Destination Hope, a 10-year-old dual-diagnosis and gender-specific treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and The Academy for Addiction Professionals (The Academy), an education-focused organization, are in the process of establishing a college campus that will offer degrees and educational tracks for those in recovery and others to become professionals in the mental health and addiction field.
Ben Brafman, LMHC, CAP, president and CEO of Destination Hope and director of The Academy, says the concept began with taking addiction, treatment and recovery and thinking backwards. “The biggest concern across the board after a client leaves traditional treatment is the aftercare services and case management, so I thought what if we were able to not only get a person into recovery and get them better, but also provide them with a skill and education,” he says.
“To be able to say to families, ‘Not only is your loved one going to come into treatment, get better and have access to continued treatment, but they’ll also be able to make money and be a productive member of society.”
The concept, Brafman says, is that those who need treatment would come in for services, step down after 30 to 90 days, and then housing and education related to addiction and mental health would be available to them on a sober campus.
“In my experience from running a treatment center, many clients that come through treatment want to get into the field,” he says. “They may not be sure what they want to do, but they’re so grateful and they feel such a connection that they really want to learn how to be a counselor or case manager or be in admissions or marketing.”
Currently, The Academys—directed by Brafman and accredited through the Florida Certification Board—offers in-person and online certification training, professional development and continuing education in behavioral health. Certification programs that are currently offered include those for addiction professional, addiction counselor, recovery support specialist, recovery coach and behavioral health technician.
Its two established classrooms are located in Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach, in which a few hundred people attend. Its online presence is much larger, with more than 3,000 students, Brafman says. The Academy will the fund the future campus.
“But we want to expand The Academy from the Florida Certification Board where they’re just getting a certification to bachelor’s and master’s programs, liberal arts and different types of degrees,” he says. “There’s a demand for it, the marketing is there for it, and there is certainly a need for it. Our business plan is there and it’s just a matter of finding the next location that will be accessible to students.”
Brafman adds that he estimates that the campus will be up and running in about six to 18 months; he’s currently in the process of authoring a textbook that will be required reading for students and is scheduled to be released at the end of this year.
He says that while certification programs are usually 14 months, anyone eager to learn about a specific topic—pharmacology, for example—can take an individual online or in-person course. Classes can be taken by anyone who has been impacted by the disease of addiction.