A senior official with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy visited Bloomington’s Chestnut Health Systems on Monday to gain insight on how addiction treatment is covering rural residents.
Anne Hazelett said she was encouraged by Chestnut’s focus on partnerships with other local resources, “for example, with the hospital and with the school systems and seeing how we can reach people in different settings.”
Hazelett was named the Office’s Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs in February. In her role, she works to shape U.S. policy to improve the quality of life for rural residents.
She said though Chestnut’s partnerships are promising, there are two areas that all treatment providers can improve: transportation and housing for residents.
Chestnut's waitlist for women to get into its residential treatment program is over one month. For men, it is over three months.
Hazelett said that’s not unusual but could see improvements. She said one of the most common deterrents for residents seeking treatment out of rural communities, like those surrounding Bloomington-Normal, is stigma.
“The issue of addition is not a moral failure,” Hazelett said. “It is a disease, and places like Chestnut are important to helping people get healthy and then once they leave a facility like this, helping them have the skills to be able to go back into their life and be resilient."
Hazelett is meeting with health providers across central and downstate Illinois. She said she will take the information gathered back to Washington, D.C., to better inform policymakers.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.