A gambling addiction may ravage a person's life in terms of their finances, family and social connections––creating divisions that cut all the way to the person's soul.
Individuals become shattered, as may others by indirect association, then those who carry such rifts bring them into their places of work, play and worship.
As such, gambling addiction is not just a disease that affects individuals but entire communities, making the success of Project Turnabout's "Vanguard" gambling addiction program all the more important and appropriate to brag about.
The week of March 3 - 9 marks National Problem Gambling Awareness week, and the Advocate Tribune recently sat down with Project Turnabout Director of Development and Marketing/Outreach Mark Sannerud as well as Vanguard Program Coordinator Sandi Brustuen to shine a light on the often "hush, hush" issue.
Data from the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPPG ) indicates that roughly 2 - 3 percent of the U.S. population will have a gambling problem in any given year, which equates to 6 to 9 million people.
Given the millions impacted by the disease, it would seem that more individuals ought to be aware of the problem of gambling addiction. Brustuen and Sannerud explained that lack of awareness derives the shame associated with the disease, particularly given its wide ranging impacts on not only the individual but family members. The pair said that people often don't own up to the problem until they've lost everything, and when and if they successfully complete treatment, they're often inclined to stay mum about their story.
For 21 years Project Turnabout has offered the Vanguard program, and one would be hard pressed to find a more focused, cost accessible or effective program anywhere.
"The main thing that sets us apart is that we treat gambling specifically," said Brustuen.
Interestingly, the number of addiction services that cater directly to gambling are few and far between, and even more so in terms of those that are inpatient. Project Turnabout is the only inpatient program within the state of Minnesota, and is just one of a handful of programs offered throughout the United States.
"One thing that is fairly unique is that if they need gambling and chemical dependency treatment, we're able to provide both," said Sannerud. "But people really appreciate that if they are there for gambling addiction that they're not just thrown in with those being treated for chemical dependency."
Offering a holistic approach, Vanguard caters to repair of issues confronting the entirety of the individual––recognizing that addictions are associated with many factors in a person's life. In addition, through its strong fundraising efforts and extremely low administrative overhead, Vanguard is able to be one of the cheapest programs around.
"I frequently hear we're the lowest cost program around, often by as much as 50 percent," Sannerud said.
Page 2 of 2 - The director of development and marketing/outreach went on to say the state of Minnesota has programs that may pay up to 80 percent of the costs of gambling treatment, and that fundraising efforts of Project Turnabout itself has enabled the facility to offer grants to individuals so that virtually anyone from any income level can receive the help they need.
Its largest fundraiser, "Appetite for Life," has garnered increasingly greater sums of donations since its inception. The ninth annual event is schedule for Friday, May 10 at the Golden Valley Golf and Country Club.
"Not only do we raise a lot of funds at the event, but we also raise an incredible amount of awareness," Sannerud said.
Given the level of services and the price for which they are provided, Project Vanguard has gained worldwide recognition and draws people from all over the state of Minnesota as the well the United States.
Because of its 20 bed facility, Sannerud says that literally thousands of people are walking around today free of their problem gambling addiction. The future can expect to see Vanguard aid thousands more.