Although we do not have a Jewish presence in residential facilities, Atlanta has many passionate professionals and wonderful programs and treatment networks. Provided is a list of resources for battling addiction that are available in the metro area, as well as a vision for what could be, including models for out-of-state programs to which local professionals refer people in need.

HAMSA coordinator Eric Miller described three pillars under which HAMSA (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse) helps combat heroin addiction and other opioid abuse in the Jewish community.


Prevention and Education

Miller and the HAMSA clinical team are putting in place a curriculum of prevention and education for fifth through 12th grades that will be available to public and private schools, as well as synagogue education programs.

Editor’s Notebook: Tackling 2 Important Topics 3

HAMSA (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse) is a program run by JF&CS that helps combat addiction.

The curriculum is evidence-based and age-appropriate and will be infused with local content, people and stories to make it applicable to, and resonant with, Atlanta middle and high school students as it tracks them through pivotal developmental years.

Treatment and Intervention

This critical function could also be called “Helping the addict and the family.” By the time the mom, dad, aunts, uncles and cousins call HAMSA for assistance, the addict has typically gone into treatment, fallen out and gone back in again. Huge amounts of resources have often been expended, and the family calls in desperation, saying, “What are we going to do now?”

The HAMSA team asks a series of questions to help determine the course of action and offers information and options for each step, including support and guidance for the family of the addict. ­­­­­­­­­­

The path for combatting heroin abuse varies with each case but can involve the following:

  • Needs assessment and evaluation.
  • Individual and/or family counseling.
  • Clinical referrals.
  • Detox, typically seven to 10 days. Numerous state-licensed detox facilities are available with options for a wide variety of preferences and budgets.
  • Treatment, typically 30 days to six months. Many state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facilities offer inpatient or intensive outpatient programs. The focus can vary from teens and young adults to wilderness experience.

Out-of-state inpatient treatment centers, some affiliated with local centers, provide Jewish rabbinical support and, in some cases, kosher facilities. Inform the HAMSA team if those services are priorities for your family.

“After detox you need to go into treatment,” Miller said. If the addict has health coverage, “insurance typically covers about 30 days of that. You really need six months. Especially if we’re talking about heroin, you really want to be in treatment for a year.”

Note that the terminology matters. While insurance may cover some services at “inpatient treatment facilities,” it usually does not pay for “residential programs.” Many local centers fall into the latter category and can be very expensive.

“There are less expensive options. You just have to find them,” Miller said.

  • Intensive outpatient. This treatment can vary greatly — including group or individual talk therapy, education, and even yoga — for half a day, roughly four days per week. Many locations and options are available in Atlanta.
  • Residential, which is long-term intervention. There are many residential options, including halfway houses, sober living, and staying with the family while participating in a 12-step program.

Fellowship, Family and Community Support

  • Sober friends to replace those who threaten sobriety. Create a sober community around you.
  • Supportive family. Supportive friends and family can also help the addict strategize. For example, have grape juice available at a family simcha, or make sure the addict has access to a car in case a situation becomes uncomfortable.
  • Recovery groups, located throughout the city. The addict selects a group that is comfortable and enables the addict to center the recovery — either a 12-step home group, offering the structure of a sponsor, sponsees and friends, or a more clinically based program.

Twelve-step Narcotics Anonymous groups are all around Atlanta (www.grscna.com/Areas). Sally Anderson leads a weekly clinical recovery group through HAMSA at the JF&CS offices at 4549 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

  • Additional HAMSA programs in partnership with the Jewish community include Sober Shabbat, a roaming Shabbat dinner held monthly for Jews in recovery; Acoustic Shabbat Cafe, which alternates monthly between Crema Espresso Gourmet in Dunwoody and San Francisco Coffee in Virginia-Highland (see the schedule at www.atlantajcc.org); and Families Anonymous, a group meeting for those whose lives have been affected by a loved one’s addiction, held Monday nights at 7:15 p.m. at Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell (contact Jeanne and Jeff Schultz at 770-552-8750 or asburypark@comcast.net).

Also available are Alcoholics Anonymous, a group meeting for addicts held Tuesday nights at 8 at Temple Kehillat Chaim (contact Mike Gordon at 770-597-4599 or mcgordon@mindspring.com), and two Al-Anon sessions, a group meeting held Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs (contact kathyshock10@yahoo.com) and a Seventh Hour Serenity group meeting held Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at Temple Kol Emeth in East Cobb (770-973-3533).