The Grinnell Magazine Interviews Jane Hayes '58
The Grinnell Magazine: How did you come to be involved with the Instituto Souza Novaes? What originally drew you to working in drug rehabilitation?
Jane Hayes: Initially I got involved because I wanted to be a volunteer and was guided by a mentor to a rehab project near my home. The personal experience did bring into focus in a very real way the fact that we are dealing with life and death issues and with a disease for which there is no cure but a way to arrest the progression and degradation. Once I experienced that, there was no turning back and I became more dedicated and no doubt more effective in my vocation.
GM: You say, "I believe in recovery." What are the figures for those who enter treatment and how many succeed? Does the "Minnesota Model" have a higher success rate than other programs?
JH: Hard data are scarce. Generally treatment centers can track their ex-patients for not more than 12 months, if that, depending on their cooperation and their willingness to maintain contact with the center and compromise their anonymity. Many people do not want to cooperate for fear of social prejudice if disclosed. So the international figures now state that between 30 percent to 40 percent of treatment program maintain drug free for 12 months. However, there are other measures of success that are more important to many of us working in this field. People who do not maintain absolute sobriety but who can control their use and cause less damage to the society in general are another measure of success. The society will have fewer accidents caused by drunk drivers if an alcoholic does not drive a vehicle while drinking, domestic violence will diminish as well as other crimes. The costs to the society lessen as well, with less money spent on hospital emergency room care and the many health problems caused by addiction. The Minnesota Model, a multidisciplinary program of recovery, is based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous [and] helps the most people throughout the world. Recovery based on religious experiences and other rehab programs exist and work for some people.
GM: What special challenges do you face because of your location in Brazil?
JH: Being in a developing nation that is experiencing social, economic, and political crises creates a climate in which financial funding is an enormous challenge. The competition for available money is likewise enormous. A government program aimed at education about chemical dependency is nonexistent and thus many people who could be helped do not understand the nature of this disease and what treatments are available. There is still considerable discrimination against women, which makes if really difficult to bring women into a recovery program. Thus the vicious cycle of children and very young people being exposed to drugs and crime and violence at home continues, and the age of first use of drugs continues to be earlier. In Brazil drugs and alcohol can be acquired easily and cheaply since this country is on the international drug route to Europe and the United States.
GM: The grant will fund a halfway house for adolescent males. Tell us about the need for this and how the halfway house will help these young men stay sober. How hard is it for a young person to return to the outside world?
JH: This will be a very special residence where the young people will live, for several years in many cases. We have seen that the large majority of adolescents who complete the treatment program at the Center for Adolescents, relapse within a few months because they don't have any organized and supported way to return to society. While at this residence, the boys will study in public schools and participate in vocational courses preparing them to make the transition to participating citizens with all the rights, privileges, and obligations of other youth their ages. They will participate in cultural and sports activities available in the neighborhood and the city. Professionals in the field of chemical dependency will participate in frequent evaluations to check the progress made by each individual. And most importantly, attention will be given to the family relationships of each boy, bringing the parents and brothers and sisters into the overall reintegration process, with the hope that healthy famil ies will also result from the project over time.
That is why we are planning to have this [as] a long tern residency in most cases. Without this specific project, the chances of long-term recovery are practically nil for these youth. Without this link between treatment and a return to society they all return to the slums from which they came and the vicious cycle continues and in most cases, it ends in death. This project is unique and on the cutting edge of rehabilitation of at-risk youth, commonly known as "street kids." We have been working with these people for 12 years and see clearly that in order to really save these young lives, long term support must be provided throughout adolescence and until healthy options are available.