Governor Bobby Jindal has declared March 2014 as Problem Gambling Awareness month to raise awareness about Louisiana's services for those experiencing problems with gambling. The movement coincides with National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
Problem gambling is a serious addiction facing thousands of Louisianians, but it is also a treatable condition for which the state offers assistance. People who think they have a problem should contact the Louisiana Problem Gambler's Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867) or visit www.helpforgambling.org.
"It is important to remember that our efforts to improve health in Louisiana must include the availability of treatment and prevention for behavioral health problems such as addiction," said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "Louisiana offers a wide variety of treatment programs aimed specifically at problem gamblers, and we will use this month to spread awareness of the problem and shine light on the resources available to address it."
Problem gambling affects not only the addict, but also the addict's family, friends, co-workers and society as a whole. A Louisiana study on problem gambling revealed as many as 100,000 Louisianians are compulsive/problem gamblers. Problem gambling is an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or desire to stop.
The problem affects people of all ages. A 2010 Louisiana youth survey found that more than 40 percent of 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grade students had engaged in some form of gambling in the previous year. Underage compulsive or problem gambling can have tragic consequences. It can lead to other addictions or criminal activity and may derail the youth's education, create an enormous financial burden for families, and cause grief and worry for friends and family.
"Gambling becomes a serious problem when you can't stop," says Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Behavioral Health Interim Assistant Secretary Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham. "A problem gambler loses control and cannot stick to limits, even when gambling is causing serious financial, family, work or other problems. If you are feeling guilty about gambling or using gambling to help with a financial problem, I encourage you to contact the Problem Gambler's Helpline and contact a counselor for a free assessment."
Some signs that a person has a gambling problem include:
- Lying to loved ones about gambling activity;
- Deterioration of work performance because a person is focused on gambling;
- Trouble concentrating because a person is focused on gambling;
- Missing deadlines and important responsibilities because a person is focused on gambling; and
- Worrying about mounting debts and inability to pay them.
"One call to our Problem Gambling Helpline can connect a distressed person with people and resources here in Louisiana to help them get off the bet," said Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling executive director Janet Miller. "This is something for all Louisianans to be proud of - the state is leading the nation in recognizing and treating compulsive gambling."
RESOURCES FOR THOSE WHO NEED HELP
There are multiple resources in Louisiana to provide support to gamblers and their families. The state offers counseling and treatment programs for problem and compulsive gambling at no cost to Louisiana residents, including the country's premiere residential treatment facility, CORE (Center of Recovery), in Shreveport. Since it opened in 1999, CORE has treated more than 2,283 compulsive gamblers, with a successful completion rate of 70 percent.
The state's toll-free helpline handled more than 1,100 "intake calls" or direct requests for help last fiscal year. The state has the "Kids Don't Gamble...Wanna Bet?" program aimed at preventing youth gambling, and has a website geared toward adolescents, www.thegamble.org.
If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, hope and help is available anytime. Please call the Louisiana Problem Gambler's Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867) or visit www.helpforgambling.org. In addition to the helpline, compulsive gamblers can connect with counselors through live chatting by texting "NOBET" to 66746.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.