Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling

Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Andrea Capere sat down with Maureen Greeley, executive director of the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling (ECPG), and Tana Russell, certified gaming councilor from Providence St. Peter Hospital, to talk about gambling awareness.

The ECPG’s mission is to bring awareness to the health issues surrounding problem gambling and gaming, as well as provide services and support for problem gamblers, their families, employers, treatment professionals and the community as a whole. The not-for-profit organization has been helping families in our area for over 25 years. “It was founded in 1991 and that was a period of time when there was a lot of looking at how gambling was affecting people as a public health issues,” shares Greeley. They are an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling. Greeley is quick to point out that they are not anti-gambling, but that for some people, it can become a devastating problem. When that happens, the ECPG is there to provide services. They also work on awareness to prevent a problem in the first place.

One such resource is at Providence St. Peter Hospital. “We have a gambling treatment program at the Chemical Dependency Center,” explains Russell, who is one of 33 problem gambling counselors in Washington State. “We do gambling assessments to determine if they have a gambling disorder, what an appropriate level of treatment that could help them would be, we’ll do treatment planning, which is where they’re identifying why are they here. We do group therapies and individual counseling and try to get the family involved as much as we can.” Russell emphasizes that having the whole family on board, along with lots of resources and support, helps with recovery.

An important note is that in the state of Washington, treatment is free, thanks to the state problem gambling program, which is part of the Health Care Authority. ECPG partners with the Health Care Authority, along with many other state agencies, businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the state.

Gambling is a hidden addiction with many different signs and symptoms. “One thing that is that the suicide rates are astronomical,” shares Russell. “We do consider this to be a disease that, if it progresses, can be fatal because they die at their own hand.” Missed work, low productivity at work, money issues, health issues caused by stress, are other symptoms that Russell sees.

“To go beyond the 33 counselors we have, we are trying to work with primary care physicians, nurses, emergency rooms, people who are already treating people with drug and alcohol addictions as well, because the norm is that co-occurring disorders are going to happen together,” shares Greeley. “So, you could just have a gambling problem, but most likely you have a problem with something else, whether it’s anxiety or drugs or alcohol. So, we are trying to get people who are screening people for other things, like drinking, to ask questions that may uncover a gambling problem.

“This Gambling Awareness Month [March], we are focusing a lot on the senior population and focusing what are those wonderful quality life issues that we have in Thurston County and in Washington State, the mountains, the water, biking and hiking trails, and so many great things to offer people that can gain their life back and enjoy life with family and friends,” continues Greeley.

Gaming and gambling are becoming blurred for youth. Internet addiction is a real problem that the ECPG is seeing more and more of and Greeley explains that they are focusing on creating more programs for youth because of that. “If we can do prevention before we have to do treatment, we might be able to help a lot of people make healthy choices before they ever get to that point, so we have a lot of youth prevention programs,” Greeley adds.

Both ECPC and Providence St. Peter have ongoing free events throughout the year for the public to attend. Please visit the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling website or the St. Peter Chemical Dependency Center website for more information.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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