David Leisch wants people who suffer from addiction to know that there is hope at a new treatment center in La Mesa.
“If someone bottled up a magic potion to restore hope, then we wouldn’t be needed here,” he said. “But in fact, one of the driving factors of why we are here is because many people think that their hope is found in a bottle. We’re here to educate and train the brain to think otherwise.”
Leisch is president of Bridges of San Diego, a structured intensive outpatient treatment program located in the Crossroads Church, 8809 La Mesa Blvd.
“We made it our mission to open a treatment center right here in La Mesa because we found that East County typically does not have enough resources to service the need in this category,” he said.
Civic leaders and law enforcement officers echoed the need for drug and alcohol treatment in La Mesa at the treatment center’s grand opening on Sept. 27.
“As a schoolteacher, I work with 1,100 families and everyone has different stories and everyone has different challenges in families … so I’m always looking for resources,” Mayor Mark Arapostathis said. “I’m encouraged because this center is opening and it will be another resource that I can guide people to.”
La Mesa Chief of Police Walt Vasquez described The Bridges as “extremely important for the region.
“There’s times as law enforcement that we recognize that incarceration is not the answer. There’s time when it is, honestly, but there’s time when it’s not,” Vasquez said. “I’d rather these dedicated professionals, if they could help and deal with those individuals before they become a law enforcement problem, then we can deal with other issues that are occurring in our society that we are needed for.”
San Diego County Assistant Sheriff Mike Barnett gave a rundown on the kinds of drug problems in the East County area. So far this year, there have been over 1,400 drug arrests — mostly methamphetamine, which he described as the biggest problem. There have also been 19 drug overdose deaths this year and many more near-death overdoses.
“That’s why the work that all the dedicated professionals do at places like The Bridges is so important because drug abuse can be treated and fixed,” Barnett said.
The Bridges program director Dr. James Profit shared startling figures on alcoholism: 15.1 million people suffer from alcohol addiction — many of whom also abuse drugs; 63,000 men and 23,000 women die from alcohol use each year; and according to a 2010 report, drug and alcohol abuse costs the country an estimated $250 billion a year. He also shared another interesting statistic.
“I’ve researched this area,” he said. “There’s … a total of 32 places, just on La Mesa Boulevard, selling alcohol.”
The Bridges CEO and founder Sherry Roberts said the basic goal of the new La Mesa facility is to provide education and prevention measures for individuals and families suffering from the effects of substance abuse. The clientele will be a mix of individuals checking in for self-identified substance abuse problems and some court ordered. There will be a mix of day and evening classes and several payment options are available, including some insurance, cash and credit, and even some financing will be offered.
The Bridges is Roberts’ first outpatient facility. Previously, she had only operated sober-living homes in the San Diego area — a venture she may also start in La Mesa.
“Any homes we open would be housing for people who are coming from another area and need a place to stay while they are in our program,” she said.