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Intensified post-treatment support at Caron illustrates potential of monitoring

August 18, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Continuing care is becoming a significant priority for numerous addiction treatment organizations, as well as a distinguishing feature of their community outreach and marketing. At Caron Treatment Centers operations in Pennsylvania and Texas, for example, patients leaving treatment have the opportunity to enter a one-year fee-for-service recovery program that is modeled after the support and monitoring services routinely extended to addicted healthcare professionals.

Results of the My First Year of Recovery initiative, which launched in late 2012, help to continue chipping away at the misconception that only individuals with a lucrative professional standing at stake will participate in ongoing post-treatment support that includes random drug testing.

“We're getting them to show up 70% of the time for screens—this is remarkable,” says Cheryl Knepper, Caron's vice president of continuum services. “These individuals don't have a license hanging over their head.”

Intensified effort

As with some other large addiction treatment organizations, the enhanced recovery support effort at Caron grew out of the facility's observations from more routine post-treatment outreach.

Caron has been offering and continues to extend to patients one year of post-treatment support free of charge, with monthly phone contact from the treatment facility designed to ease the transition between treatment and life back in the community. Caron leaders were observing that at around the six-month mark, a worrisome number of individuals were falling out of touch with the organization, for a number of possible reasons. “In some cases, it could be associated with the shame of relapsing,” says Knepper.

My First Year of Recovery offers more intensified support than traditional contact, based on an agreement crafted between the patient and his/her recovery support specialist before the patient leaves treatment. This “recovery for life commitment contract,” Knepper says, includes, for instance, specific provisions for what a patient will do post-treatment in the event of a slip. She considers its timing while the person still resides in primary treatment to be a critical component to success.

“I think it's about the relationship and the ability to start while in treatment,” she says. “It puts a face to the person the patient will be working with.”

The program costs $8,000 and includes at least two phone calls a month from Caron, with one targeting the patient and one for his/her family. “When we talk to the family, the phone call is about them,” says Knepper. “We know that this disease can tear apart relationships.”

Patients sign releases so that Caron specialists can speak directly with patients' other care providers in a monthly “circle of support” call. In addition, patients have access to a secure social platform where they can communicate online with others in a peer-to-peer community. A similar online opportunity exists for patients' family members.

Not surprisingly, the continuing care services in My First Year of Recovery remain non-reimbursable through insurance, which is still geared mainly to paying for acute episodes of treatment.

Outcomes encouraging

Around 80 patients and 100 family members currently are being served with the enhanced support. Thirty-six individuals have graduated from the program. Knepper says that around 58% of participants had continuous sobriety over the course of their year, and all who experienced a slip were able to get back on track. Ninety percent of the drug screens resulted in a negative, she reports.

Besides the early engagement between the patient and the specialist (some of the Caron staff members who work with patients post-treatment are licensed counselors while others are certified professionals), Knepper believes My First Year of Recovery is demonstrating the value of continuity of care, and of help to the individual in gaining a firmer footing in the home environment.