Saving Lives Task Force: Focus on Richard Martin

By on April 3, 2019

Volunteer work is a big part of my life. Both of my parents were active volunteers in the community. After working 20 years in community mental health and 10 years in public education, I retired and now have a limited private practice and volunteer in the community.

On the work side, I provide outpatient group therapy for individuals participating in Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid dependence and work with young people through a contract with the Dare County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

On the volunteer side, the  other big area I am focused on is school-based mental health and substance abuse services. I am the Co-Chair of the Dare County Community Collaborative School Based Behavioral Health subcommittee with Susan Lee. I am also on the North Carolina School Based Behavioral Health subcommittee.

How did you get started with the Saving Lives Task Force and how long have you served?

I had the good fortune to witness the beginning of the Saving Lives Task Force and watch as it has grown.

I remember the meeting that set the wheels in motion. Commissioner Wally Overman at a meeting of the Children’s Mental Health/Substance Abuse Community Collaborative asked why different organizations addressing substance abuse were not working together.

The Task Force is a remarkable example of a community coming together.

I started my career in the substance abuse field in 1979 so I’ve been actively involved in several community responses to the problem of alcohol and drug abuse. To be successful, leadership is critical. This is absolutely the case with the Saving Lives Task Force.

It is not unusual for these efforts to start with great enthusiasm and die off because of the work necessary to keep them alive. Roxanna Ballinger has teamed with Commissioner Overman to provide the strong leadership that has resulted in the growth of the Saving Lives Task Force.

Richard, I believe you and Gina Miller are in the process of getting the Faith community involved with the task force — now would be a GREAT opportunity for you to “open the door” on that endeavor!

My current focus with the Saving Lives Task Force is to co-chair the Faith Outreach subcommittee with Pastor Gina Miller from St. John’s United Methodist Church in Avon.

I believe the faith community has an important role in addressing substance abuse and mental health prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery. As a graduate of Duke Divinity School, I am aware of the limited attention mental health and substance abuse get in a faith leader’s education.

I did a survey of 101 patients receiving Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence. In response to the question “Would you find it helpful to have access to a minister during treatment?” 52 of 101 patients responded “Yes.” Another 33 of 101 patients responded that they were “Not Sure.” This indicates that an overwhelming number of patients either saw a role or were open to the possibility of a role for a minister in their treatment.

In the survey, patients specifically stated how the minister could be helpful. During the course of my over 35 years in the substance abuse field, I have frequently asked leaders in the faith community how often they were contacted by a mental health or substance abuse professional to work together on behalf of a patient. The response has almost always been “Never”.

This is an opportunity for the treatment community to re-think the relationship with the faith community. The Faith Community Outreach subcommittee of the Saving Lives Task Force is working to bring the faith community and the treatment community together to address the crisis facing our community.

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Arturo Lara

Dr. Martin is one of the greatest guys I know. He is such a caring, compassionate, and community oriented individual who makes Dare County a better place. Because of him and his wife, I found my passion for helping others/community service. Thanks for all you do, Doc!