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Teaching prevention before addiction
After many years working with addicted clients, Alex Bitz takes over as the new Crook County Prevention Coordinator
New Crook County Prevention Coordinator Alex Bitz displays a board containing research on marijuana addiction and treatment.
January 28, 2013
New Crook County Prevention Coordinator Alex Bitz knows all too well how damaging drug and alcohol addiction can be.
For more than 20 years, he handled treatment for people caught in the grips of addiction.
“I saw the end of what substance use and unhealthy behavior can do to families and kids,” he said.
Now, in his new role, Bitz has moved to the other side of the addiction counseling spectrum and will try to stop the substance abuse problem before it can start. He is relishing the opportunity, after years of dealing with the after-effects.
“I always believed that if you catch things before they happen, which is the basis of prevention, then it’s a great benefit to everybody,” he said.
Bitz said that his years in treatment should provide him some unique insights as he tries to keep Crook County youth from getting hooked on drugs or alcohol.
“Seeing the other side, you have the ability to see early signs of problems that occur in the community and, on a small scale, in the family,” he said. As an example, Bitz noted that some families will deny that their child has an addiction problem, and assume the situation will eventually right itself.
“Having seen the end result of not approaching these issues early just gives me an insight and the courage to say, ‘Let’s talk about this. Let’s be more honest about what the issues are,’ and educate, basically.”
His supervisor Brenda Comini agrees, and said that his background factored into his hire.
“I came from treatment as well, and if you have that perspective, you kind of know where you don’t want it to go,” she said.
Comini highlighted other qualities that made Bitz the top choice for the Prevention Coordinator job.
“What impressed the (hiring) committee most was his enthusiasm,” she said. “One other piece that he has been very vocal about is his expertise and interest in the marketing side of things, and helping us figure out strategies.”
Bitz has pitched website ideas as well as Facebook to help promote prevention efforts. Given the challenges that he faces in his new line of work, the extra exposure will likely help. He pointed out that because of limited financial support, they are seeking volunteers who can bring their expertise and talent to the table.
“We don’t lack ideas.”
The other challenge Bitz faces is the time it takes to see results. With treatment, he might see changes from one week or month to the next. With prevention, he sees small signs that keep small signs that keep him encouraged, but changes don’t often come as quickly.
“It does take time,” Comini confirmed, “a lot of time to give education, change policy, and really take a look at the whole environment around unhealthy behaviors and how to help people be encouraged that there is a different way.”
Nevertheless, Bitz has set a personal goal that he feels will help pave the way for success.
“I believe that the most powerful prevention tool is to work on creating a compassionate and healthy community where established values embrace the complex realities of today’s world,” he said, “a Crook County that will retain its independent spirit and self-reliant nature while preventing substance abuse and promoting mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being.”