Tarzana Treatment Centers provides high quality, personalized, affordable behavioral healthcare and addiction treatment services in Los Angeles.
BY MARK ARIEL
Tarzana Treatment Centers (TTC) is a full-service, non-profit, community-based behavioral healthcare organization that provides substance abuse and mental health treatment to adults and youth. TTC operates a psychiatric hospital, residential and outpatient alcohol and drug treatment centers and family medical clinics.
Tom Martinez, M.S.W., Director of Community Programs & Services, has worked in the Los Angeles area in the fields of HIV and Recovery since 1997, when he joined the Tarzana Treatment Center Team.
Martinez, a gay man, grew up in Thibodaux, a small town in Louisiana.
“The process of coming out to myself was harder than coming out to everyone else,” says Martinez in an interview with THE FIGHT. “Growing up in the South, there were no openly gay people—so there were no role models—just stereotypes of what people thought gay people looked and acted like.”
“I moved to Los Angeles in 1995,” reveals Martinez. “I had not been to LA before moving here—I just felt like it was where I needed to be… I felt very much out of place in Louisiana—so I packed up everything that would fit into my car drove to my parent’s house and told them I was moving to Los Angeles, and 30 minutes later, I was on my way to LA—no place to live, didn’t know anyone here, no job.”
“Looking back,” states Martinez, “that process made me realize that I was much stronger than I had ever realized.”
THE RIGHT OPTION
A couple of years after arriving in Los Angles Martinez accepted a job at the Tarzana Treatment Center as a Home Health Social Worker.
“TTC provides Substance Use Disorder treatment—so when I started working here, I began to learn more about recovery, even though, to be honest, initially the field of recovery was not ever one of my job aspirations,” reveals Martinez.
“I had nothing but resentment and dislike for treatment programs. I have two brothers who struggled with substance use issues, and I saw them getting kicked out of treatment programs for relapsing. That never made sense to me. How was that helpful? One of my brothers passed away from Hep C, and I often wonder if he would still be alive if just one of the treatment programs would have recognized relapse as a part of recovery.”
After working at TTC for several months Martinez’s opinion about drug treatment began to change. “It was the first place I worked at that had a full menu of treatment options for those struggling with substance use issues—everything from the traditional 12 step model of recovery to harm reduction programs like syringe exchange,” says Martinez.
“TTC doesn’t believe there was one path to recovery but each person has the right to decide what might work for them. Engagement was always the key. If you keep someone connected and engaged in services long enough, at some point, sobriety will be the right option for them. It was probably the first thing about substance use treatment that made sense to me. It was the first place I had ever heard of that allowed active drug users to utilize their Medical Clinics, Mental Health Services, Case Management, etc. Every other place I knew about told active drug users to come back when they were clean and sober. TTC has demonstrated that active drug users can be adherent to taking medications and keeping medical appointments.”
“TTC has combined high quality, cost effective alcohol and drug treatment services with medical care, mental health, housing, case management and HIV/AIDS services to provide integrated care,” explains Martinez.
“Tarzana Treatment Centers believes in treating the whole person not just the diagnosis. We understand that there are different aspects to good health and that it takes a team approach to patient care to help one meet their physical, mental, and emotional goals. TTC’s Medical clinics offer a mix of primary and HIV & Hep C specialty care—treating everything from bumps and bruises to complex illnesses while providing access to mental health, substance use disorder treatment and education and prevention programs. Tarzana Treatment Centers is a one-stop shop for all your healthcare needs. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true.”
Martinez says that while he is proud of the work done by members of the LGBT community on rights, equality, and marriage, he would “like to see more focus on our community’s health and mental health needs. I recently read that substance use is twice as high among the LGBT community as in other communities. Statistics about substance use in our community only tell part of the story. In my opinion, higher numbers indicate a need that hasn’t yet been met. Substance use and abuse is one area that as a community we should focus on. More programs are needed that provide culturally relevant treatment options for the LBGT community. Historically, there has been a lack of culturally competent health care services for the LGBT community which keeps many LGBT people from seeking substance use treatment because of previous negative experiences in coming out to their doctors, or having heard about others’ bad experiences when seeking treatment.”
Additionally, says Martinez, “TTC is proud to offer a full-service PrEP program for our eligible HIV-negative patients.”
“We have the tools needed to greatly reduce the spread of HIV. PrEP is a medicine taken daily that helps prevent you from getting HIV if you are exposed to it. When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 92%.”
“For our HIV+ patients,” reveals Martinez, “we have a full-service TasP program. TasP refers to HIV prevention methods that use antiretroviral treatment (ART) to decrease the risk of HIV transmission. HIV+ individuals receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) are at a much lower risk of spreading HIV. One study, HPTN 052, showed early initiation of antiretroviral treatment for the HIV-positive partner in a serodifferent couple reduced HIV transmission to the HIV-negative partner by 96%.”
“There should not be any shame associated with being HIV+ or any shame associated with what you choose to do sexually,” states Martinez. “Educate yourself and your friends about PrEP and TasP. Be proud of your contribution in reducing the spread of HIV.”
For more info on Tarzana Treatment Centers healthcare services call (888) 777-8565, or visit www.tarzanatc.org.