions quickly improved, and we were able to once again provide comprehensive, evidence-based, music-focused treatment to our client community, the experience reminded Recovery Unplugged about the importance of perspective and perseverance in addiction recovery, and that adversity, in any form, is only temporary.

When a person or family is affected by addiction, it’s often as though a metaphorical storm has blown through their individual and collective lives. The time it takes to rebuild a life that has been affected by the fallout of substance abuse may far exceed that of any superficial structure or building; but it can and must be done. Much like putting a house, a building or even a town back together; however, it takes help from the people around us and it takes perseverance on our own part. It’s easy to just let a structure burn or crumble without doing what it takes to save it. In the end, however, we will only find ourselves without a home or sense of place.

Even when addiction seems to have blown our lives or our loved ones’ lives apart, we can rebuild with a solid and reliable foundation of self-awareness, perspective and perseverance. We can weather any storm in our lives if we believe that our lives are worth saving and preserving. Recovery Unplugged wants to remind all past, present and future patients of their innate strength and character, and that they can rebuild their lives after addiction, just as we were able to do so after the recent tornado. Thank you so much for your continued, and entirely reciprocated, faith in our mission, and for letting us help you or your loved one overcome addiction. It has been, and will continue to be, our pleasure and calling to provide care to those that need it, no matter what obstacles life may throw at us. We are stronger than the adversity in our lives, no matter how overwhelming it may seem to us now.

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Misinformation Plays Significant Role in Texas Drug Epidemic

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 9, 2017 1:22:13 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Addiction Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Opioid, Underreporting

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get-facts.jpgIt’s, frankly, little surprise that many healthcare organizations and state agencies would have a hard time keeping up with the glut of addiction-related fatalities consuming the United States. The reality is that this urgent and pervasive public health issue is growing faster than we, as a nation, can get our arms around it. The fact remains; however, that when inaccurately reported numbers (however unintentional) are allowed to fester and go uncorrected it has a nasty habit of dictating policy; this is a reality that the Lone Star State is finding out, first hand, as it endeavors to curb substance abuse within its borders.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released numbers that indicated Texas had among the lowest rates in the nation for heroin and opioid abuse. Data from the Houston Chronicle, however, indicates that these numbers might be a product of underreporting. There have been multiple examples of misalignment between state and county calculations that have resulted in a lowballing of the state’s overdose rates. County estimations, which are likely to be more accurate, are consistently higher than state calculations. Texas is just one of many states in which underreporting and misinformation further clouds the full scope of the addiction problem.

Why is it so important that these numbers are accurately reported? In addition to the obvious answer of making sure every human life is recognized and the state has a full and accurate picture of the public health matters affecting it, these figures translate into real and tangible resources to help counties fight drug and alcohol abuse in their communities. Lower estimates tend to get lower attention and subsequently lower prevention and treatment resources. For its own part, Texas is looking at the discrepancies in numbers and how to best ensure consistency of reporting at the state and local levels, going forward.

With heroin and opioid rates posing such an urgent threat to communities all over the country, it’s easy for certain locales to get lost in the shuffle. One of the best ways to accurately assess the full scope of threat and the progress we’re making to curb it as a nation, from year to year is to make sure everyone is doing their part to deliver the right information. We’ve seen what happens when inaccurate data is allowed to govern the addiction care conversation in this country, and it’s partly responsible for the escalation we have seen in recent decades.

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Are Recovery Schools the Wave of the Future for Juvenile Addicts?

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 21, 2017 10:21:10 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Children, Rehab, Education, Recovery Schools

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Addiction has many casualties. Depending upon when, in one’s life, substance abuse takes hold, it can take away any sense of normalcy that so many of us take for granted, including a decent education. Many parents of young addicts are forced to choose between their children’s education and their recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly 32 percent of high school dropouts use illicit drugs and nearly 42 percent abuse alcohol. The agency also reports that dropouts are at increased risk of substance abuse once they leave school and move on to the next phase of their lives.

When we examine the long-term implications of this correlation, the picture gets even grimmer. Dropouts obviously face markedly increased difficulty finding quality employment that provides health insurance and a living wage. These conditions can easily put them in an economic class that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is three times as likely as higher-earning Americans to abuse dangerous drugs like heroin, which has become one of the nation’s dominant public health issues. Once this poverty-related addiction takes hold, finding a job with healthcare that can pay for treatment while your employer holds your job for you, is a virtual impossibility without the right education.

That’s the problem and more and more states are coalescing behind what they feel is the solution: recovery schools. These schools are specialized, drug-free facilities where adolescents in recovery can receive a quality education through individualized instruction; a flexible curriculum that allows for addiction and mental health treatment; participation in peer support groups; and an environment that caters to sober living. Some have been built as standalone facilities and some are programs within existing high schools. The National Association of Recovery Schools reports that there are nearly 40 recovery schools planned or currently in operation in 20 states across the country. The schools provide a targeted balance between instruction and treatment according to each student’s individual needs and are designed to ensure that even those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction can get an education.

New York is the latest state to offer recovery schools, with Governor Cuomo announcing plans for two this year. Other states that have adopted the recovery school model include Washington, Nevada, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oklahoma and right here in Texas. Additional schools are planned for the aforementioned New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana Tennessee, Illinois and Wisconsin. The National Association of Recovery Schools offers a clearly outlined roadmap to accreditation. Currently only five schools are accredited; however, this process is not mandatory for operation. Accreditation merely offers an established set of standards and practices that better ensure quality control.

Perhaps one of the primary advantages of recovery schools is that they represent an additional, and potentially critical, safety net for students who go from a standard treatment program right back into their old community. Some data suggests that as much as 85 percent of adolescents who receive treatment start using again within six months to a year. Recovery schools may provide the insulation needed to give teenagers time to heal while completing the education that will be critical in overcoming the fallout of their substance abuse and furthering their lives. These schools serve as a reminder that addiction is not only a medical issue, but an economic and education issue, as well.

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Louisville Overdose Spike Reignites Treatment Versus Enforcement Conversation

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 16, 2017 11:49:00 AM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Opioid

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A city that has been at the forefront of the American opioid epidemic since its start, Louisville, Kentucky recently experienced an even higher-than-usual increase in overdoses this past week. The city’s Metro Emergency Medical Services reported 151 overdose calls in less than seven days. Concerned that these spikes are no longer mere anomalies-but rather the new normal as the rest of the state and the entire country continues to contend with an increasingly pervasive and sophisticated opioid problem-Louisville has pledged to hire 150 new police officers to crack down on dealers. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also plans to collaborate with the DEA on overdose death investigations to get heroin dealers off our streets, and forming a task force with other agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, ATF, the US Attorney, Kentucky State Police and the State Attorney General's Office, to pursue, arrest and prosecute violent offenders.

Other Louisville officials-namely Dr. Joann Schulte, who heads the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness-have a different approach to combatting the statewide public health issue. In a recent apparent indictment of Louisville’s attitude toward medication-assisted treatment, Schulte told council members that Louisville needs to “grow up” and bolster medication-assisted treatment resources, as abstinence doesn’t work for everyone. Schulte forecasted a dim and prolonged battle with drug addiction in the city that saw 695 overdoses in the first month of 2017 alone. She lamented programs that don’t offer medications like methadone or buprenorphine-based drugs due to fears that patients will be replacing one drug with another. Proponents of mediation-assisted treatment claim that abstinence-based care doesn’t work for every patient.

While there is certainly wisdom in bulking up prevention and enforcement resources in the area, little has been said about Louisville’s plans to expand treatment to its sizable population of opioid addicts. Officials at Louisville’s Norton Audobon Hospital report that more overdoses are being treated at the hospital and the patients require larger amounts of the anti-overdose drug Narcan. They cite a significant spike in ER admissions and that more patients are needing to admitted for prolonged periods, rather than just being treated and released. Hospitals alone can’t offer the comprehensive treatment resources of a high-level treatment facility with medically supervised detox and rehab. While the situation in Louisville is unique in its own right, it also paints a larger picture of the ongoing battle between treatment and enforcement-first approaches when it comes to addiction.

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A Closer Look at What Addiction Does to Families

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 13, 2017 9:43:26 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Interventions, Treatment, Family

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When discussing addiction and its impact, brief and superficial lip-service is often paid to damage it creates within the family unit. We hear common tropes like how substance abuse takes its tolls on families first and how it’s often addicts’ loved ones who suffer the hardest; but what does that really look like close up? The reality is that over 20 million Americans currently suffer from some sort of substance use disorder and a large majority of these people have a whole group of families, friends and loved ones that suffer right alongside them. While the impact on the family is different, there are some common problems that manifest when drug and alcohol abuse invades a home.

For one thing, it’s not uncommon for the affected family member’s addiction to dominate the household. The nature of addiction is so urgent and pervasive that families very often have little time or energy to tend to their own lives and needs. Each possible overdose, each addiction-related crime, each family altercation forces families to mobilize to try and mitigate the fallout. After a while, regardless of how close a family may have been prior to combatting addiction together, this all-consuming problem can breed powerful resentment and frustration that spills over into other relationships in the family (parents, siblings or both).  

Addiction and substance abuse also correlates closely with domestic violence. The United States Justice Department reports that over 60 percent of all domestic abusers suffer from substance use disorder and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that two thirds of all domestic violence incidents involve alcohol in some form. Nearly 90 percent of domestic violence program directors agree that risk increases when alcohol or drugs are involved. Nearly 80% of all child-abuse cases involve the presence of drugs and/or alcohol. Children who experience domestic violence either directly or passively are at a much higher risk of developing substance abuse problems of their own.

When we discuss the impact that addiction has on the family unit, it’s important to understand exactly what that means and what it looks like. This kind of strain is what makes the intervention process so difficult. It’s also important to remember, however, that addiction is a disease that transforms the brain chemistry and forces people to seek drugs or alcohol beyond logic, reason and regarding for themselves and others. We have to remember that the vibrant, loving and caring person we love is still in there somewhere, no matter how hopeless or desperate we think the situation may be, and we can begin the process of getting our loved ones back by guiding them toward addiction treatment.

 

 

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How Will Trump-Era Foreign Policy Impact International Drug Trafficking Cooperation?

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 1, 2017 8:49:17 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Donald Trump, Drug Trafficking

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The Trump Administration’s clear and distinct departure from decades-old foreign policy protocol has been the subject of headlines across the globe for the past two weeks. Regardless of where one may fall on the political spectrum, it’s fair to say that many world leaders are re-examining their relationship with the United States and wondering what the next four years might bring. In the flurry of stories on trade deals, military presence, protection agreements and immigration policy, one area of international relations has been noticeably left out of the conversation: the current cooperation of other countries to curtail over-the-border drug trafficking.

With globalization now a permanent reality, despite what some might still believe, we live in a world where a drug epidemic in one country can very easily spill over into its neighbor’s borders. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) readily admits that cooperation with international law enforcement agencies is critical to its overall mission of curtailing drug abuse and addiction in the United States. For over 68 years, since the days of the DEA’s predecessor, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, these relationships have been vital to controlling international drug distribution. Although the problem still certainly persists, it would be compounded exponentially without the assistance from the countries where these drugs very often originate.

The DEA now operates in nearly 60 countries, including Mexico, with whom the United States may well be heading toward a more strained relationship amid current political tensions. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports that Mexican drug cartels take in between $19 and $29 billion annually from US drug sales. As alarming as this figure may be, imagine how much larger it would be without ongoing cooperation between the United States and our southern neighbors. A 2011 congressional report showed that more than 70 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities, and submitted to the ATF for tracing, are shown to have originated in the United States. The report covers 29,284 firearms submitted in 2009 and 2010.

The reality is that seizures of certain types of drugs at the Mexican border have declined in recent years. While this is due, in some part, to increasingly lax marijuana regulations and a few other factors, cocaine seizures have declined considerably as well, going down by nearly half. US Customs and Border Protection estimates that over the last five years, cocaine seizures at the US-Mexico border have steadily decreased from 8,763 pounds in 2011 to 4,924 in 2015 Marijuana seizures have decreased from 2,518, 211 to 1,536,499 in that same period. It’s hard to discount the role that international cooperation plays in these declines.

There is, however, a great deal more work to be done, and this work relies heavily on cooperation, not just from Mexico; but all over the world. Last year, the amount of heroin seized at Mexican borders from totaled 8,237 ounces, a dramatic increase from the 6,191 ounces seized five years prior. Meth seizures have also increased, totaling 6,429 pounds in 2015 compared to 1,838 in 2011. The world is perhaps more connected than ever when it comes to drug addiction. Despite the global community continuing to fight an uphill battle against drug trafficking and subsequent addiction, it’s worth pointing out the immense progress that has been made, and that such progress could not have been made by any one nation acting alone.

It is unclear how foreign policy will change and evolve throughout the Trump presidency. What is clear, however, is that drug addiction is a complex global public health issue that requires collaboration and partnership between vulnerable nations. What is also clear is that in 2017, every nation is vulnerable.

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The Voice of Experience: Recovering Addict Warns of Escalating Meth Problem in Texas

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 19, 2017 10:56:05 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Methamphetamine

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Earlier this week, authorities in East Texas seized guns and drugs from two locations in the latest battle in the war to curb trafficking, distribution and subsequent addiction within the region. The raid drew mixed reactions from members of the community, law enforcement, prevention advocates and clinicians. It failed; however, to surprise Marine Corps veteran and recovering methamphetamine addict Christopher Rodden of Longview. In a recent interview with a local ABC affiliate, Rodden discussed his own personal journey, the strong hold that meth takes on addicts and his take on the increasingly urgent drug problem facing all areas of the Lone Star state.

Methamphetamine has become such a problem in Texas, in part, because it’s easier to make, cheaper and more accessible than heroin and prescription opioids. Data from the University of Texas at Austin reports that an eight-ball of meth that cost $400 in the summer of 2014 was selling for $225 in the beginning of 2015. The University also reports that in 2015, 91 percent of methamphetamine tested in forensic laboratories in the U.S. was made with phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) from Mexico. Because of the demand in the U.S., the kilogram amount seized at the Mexico border increased 37 percent between 2010 and 2015. Last year, the Dallas and Houston DEA divisions ranked methamphetamine among the top two drug threats in their areas, similar to Atlanta and Los Angeles.

As a whole, methamphetamine now outranks cocaine on Texas’ list of drug threats, placing it second in the rankings behind marijuana. The problem is particularly severe in cities like Houston, Austin and San Antonio. In March of 2015, Authorities in Austin made the first-ever liquid meth bust in the area, seizing approximately $3 million worth of product. Two years later and the problem hasn’t gotten any better. Just five days ago, Brownwood police, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Early Police Department collaborated on the largest-ever bust in the City of Brownwood. The bottom line is that the problem is everywhere.

With the explosion of methamphetamine addiction in Texas has come widespread deterioration of lives, families and communities. In a climate in which marijuana is thought to present less and less of a threat, methamphetamine may officially be Texas’ most dominant public health issue, and it’s only slated to get worse without the proper combination of interventions from all community stakeholders. We simply can’t afford to wait for the problem to get worse.

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Gregg County Perfectly Represents Texas’ Diverse Addiction Problem

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 17, 2017 12:41:26 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Rehab, Gregg County, Drug Crimes

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Gregg County Sherriff Maxey recently spoke before members of the Longview Griggton Rotary Club about the multi-pronged addiction threat facing Gregg County and the rest of the lone star state. The talk provided illuminating insight into the pervasive and devastating public health issue that addiction represents in Texas, as well as its impact on communities across the state. Cerliano highlighted the most urgent drug threats in the area and the conditions that lead to and sustain abuse on an individual and community level. Gregg County has experienced a steady methamphetamine problem for years, mostly because it is easy to make and it’s cheaper than heroin and cocaine, which are also readily available in the area.

The sherriff also spoke extensively of the impact that addiction was having on the county’s jail. In 2016, there were a total of 9,171 bookings at the Gregg County Jail, 2,924 of which were for possession charges. This doesn’t include arrests for drug-motivated crimes, which experts speculate can push the percentage of drug-related bookings up to 80 percent. Opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone represented about 60 percent of prescription-related arrests last year, which tallied nearly 930. One of the primary aims of Cerliano’s talk was to mobilize and empower the Gregg County community to take action against addiction whenever possible.

Although Gregg County lies about five hours northeast of Austin, it’s hard not to look at the area’s drug problem as a microcosm of the entire state of Texas. It’s also important to remember the swift and immediate nature of drug trafficking and that what happens in a town like Tyler can, and often does, easily happen in Austin or San Antonio. In a time when drug threats are only getting more diverse and sophisticated, and Texas remains ever vulnerable to international trafficking, we must all remain vigilant and committed to protecting ourselves and the people around us. This means recognizing when a loved one is vulnerable to addiction and working to guide them toward help.

Prevention activism can also mean getting involved in the formation of public policy, holding awareness events within our own communities or simply learning about the physical and behavioral pathology of each drug so we know what to look for. Although state and municipal governments are finally allocating more resources toward address collective drug addiction, it will ultimately take a certain level of community will and action in order to eradicate it.

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Causey and Effect: Talking with Songwriter Buddy Causey

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 9, 2017 9:33:52 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Music Therapy, Addiction, Treatment, Music Treatment

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If you’ve never heard of Tuscaloosa singer/songwriter Buddy Causey, take a closer look at the canon of southern rock music over the past few decades. If that doesn’t work, check this year’s Grammys. A veteran of the music business, Causey started recording at Alabama’s legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio when he was just 19 years old. He parlayed his passion and talent into a career that saw record deals on such labels as United Artists, Capitol, Roulette and Warner Bros. He also wrote thousands of jingles for companies like McDonald’s, Miller Beer and Betty Crocker. Along the way, however, the reflective and deeply spiritual Causey fought a decades-long battle with substance abuse and addiction: “I got involved with everything you shouldn’t be involved with, hand over fist.” His primary drugs of choice were pills and marijuana.

Fate intervened in 2007 when Causey suffered an “extremely unusual” stroke that left him reliant on a walker, temporary visually impaired and with nerve damage to one of his vocal cords: “That changed my life. I promised God that if he ever let me sing again, I wouldn’t be selfish and sing to sell a bunch of records; I’d sing for him.” For the past five years, and after making a full recovery, Causey has been better than his word, traveling his self-designated route, spreading his version of the gospel. Since his recovery, all accept for one song (which just happens to be a Grammy-nominated collaboration with fellow Muscle Shoals alumni Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham), has been about his newly reinvigorated relationship with God.

The stroke also prevented Causey from any further drug use. After struggling to sing for four years, he was contacted by members of Celebrate Recovery. After initial reluctance to embrace recovery, it was only a matter of time before Causey started listening to the message: “I thought ‘Hey I’m a miracle, man. I could sing. I don’t need any of this mess.’ I was a fool. I needed it more than anybody. After I went through the step-study, I realized I kept making the same mistakes over and over.” Causey counts letting his temper get the better of him and taking the easy way out whenever possible among these dominant, lifelong mistakes.

These days the 70-year-old Causey is more interested in spreading his musical message to those who he feels truly need to hear it: “All I do now is go to churches, Celebrate Recovery [events], halfway houses, jails and prisons.” While the compensation may not be what he was used to from his days of writing and performing full-time, it’s no longer about money for Causey: “I make way more than money by going.” Causey started his current mission in November of 2011, after taking four years to recover from his life-changing stroke, and has been relentless in its pursuit ever since.

Although he might be slowing down his performance schedule, Causey remains active in the studio. He recently recorded a Christian record entitled Well Done My Son, which features collaborations with members of Toto, and Michael McDonald’s band and was co-produced by Blue Miller, a regular collaborator with India Arie. Well Done My Son is a self-funded effort and was put out by Causey himself on his Brother Man Records label. Despite a superlative musical career and his inspiring work helping others, Causey admits to being the occasional prisoner of the past: “I used to say that I wasted so much of my life; but if I hadn’t done what I’d done, I couldn’t talk to these people. They wouldn’t believe me. People that I talk to are people just like me.” Causey might be in error, however, to believe that anyone is truly like him.

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