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Communities Can ‘Expect Hope’

Written By: Gateway, , Community

Oklahoma has some of the highest rates for mental illness, addiction, and substance use disorders in the country.

Based on 2012 data, Oklahoma ranks third in the nation for rates of any mental illness and second in the nation for rates of any substance abuse disorders. This means that between 700,000 and 950,000 adult Oklahomans could greatly benefit from services.

Emotional disturbances and substance abuse among children and youth also occur at alarming rates. About 10 percent of Oklahoma youth have a mental health disorder and an additional 10 percent have a substance abuse issue.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in August 2017 found that 46 percent of U.S. adults say they have a family member or close friend who is addicted to drugs or has been in the past.

Addiction does not discriminate. Its impact is hard-hitting, far-reaching and unavoidable. Addressing this overwhelming challenge requires the help of both professionals and local community members. Fortunately, we have both.

Gateway to Prevention & Recovery is an established nonprofit who understands that addiction is a devastating, complex and progressive disease. When left untreated, it can negatively affect every area of a person’s life. That is why Gateway is dedicated to serving individuals, families and communities in Oklahoma who have been affected by addiction and mental health disorders.

  • More than 35 years ago, local parents, including Gateway CEO Sallie McLaughlin, gathered out of a deep concern for their teenagers who had begun to develop problems with drugs and alcohol. Because resources were extremely limited, these individuals formed a planning group and established a hotline to support other families who were facing similar issues.
  • Through community partnerships and private donations, funding was acquired to start providing addiction treatment services to the community.
  • Soon after, Gateway sought guidance from programs in Kansas and acquired the necessary information and resources to bring a prevention program back to Oklahoma. To this day, Gateway is the only substance abuse treatment provider in the state that has its own prevention program.
  • Today, Gateway’s treatment services are rooted in Pottawatomie, Lincoln and Seminole counties, providing substance abuse, mental health and gambling services to more than 500 community members – including children and youth – every year, with that number steadily increasing as programs develop and expand.
  • Gateway’s prevention services stretch across six counties, including a great majority of rural communities that would not otherwise receive the support, resources and education necessary to improve their health and wellness and decrease their susceptibility to developing substance abuse and mental health disturbances.

Gateway is extremely proud of its efforts over the years as it has helped individuals, families and communities experience a greater sense of overall health and wellness. However, Gateway understands that engaging in sobriety and healthy decision-making requires exciting, inspiring and supportive environments that exist both inside and outside of the treatment or prevention setting.

In his Ted Talk, “Everything you know about addiction is wrong,” Johann Hari said, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

People are wired to seek connection and will find it even though such connections may or may not be “healthy.” However, if presented with adequate support, resources and opportunities to engage in their purpose, individuals can and will turn away from destructive patterns and embrace a more fulfilling and productive way of life.

That is why Gateway is thrilled to announce that it has been chosen as a Life.Church local mission partner alongside Community Renewal, Legacy Parenting and Cargo Ranch. Life.Church is committed to providing relief and restoration to its communities through partnerships with local organizations. This assistance comes in the form of volunteers and yearly grants.

Gateway looks forward to utilizing volunteers in some of the following ways:

  • Mentoring program – Serve as a mentor/friend to a Gateway participant and/or take on an administrative role that will help support and expand the mentoring program.
  • Wellness program groups – Attend wellness program meetings, practices and activities to offer friendship and additional support where needed. Gateway currently has participant/alumni-led groups such as the Community Service Team, Sober Sports, Walk the Walk Alumni Group and Wellness in Recovery Team Lunch. These groups were created by Gateway participants to increase their practice of giving back to the community, engaging in healthy physical and social activity and staying connected after treatment ends.
  • Site/event support – Serve at specific Gateway sites and events to help fulfill needs identified by the staff.

Sebastian Junger said, “When people are actively engaged in a cause, they have more purpose, with a resulting improvement in mental health … people will feel better, psychologically, if they have more involvement with their community.”

Gateway believes that this partnership stands to benefit everyone involved. As local people solve local problems, individuals, families and communities can expect hope.

If you have additional interest or questions, please feel free to contact Alicja Carter at

Alicja Carter, LADC, BHWC, has been working in the behavioral health and addiction treatment field for nearly 12 years. She is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Wellness Director for Gateway to Prevention and Recovery. Alicja is passionate about collaborating with others for the purpose of stimulating positive change in her community.

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