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JOE GAMM The Daily Astorian
The Daily Astorian
7/1/2009 12:09:00 PM
SEASIDE - Corbett Monica, a Sandy man, suffers from mental illness and addiction, but has been sober for 23 years. And for those 23 years he has helped others to find sobriety. Many people who suffer from mental illness also have substance abuse problems. The combination of these conditions is considered dual diagnosis.

Sam Condron, left, and Dual Diagnosis Anonymous founder Corbett Monica discuss upcoming meetings of the Seaside Chapter.
Seaside-based group helps people with 'dual diagnosis'
Many people who suffer from mental illness also have substance abuse problems

Monica developed Dual Diagnosis Anonymous (DDA) - a program intended to help people diagnosed with mental illness and addiction to recover.

One of the newest DDA chapters opened recently in Seaside.

DDA was based on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) peer-support, faith-based 12-step program, in which addiction sufferers accept responsibility for their activities and conditions. But it goes further, adding five steps, in which the participants in the program admit to having mental illness in addition to their addictions and accept responsibility for taking their medications.

"I have not met an addict or alcoholic who does not have an underlying mental illness," Monica said.

Monica served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam in the 1960s. He was addicted to intravenous drugs at the time, and after serving in the war had a deep sense of hopelessness. He was placed in a psychiatric hospital after a couple of suicide attempts in California.

But in 1986 he realized he had to get sober. He began attending AA meetings. He was eventually hired in Riverside County, Calif., to provide services for people in the county who were dual diagnosed. In 1996, Monica took a group of dual diagnosed consumers to a 12 Step meeting in Fontana, Calif. But one of his clients, known as Ruben G., who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and alcoholism, disrupted the meeting - pacing, mumbling and laughing to himself because he heard voices.

Monica was asked not to take Ruben G. to any more meetings, but Ruben G. was disappointed because he loved the 12 Step meetings. Monica realized that dual diagnosed folks didn't fit in with other 12 Step clients. And conditions of substance abuse and mental illness had to be treated equally, so he began DDA.

The program made its way to Oregon. Monica contracted with the state to open 40 DDA chapters beginning in 2005.

With the addition of the Seaside chapter, there are now 82 around Oregon. The chapters can be found at mental health and residential outpatient facilities, acute care hospitals, churches, shelters and prisons.

In Seaside, meetings are held in two locations, one at the North Coast Recovery Outreach Center, at 1530 S. Roosevelt Drive, from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays. Another location is LifeWorks Northwest, 1000 S. Holladay Drive, from 11 a.m. to noon Fridays. Times are subject to change.

Sam Condron, an outreach specialist for DDA, came to the North Coast from Portland to help establish the chapter. He is the chapter's secretary as it gets off the ground.

"We're hoping the chapter we establish here will be self-supporting," he said.

Right now, the nonprofit DDA of Oregon, is funded through the state of Oregon, but there is a link on the organization's Web site ddaoforegon.com for people who wish to donate. Monica said the organization is fortunate that it has access to donated space, but sometimes it has to rent, so it welcomes donations through the statewide organization to help in those instances. Also, clients often donate what they can, which generally pays for refreshments at the meetings.

LifeWorks Northwest Program Director Michel Meiffren said he was immediately excited about the possibility of having a chapter of DDA on the North Coast when state officials contacted him. And he warns that simply having the program won't solve the area's needs if people aren't willing to attend.

"It fits for that category of people who have dual diagnosis," he said. "But we cannot mandate that people attend a program like dual diagnosis."

 

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