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BREAKING NEWS: Carise joins CRC's clinical leadership team

February 13, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Two of the most prominent leaders in advancing the cause of clinical quality improvement in addiction treatment are joining forces under one corporate entity, with the Feb. 13 official announcement that Deni Carise, PhD, has become deputy chief clinical officer at CRC Health Group.

Carise now will work directly with Phil Herschman, PhD, CRC’s chief clinical officer, on ongoing efforts to achieve clinical care improvements that are intended to position the nation’s largest for-profit treatment entity as the field’s clinical leader as well.

Similarities between Herschman’s work at CRC and Carise’s prior work with large nonprofit treatment provider Phoenix House were instrumental in bringing the two leaders together, Carise said in an interview with Addiction Professional this week. At last year’s National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD) sponsored by Addiction Professional publisher Vendome Group, Herschman introduced himself to Carise after her conference keynote presentation; the two had been featured in a March/April 2012 AP cover story on redefining clinical care.

“I had no idea at the time that this could happen,” says Carise, who started work at CRC last week. “I’m excited to be teaming up with somebody else who gets the field and gets how to measure quality.”

At Phoenix House, where Carise worked as chief clinical officer and completed a three-year contract arrangement, she spearheaded development of around 30 clinical toolkits to improve staff clinicians’ proficiency in delivering some of the field’s most research-tested treatment approaches. She says this effort will carry over into her work at CRC.

“They are very interested in my replicating the idea of having toolkits for counselors, with competency measures built in,” says Carise, who this week is at the company’s California headquarters to examine strategies for how some of CRC’s best-performing programs can help mentor those with weaker results.

Focusing on similarities

Carise, formerly a longtime director at the renowned Treatment Research Institute (TRI), says the same factors that attracted her to Phoenix House appealed to her in the move to CRC. “What I really liked about it is the impact I could have as part of that team,” she says.

And while CRC’s national patient reach of around 30,000 on any given day is more than four times the size of Phoenix House’s patient base on the East Coast, Carise sees more similarities than differences in the two operations.

“A lot is made of this nonprofit/for-profit distinction, but what surprised me is CRC does have a significant number of public-pay programs,” she says.

In fact, given that CRC’s for-profit presence and sheer size have helped make it a lightning rod among treatment professionals and other field observers, Carise set out to examine its programming more closely as she considered her possible career move.

“I wanted to see some of their programs,” she says. “One of them was a public-pay program outside of Philadelphia. I was amazed at what they were doing and their surroundings. They had two or three patients in a room, not six sets of bunk beds. Their staff had private offices to do intakes, to help give individuals the privacy they need.”

She adds that for-profit and nonprofit entities in the field share similar efforts to balance optimizing quality and ensuring the revenue generation needed to stay in business. She does admit that it will take some getting used to as she realizes that she is now in a venture capital-fueled organization where fundraising initiatives are not a necessary part of the equation.

Reinforcing current efforts

She believes the ongoing clinical care improvement efforts at CRC, emphasizing client-directed care and core approaches such as Motivational Interviewing, 12-Step treatment and Stages of Change, will continue with few alterations, and that she is there to build on the existing framework. “What I’d also like to do is get the data out to the public,” she says.

Herschman said in a statement announcing the hiring of Carise, “Deni has an extensive background in substance abuse prevention, treatment and research, and has done much to advance the science of treatment and awareness of the disease of addiction through her research and conference presentations.”

Carise said in the same announcement, “I know of no other set of programs that continuously collects the needed data and uses that information to guide and improve care the way the CRC programs do.”

Carise expects there will be a great deal of travel in her job, but she will be headquartered at her Philadelphia home. She is married to TRI co-founder A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, who is CEO of the Philadelphia-based organization that is dedicated to helping clinical professionals use research evidence to improve practice.

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