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Tackling South Florida’s Addiction Crisis with Specialty Treatment for Women

Author: Libby Peck

At a time when Florida’s substance use rates are higher than ever yet treatment providers in the state are unequipped to properly heal people from addiction, facilities like Sunspire Health Hyde Park are fighting back against the negative stereotypes with specialized, accredited care.


Florida: A Changing Landscape

Florida is historically known as a retiree and vacationer’s heaven, full of sunny, sandy beaches and family fun in places like Disneyworld and Universal Studios in Orlando, Clearwater or the Florida Keys. But in recent years, the state’s reputation is devolving due to the number of addiction treatment centers that don’t have patients’ best interests in mind.

Between the Affordable Care Act and the Parity Act of 2008, insurers are required to pay for substance use disorder treatment. In places like Florida, minimal licensing restrictions have led to people taking advantage not only of the system, but also of addicted people. Many facilities owned and operated by so-called “body brokers” in south Florida seek massive insurance payouts for minimal patient care and give the entire behavioral healthcare field a bad name.

This type of treatment doesn’t give Floridians the addiction treatment they need to sustain a life of recovery. Governor Rick Scott declared a statewide public health emergency from the opioid crisis in May of 2017, and the state’s opioid-related deaths went up by 35% from 2015 to 2016, according to a November 2017 report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Beating the Stereotypes

Like most things in life, the bad acts of a few can give a bad name to all. So it’s important to note that not all addiction treatment facilities in Florida follow this abuse of the system and mistreatment of patients. Places like Hyde Park in Tampa, Florida provide accredited, specialized care where patients are treated like people rather than dollar signs.

Hyde Park holds itself to a higher standard than the stereotypical idea of Florida treatment facilities. It’s accredited by The Joint Commission, the “gold standard” that behavioral health facilities and organizations are held to through meeting comprehensive standards of performance.

Under the Sunspire Health umbrella, this facility is also a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, a nonprofit group of substance use disorder treatment facilities dedicated to destigmatizing addiction and advocating for federal policy reform that can help more people to recover.

But it’s not just accreditation that sets Hyde Park apart. This facility takes individualized care to the next level by providing treatment specifically for women and focusing directly on women’s issues both in recovery and within society at large.

Breaking Down Treatment Barriers

Hyde Park’s Clinical Director Angela Corbett, LSCW, CAP, and Nursing Director Michelle Jordan, RN, BLS are two of the hardworking professionals raising the bar for the quality of addiction treatment in Florida. Set in a beautiful, fully restored Victorian home just a block away from the Bay Shore waterfront of Tampa, Hyde Park gives the women in its care a peaceful, homelike setting for their treatment.

“Coming to an all-women’s facility where [patients] can just totally focus on being a woman has provided great successes,” says Jordan. As a women’s-only facility, Hyde Park recognizes that women need specialized support to recover from addiction. Jordan explains that, with “women in general, there are a few more obstacles and barriers when it comes to them seeking treatment and reasons for them not to seek treatment” than there are for men.

Female biology plays a large role in this. “The way [women’s] bodies are set up, we have less water and more fatty tissue. Many of the substances that are abused are often held in that fatty tissue, so […] we don’t filter that through, substances stay in our system longer, and our internal organs are being exposed to these substances longer than men,” Jordan says.

Corbett explains, “[Women’s] physiology is set up that we feel the effects of drugs more. Women […] typically have a shorter period of time between substance use and substance dependence.” This accelerated progression of addiction, known as telescoping, can lead women down an unexpected path from casual use to a full-fledged substance use disorder.

Primary care providers and other healthcare providers, like therapists or psychiatrists, should be especially attuned to the signs of dependence in female patients before addiction can take hold. “Research has shown that women are referred to treatment less frequently by their primary care providers than men are,” Corbett mentions.

How Hyde Park Helps

Barriers to receiving treatment aren’t just physical—they’re psychological, too. While telescoping often leads to women being unaware of the progression of their disease, women tend to “use substances for different reasons than men,” Corbett says. “Women tend to use for mood regulation, and women are at an increased risk of having mood disorders, like depression or anxiety. Women use to help themselves feel better.”

Guilt plays a large part in these psychological barriers, especially if the woman is a caregiver of any kind. Jordan says, “They’re usually the ones to take care of everyone else, so the guilt comes in dramatically.” Corbett adds, “As a mother, it can be really difficult to make the decision to leave your family to go into an inpatient program.”

But when women suffering from addiction come together to heal at Hyde Park, they form a community of their own. New patients integrated into a welcoming group of peers provides women with “feelings of safety and feelings of belongingness,” according to Corbett. She adds that when women “get connected and develop a support network in [the] community,” they’ll meet people who are willing to help with their recovery beyond their care at the facility.

At Hyde Park, women build their recovery community through group meetings covering codependency and relationships, family bonds and in-house 12-Step studies. They also heal from trauma that may be the underlying cause of addiction in one-on-one therapy sessions. Bonds are formed through recreational activities and involvement with the Tampa community at large.

In everything Corbett and Jordan do at Hyde Park with their staff, they aim to not only heal women, but provide a place that makes them feel secure. “We want you to be safe, we want you to feel safe [at Hyde Park]. This needs to be your safe house,” says Jordan.

If you or a beloved woman in your life are ready to recover from addiction, contact a Sunspire Health care advocate online for admissions information.