INOVA Health Systems Addiction Awareness

“I found myself working with a mom who had a lot on her plate. A lot of different stressors in her life. And she found herself taking two bottles of wine every night to her kid’s soccer practice. Then, after their bedtime routine, she would have another bottle,” Robin Shultz, Senior Director of Adult Behavioral Health at INOVA describes. “However,” she continues, “[this story] runs with the theme that there is hope.” 

Shultz explains that as her patient entered rehab and embarked on the beautiful journey of recovery. “The twinkle in her eye was beautiful as she realized that there was a pathway for her to become the mom that she used to be in ways that the bottle had distracted her from being.”

 She adds, “There’s dozens and hundreds of stories like that. So I think the message for me is, there is hope, that it’s not hopeless. ”

This year, INOVA Health Systems found some shocking results through a survey conducted as apart of their Act on Addiction awareness campaign: 30% of the survey respondents stated that they know someone who suffers from an addiction while nearly half of these respondents added that they would be too afraid to seek care for addiction or substance abuse. INOVA seeks to shine light on the struggles of addiction and mitigate the fear that keeps one from seeking help.

“The message that we would like to get out into the community is that you’re not the only one suffering. It’s okay to not be okay. Addiction is not a disease that there isn’t help for. It’s treatable just like all other diseases. We really want to open the door for people to be able to see themselves, living the best life they can.”

INOVA offers a multitude of treatment services, catered to a patient’s needs. It all begins at their central call center, open to just about anyone who is struggling with any mental health issues. After that point of entry, the patient is directed to one of three levels: medical detoxification in an inpatient unit, intensive outpatient program a few days a week, or outpatient therapy with group support. 

“However,” Shultz emphasizes, “we want to recognize that everyone is at different levels of readiness to seek change. We want to speak to the people who are struggling with the steps, before just calling for help.” Shultz explains that often it starts with a single conversation with a loved one or friend. Difficult conversations, says Shultz, lift the heaviest of burdens for those battling addiction.

Shultz explains that at its core, one of the biggest stigmas surrounding substance use, “is the fear that you will be judged negatively, or that you will lose what is important to you if you come forward. That you won’t get a job or your family member won’t have the same respect for you.” She points to the possible assumption that when a patient struggles with physical health problems, like a heart problem, it is okay to receive care or miss work to attend appointments. However, when a patient is handling a mental health problem, their health concerns may not be as visible to their loved ones.

She cautions, “Pay attention to behavioral changes, changes in physical appearance, and difficulty focusing.”

Shultz advises vigilance and care for those caring for someone with a substance abuse disorder. “Just keep them in mind and don’t turn a blind eye. Because if you aren’t the one to puncture that balloon with a conversation, who will?”

Patient support systems play a vital role in the recovery process.

If you or a loved one have been impacted by substance use disorder and are seeking information for care, please visit

Article by Stone Hill High School Student Aishani Satia

Photo by Alex Green

Note to the reader: This story was intended to run during the month of October during National Substance Abuse Awareness month. We apologize for the delay on publication however we are grateful to share this story with the larger community.

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