August 19, 2022 – Among hockey fans, Kevin Stevens is a legend. A member of several teams, including the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, the now 57-year-old was particularly known for playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the team’s 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup championships.

But the Bostonian is also a recovering addict whose life changed dramatically when he was 28 and made “one bad decision” one night.

“I’ve never used drugs in my life, but someone is stuck cocaine in front of me,” he says. “I didn’t know what it was, but I tried it, and it changed my life for the next 24 years.”

Stevens fought a long and often highly publicized battle for sobriety with many challenges along the way, including opioid addiction due to serious hockey injury (as well as continued cocaine use) and arrest for trafficking oxycodone in 2016.

When he pleaded guilty in 2017, he vowed to turn his life around. Since then, he has dedicated his life to helping others Power forwarda non-profit organization he founded in 2018 that aims to raise awareness about addiction.

Bring the dogs

Today, Stevens, who currently works as a scout for the National Hockey League (NHL), and one of his board members, Michael Hamrock, MD, a doctor of primary care and addiction medicine at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston, presented a unique treatment method. to a list of suggestions for people in recovery.

Called DOER (Dog Ownership Enhancing Recovery), the program will send a trained support dog — in this case, a golden retriever named Sawyer — to live with 12 men living in a Boston-area sober living home in a first-of-its-kind program in the USA

“Throughout my practice, my patients have told me time and time again how much their pet dogs have improved their physical and mental health, so I thought we should add it to one of our offerings,” Hamrock says. “I know it will help.”

The day Sawyer was introduced to residents as part of the pilot program was a joyous one, Hamrock says.

“We brought Sawyer into the backyard and while on the leash, he went to each resident individually,” he says. “They started stroking him, playing with him. I could see immense delight in their eyes.”

The goal is to add more dogs to the program over time.

“I find that meetings, medication, spiritual care and having a sponsor help with recovery,” he says. “But dogs can provide security, prevent loneliness, help you rebuild relationships, help you find purpose and value, and offer unconditional love.”

And with overdose deaths in the United States reaching a record high last yearHamrock says it’s time to keep innovating.

“We know the risk factors for heart disease, but we need to better understand the brain disease caused by addiction,” he says, noting that the GAMES acronym offers a good way to quantify five risk factors: G (genes), A (age of first drug use) , M (treated or not treated mental health problems), E (exposure to opioids as a treatment, say chronic pain) and S (stress, especially as a result of adverse childhood events) is a good way to quantify risk factors.

But a well-trained dog can mitigate some of these factors.

“We know that dogs can reduce stress and strengthen mental health,” he says. “We also know that pet dogs can help with accountability, create a nurturing environment and fill the void of caring. We can really see the difference.”

Ask Stevens and he’ll tell you he’s excited about how service dogs can play a role in helping drug addicts recover.

“I think Michael does it pretty neat,” he says. “When he brought the idea to the table, it made sense. Dogs are very good to people and they are a bright spot in your day. Offering these residents the opportunity to take care of something will make all the difference.”

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