One of NRVCS’ greatest strengths over the years has been the agency’s ability to adapt to the evolving needs of the communities it serves.

Because rates of substance abuse in southwest Virginia have continued to escalate at an alarming pace, one could argue that Glenn Mathews’ new position with NRVCS was created out of necessity. As Substance Abuse (SA) Services Program Manager, Mathews now oversees all facets of the agency’s SA services continuum to ensure that the needs of clients, staff and programs are being met.

Mathews’ responsibilities include NRVCS’ Intensive Outpatient Program (“Stepping Stones”), the New Life Recovery Center, individual and group SA outpatient treatment, and the Pulaski County Adult Drug Court Treatment Program. “Substance abuse touches every part of someone’s life – it damages their family, their finances, it increases the likelihood of abuse in the home – it’s incredibly destructive,” notes Mathews. “And the needs of the community are really overwhelming these days. We have a high percentage of people who are overdosing on opioids and referrals are coming from every direction.”

Mathews says his goal is to make NRVCS’ continuum of services more cohesive by adding components that include a detox bed, as well as a day treatment model that would provide ambulatory groups at New Life five days a week (five hours a day). The Intensive Outpatient Program, currently only offered in Blacksburg, may also be expanded to Pulaski County. He also hopes to expand the utilization of Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT), including the Suboxone program.

“One of our biggest challenges up to this point is that we have been guilty of operating our programs in silos but they aren’t mutually exclusive,” Mathews explains. “We have to not only share resources, but share ideas as well.”

With this in mind, Mathews has already initiated monthly meetings that include representation from various parts of the agency, including administration and reimbursement. “If we’re going to systemically improve how we serve our clients, we have to work together internally and make sure that we have representation from all areas of our agency that touch – or could potentially touch – a person’s life,” Mathews adds.

According to Mathews, another key to meeting the community’s growing needs is the integration of mental health and substance abuse treatment in order to provide quality and effective services. “You can’t just look at people as being someone who uses or abuses a substance,” Mathews adds. “They’re someone who also has mental health issues and so you have to treat them for both.”

Mathews, who has been with NRVCS for seven years, is quick to acknowledge that even with the best of treatment, there are still significant barriers that exist, including: stigma, lack of available housing and transportation, and limited access to medical care.

“We can provide the best treatment and care but at the end of the day, it’s hard for someone to focus on recovery if they don’t have a place to live,” says Mathews. “The case management needs of our clients are huge. So, the team approach is really the only way we can be effective.”

“Substance abuse touches every part of someone’s life – it damages their family, their finances, it increases the likelihood of abuse in the home – it’s incredibly destructive. And the needs of the community are really overwhelming these days. We have a high percentage of people who are overdosing on opioids and referrals are coming from every direction.”

– Glenn Mathews, NRVCS Substance Abuse Services Program Manager