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A guard on the move: Herren joins executive team at Summit

June 25, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Chris Herren

Perhaps Chris Herren's skills as a guard in basketball made it inevitable that once he was exposed to the workings of the treatment and recovery communities, his ability to lead in this new arena would surface as well. Herren, who has inspired many in recent years as an advocate and motivational speaker for substance use prevention, treatment and recovery, has now become a member of a year-old treatment organization's executive team.

Summit Behavioral Healthcare, which was founded last June and owns a pair of residential treatment centers in Texas and California, announced this month that Herren has joined its operation, first to focus on business development and public relations but assuming a fluid role that matches the “one day at a time” approach that Herren says has served him well in his life in recovery.

Addiction Professional this week spoke with Herren and Summit's CEO and its president, who say their initial joint meeting quickly demonstrated that they shared a common purpose. “Chris is a phenomenal speaker and a great storyteller, and he is a young man who has the potential to be a remarkable leader,” says Summit CEO Trey Carter. “He has been building his career on a platform of honesty and integrity.”

“I have a certain skill set right now, in terms of reaching people, but for me I wanted more than that,” says Herren. “I wanted to be part of the field's growth, to have a hand in the growth.”

Coffee meeting

Carter and Summit president Karen Prince, who founded Summit after having worked together as CEO and chief operating officer at Acadia Healthcare, met Herren at the urging of a marketing professional who had worked with the former professional basketball star. They attended one of Herren's numerous speaking engagements in front of an audience of young people, and a subsequent meeting over coffee that same day revealed several commonalities about the trio's personal recovery stories and outlook on the field.

“After we shared a bit about ourselves and the direction we wanted to go in, it was a no-brainer to me,” Herren says of the move to align himself with the treatment organization.

Herren and the Summit executives emphasize that there are no plans to dial down the efforts of The Herren Project now that its founder has entered this new venture. “It's very important to Summit that we preserve the integrity of what Chris does on the other side of the fence,” says Carter.

Herren adds of his move to align more closely with one facility, “I don't think this will block my mission at all.”

Summit operates two adult treatment facilities—the acquired Valley Recovery Center of California in Sacramento and the start-up Great Oaks Recovery Center near Houston—while The Herren Project's activity mainly targets adolescents at risk of developing problems with substances.

Herren says of his new partners, “They can be the mentors I need to grow in this field, to stay in this field.”

Prince says of Herren, “He's been so close to the treatment business, but he hasn't operated within the treatment center end of the business.”

Other treatment relationships

This is not Herren's first defined effort with a treatment organization. He worked for more than a year with CRC Health Group, and he has had a longstanding relationship with Gosnold on Cape Cod. But with Summit he will be exposed to all facets of the company's operations as it seeks to grow. Summit confirms, however, that its arrangement with Herren will not preclude him from working on initiatives with other treatment centers as well.

“Our intent is to grow as a company, but we will be methodical,” says Carter. “We will do one or two acquisitions this year, possibly.” The Atlanta-based Summit currently operates 80 beds between its two existing facilities, with around the same number of employees combined.

Herren, whose recovery story was chronicled in the memoir Basketball Junkie and the ESPN Films documentary “Unguarded,” has spoken in front of more than 500,000 individuals in recent years, becoming one of the most sought-after and impactful speakers on treatment and recovery. This week he is being honored with an award from Faces & Voices of Recovery at the national recovery organization's annual America Honors Recovery event.

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