Nonprofit community agency offers free services for gambling addictionsNational Problem Gambling Awareness Week begins March 4
Dawn Eisenach played pull tabs regularly, sinking more money than she could afford into the pricey game of chance. But she says she never thought she had a gambling problem — until she was caught embezzling money from her employer and started lying to her family.
“After the embezzlement charges were made, I knew I needed help because I couldn’t stop on my own,” Eisenach said.
Twelve years later, the Hermantown resident is now a recovering compulsive gambler who uses her story to help others overcome similar addictions. She sought treatment for herself at the former Gambling Intervention Services in Duluth. Since then, she has gone back to school and acquired a license as a compulsive gambling counselor, to help others recover.
“I feel like I’m able to give back, and I’m very compassionate to help the compulsive gamblers,” Eisenach said, noting the start of National Problem Gambling Awareness Week on March 4. “It’s an opportunity to give the compulsive gambler hope.”
Gambling Intervention Services no longer exists, with its services taken over by another nonprofit, the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, two years ago. Funded by the state with money from unclaimed lottery winnings, its services are free for Minnesota residents.
Paige Salyards, program director for the center’s gambling services, said that there is no other outpatient treatment for gambling within a 150-mile radius of Duluth.
“Gambling is something we accept in our society and culture,” she said. “We have such minimal awareness of pathological gambling. It is an issue in Duluth because of the fact that it’s so devastating to people’s lives.”
The Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance estimates that 160,000 to 214,000 Minnesotans have gambling addictions. A recent poll conducted by the same organization showed that 86 percent of Minnesotans consider gambling to be a problem in the state.
Located at 26 E. Superior St. in Suite 100, the gambling services office provides free assessments, outpatient treatment, and after-care.
“The state of Minnesota is one of the few states that provides treatment,” Salyards said. “Gambling awareness is something that is national, but everyone struggles to identify it as a problem. It is very much something that is kept secret.”
The outpatient therapy consists of group therapy three days a week. Couples counseling and family therapy are also available, but individuals are encouraged to take the initial assessment first to determine the level of treatment that should be given.
“The group therapy is the most effective with compulsive gamblers. Eisenach said. “And it’s huge that the treatment is free. What compulsive gambler has money to pay for treatment?”
According to the same Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance poll, 76 percent of respondents from Minnesota said they thought gambling treatment programs were available in the state. Yet, 81 percent of those surveyed said they were not familiar with the programs offered.
“A lot of people who have compulsive gambling see life as hopeless,” Salyards said. “We know there is more of a problem and that more people are struggling than seeking help. It’s really something that people are not aware of.”
Salyards encourages those who would like to seek treatment to call 1-800-333-HOPE. This is a free hotline where individuals can be connected to a counselor and treatment center in the area where they live.
To learn more about the gambling services provided by the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, call (218) 723-8444.
Problem gambling: "Anyone – Anywhere – Anytime"
The Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance and Minnesota State Lottery have teamed up with the National Council on Problem Gambling to recognize National Problem Gambling Awareness Week (NPGAW), which will be observed March 4-10. The theme of the 2012 National Problem Gambling Awareness Week is “Anyone – Anywhere – Anytime.”
It is estimated that 160,000 to 214,000 Minnesotans struggle with gambling addictions. According to a recent poll conducted by Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance, 86 percent of Minnesotans indicated that they consider problem gambling to be a problem in the state
(Sources: Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance, Bensinger and DuPont employee assistance program services, and MN Gamblers Anonymous)
(Source: National Council on Problem Gambling).