Based on the premise that troubled young women can best be helped in a women-only treatment program that gradually integrates them back into college or work, Sure Haven Recovery in Costa Mesa, Calif., treats process and substance addictions with a full continuum of care, from detoxification to sober living. Its services reflect some of the unique issues young women bring to treatment and recovery, and the need for taking a long-term view.
“Putting someone in a program for 30 days and removing all outside contact, and then setting them loose doesn’t do much for long-term recovery,” says Sure Haven admissions director Elizabeth Perry. “You structure their days for a month, and then say, ‘Time for sober living, good luck,’ [that] just sets people up for failure.”
The four-year-old Sure Haven program is long-term, with a minimum of 30 days in residential treatment required. Most of the women stay at least 90 days as they manage various transitions, ending with living in Sure Haven’s sober housing with other clients. Sure Haven owns three sober homes, each with five to six bedrooms, with one home specifically for women in the academic transitional program. The women live in the sober homes while going to Sure Haven for outpatient treatment (starting at five days a week and decreasing from there), and gradually to work or school as well.
Reintegration serves as the program’s cornerstone, says Perry. “I know from my own experience that stopping drinking and using was difficult, but learning how to live without it was a lot harder,” she says. “You have to relearn life skills.”
Progression of activities
During the first 30 to 60 days (the time frames are estimates, not hard-and-fast deadlines), Sure Haven structures each client’s activities. “As soon as they have to structure their day themselves, they start to struggle,” says Perry. Once the women start showing responsibility and independence, they “earn the privilege of starting to reintegrate”—moving to sober housing, a part-time job and/or school, or volunteering.
A woman-only, 50-bed program, Sure Haven’s average length of stay is from 90 to 120 days. The academic program is a 120-day program, which includes living off-site in a sober home. Gradually, the women move from going to the program for treatment every day to going to college every day, but still living in the sober home.
Other women work at jobs or volunteering—again, on a gradual basis. Living in the sober home with other Sure Haven clients and participating in school or work activities “gives the women the best of both worlds, with a foot in the real world and a foot in treatment,” says Perry.
The first 30 days of treatment are always residential, with the women participating in treatment full-time, but activities that are scheduled on the weekend allow them to have brief spans of reintegration, Perry explains. During the second 30 days, Sure Haven starts looking for part-time jobs or academic courses for the patients.
Helping the patients find jobs, especially in the current economic climate, is considered one of the most critical aspects of treatment at Sure Haven. Working with organizations such as Women Helping Women, Habitat for Humanity and the Humane Society, staff tries to match patients up with what they are passionate about. The jobs carry both career-building and therapeutic benefits.
“In my own recovery I was a dog walker at the Humane Society,” says Perry. “It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when there are those dogs in cages who shower love on you.”
Asked how much treatment at Sure Haven costs, Perry demurs, saying it depends on the individual patient; the program treats a variety of issues that includes self-harm and eating disorders. “We don’t quote a fee until we have fully evaluated the client,” she says. “But we do work with a billing company that can get the maximum care for our clients.”
Seventy-five percent of Sure Haven clients have insurance, which pays for the majority of the treatment, says Perry. The sober living component is self-pay. “Insurance, along with some treatment providers, still treats addiction according to a medical model, meaning they pay for treating the symptoms, rather than the underlying cause.” Perry says.