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Father makes time for children

John Rubio still tries to be the best dad he can be.

Between doctor’s appointments in Houston and a full-time job, he makes time to take his three kids fishing every weekend in Matagorda.

This weekend is no different. They will spend the Father’s Day weekend fishing.

“My family keeps me going,” Rubio said. “They push me through the bad days and the doctors appointments.”

Rubio, 31, of Victoria, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in May, and he’s had to adjust his life.

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. The disease causes the immune system to attack the covers of nerve fibers and it causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.

Some people may be symptom free most of their lives and others can have severe symptoms that never go away, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The symptoms can come and go throughout a person’s life.

Rubio started experiencing symptoms after his son’s birthday party in May. The family rented a waterslide, and Rubio assumed he pinched a nerve while using it, said his wife DezaRay Rodriguez, 28.

“The next morning, he was numb on his entire left side,” Rodriguez said. “He didn’t know what was going on.”

Rodriguez said Rubio went to the emergency room and got a CT scan and they found lesions on his brain.

“We didn’t understand how it could happen,” she said. “He still didn’t give up.”

With his diagnosis, his doctor said Rubio can no longer work in the heat, but he is a welder and it’s a big portion of his job. As sole income provider, Rubio needs to work in the heat, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said Rubio puts his family first, and he has cut down on some of his hours. That allows him time to drive to Houston on a weekly basis to see a neurologist.

“Even though he’s sick, he still puts the kids first,” she said. “He’s a dad that puts kids first before anything else.”

Every weekend, Rubio takes his kids fishing to get one-on-one time they don’t always get during the week.

His stepdaughter Jaelynn Valles, 10, said Rubio is a great cook and she loves spending time with him.

She said he always makes jokes and he catches a lot of fish when they go on the weekends.

“It’s fun to be around him,” Jaelynn said. “He’s like a real dad to me.”

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Addiction counseling transforms during pandemic

COVID-19 upended how Crossroads residents recovering from addiction receive treatment.

Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach Center, which treats adult outpatients recovering from substance abuse disorders, is now averaging between 140 and 150 active patients, up from 105 to 115 before the pandemic, Executive Director Daniel Barrientos said.

“For those who are isolated, it’s a good opportunity to check in with someone and share their experiences,” said Elma Saenz, Billy T. Cattan’s clinical coordinator.

In an unprecedented step, the center switched from in-person to telehealth meetings on March 23 to comply with public health guidelines. One-on-one and group meetings are taking place on Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

Typically, HIPAA restrictions prevent behavioral health specialists from providing online services, but this changed when Gov. Greg Abbott waived telemedicine regulations in mid-March.

“If that hadn’t happened, we would’ve been in trouble as an organization financially,” Barrientos said. “The week before I started voicing my concerns about shutting down to our funders.”

When people lose their job or fall into financial trouble, they may turn to alcohol or drugs, Barrientos said.

According to modeling by the Texas-based Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a 5% increase in the unemployment rate can be expected to correspond to 50,000 additional cases of substance abuse in the state per year.

The shift to telehealth has improved accessibility for Billy T. Cattan’s patients, especially people who live in rural areas or have limited access to transportation.

Before the pandemic, more than a quarter of clients would miss their appointments in a typical week, Barrientos said. Since the switch to telehealth, that proportion has plunged to 5%.

There are still challenges. Billy T. Cattan’s Narcotics Anonymous group is not meeting. And indigent patients who don’t have wifi or a device with a screen meet with clinicians over the phone and can’t attend group sessions.

Therapists and clients have had to adjust.

“In some ways it’s good because we find that clients will share a little bit more if you’re not right in front of them,” Saenz said. “In some ways it’s not. You don’t get the same read on a person, those visual cues.”

In addition to providing typical counseling, Saenz has also helped some patients apply for unemployment benefits or find food.

Barrientos expects telehealth regulations will remain suspended until the end of July, but he is unsure what the future holds beyond that.

He hopes Billy T. Cattan can continue providing telehealth services for people who need it on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s given us the opportunity to continue to provide treatment services that they would’ve gone without,” Saenz said.

Refugio County

Officials reported one new case on Saturday, a man in his 60s. The patient is currently isolated, and officials are working to identify any close contacts so they can be monitored for symptoms. No other information was released.

It was the sixth reported positive case in Refugio County.

No other counties in the Crossroads reported positive cases on Saturday.