Having worked with diverse health and human services populations in past stages of her career, Arden O’Connor says she was surprised to find a dearth of case management services available to individuals and families affected by addiction as she began to research the substance use treatment community. The services of the business she launched last September, the Boston-based O’Connor Professional Group, reflect the many questions that individuals and families face across the continuum of care from intervention through post-treatment support—questions that when left unanswered can result in damaging consequences.
“A person will return home from treatment with a discharge plan without any information about how to get someone to a year of sobriety,” says O’Connor. “What will be the person’s replacement activities? Does he go back to school? How do we get Dad out of the role of being the recovery police?”
O’Connor’s own family struggled with these very dilemmas for years as her younger brother, a recovering heroin addict, cycled through more than a dozen residential treatment stays; he has now been sober for some time. “It’s all the stuff that comes after treatment that in my experience is more the driver for success long-term,” she says.
Her company offers a range of services that could involve anything from a one-time event of helping a family navigate treatment facility options to intensive case management services post-treatment that encompass 5 to 30 hours a week of face-to-face contact, with sober companions employed in cases where much direct support is necessary. All of the company’s services are private pay. It receives fees from families and not treatment centers for its referral services.
The company states on its website, “In a time of crisis, families will often have to piece together several different resources to create a plan for the person suffering with a behavioral health disorder—worse yet, families may feel like they have to rely exclusively on Internet research or the untested suggestion of a friend.”
Treatment centers, therapists and universities thus far have been among the most common sources of information for families about the services that are available through O’Connor’s company.
O’Connor says most clients have been in the 17-to-40 age range; their challenges post-treatment include reclaiming family support and honing their organizational and time management skills. She agrees with many field experts who believe the close monitoring that characterizes treatment and recovery programs for professional groups such as physicians needs to be extended to the typical family confronting addiction.