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Hazelden finds opportunity to extend continuum in Florida

June 17, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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On the coast of Florida that doesn’t find itself saturated with addiction treatment facilities, the nationally prominent Hazelden has been working to establish brand identity at the local level with a program emphasizing a continuum of care and flexible service.

At the same time, the three-year-old Hazelden Naples doesn’t have to educate the entire Southwest Florida community about what the Hazelden name stands for. For one thing, the local area is a popular winter destination for numerous Minnesotans who know well of Hazelden and the Minnesota Model of 12-Step based treatment. Demographic research also has found that 7,500 Hazelden alumni have made the area surrounding Hazelden Naples their seasonal or permanent home.

What has unfolded since 2010 at Hazelden Naples is a program that is broader-based and more closely linked to its surrounding community than Hazelden’s more established programs elsewhere.

“Florida law makes it easy for us to provide multiple levels of care on one site,” says Brenda J. Iliff, Hazelden Naples’ executive director. “This gives us staff continuity with the people we serve; you can lose people when you move them to a different site.”

John James, the program supervisor who oversees Hazelden Naples’ residential treatment services, says clients in the Florida program retain the same primary counselor as they move from residential treatment to day treatment to an intensive outpatient level of care.

Clients reside in condominium-style dwellings during their stay at the facility; Hazelden Naples has a residential capacity of 47. But since the program is designed for individuals with a somewhat less complex medical profile and therefore does not maintain a 24/7 nursing presence, it costs about $10,000 less than other similar programs for a 30-day stay. “If 24-hour nursing is potentially only going to be needed for two or three patients, why have it?” says Iliff, who returned to Hazelden earlier this year after serving as clinical director of Caron Treatment Centers’ Texas facility.

The program tends to serve a slightly older population overall than what is found in many residential environments, with a mid-40s median age. James says this means that these individuals in general might have more previous sober life experiences to draw from, but it also means that the program needs to make sure it addresses numerous relevant life-cycle issues as part of treatment.

For some clients this might mean balancing personal recovery with family obligations, so the program is designed to accommodate to needs such as an individual’s having to return home for part of the day to care for an ailing spouse. Iliff adds that the program also allows clients to use cell phones while in treatment, and gives them Internet access that is subject to Hazelden’s filters.

“If they’re going to get triggered, I’d rather that it happens here,” Iliff says of the decision to give clients access to technology.

The Hazelden Naples program also takes advantage of the presence of a strong recovery community in the Naples area. James says some clients attend 12-Step meetings in the community at 6 or 7 in the morning and return to campus in time for the start of a typical day’s activities just after 8. Also, the facility includes a bookstore and coffee shop that is open to both clients and the surrounding community.

“The whole goal is to create a seamlessness between treatment and recovery,” James says of the Florida program’s approach.

About the only element of the continuum of care that is largely absent in Southwest Florida is a network of sober-living options post-treatment, say Iliff and James. Hazelden considers that area of business to be outside its purview.

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