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Modest efforts are sharpening centers' focus on alumni, recovery support

August 20, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Becoming a truly recovery-focused organization represents a major transformation in thinking for most addiction treatment facilities, so progress generally happens in increments. But members of the group Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services (TPAS) believe they are seeing several signs of positive movement across the field, from treatment centers setting aside dedicated budgets for alumni services to the increasing presence of recovery topics at national conferences.

When the group gathers in Houston for its second TPAS Collaborative Sept. 15-18, it will do so with a sense that the conversation is changing in the treatment industry. It also will be celebrating its own gradual growth as an organization, punctuated by the decision of 12 organizations to devote additional resources to the group as charter members.

“We probably have around 200 people on our list now,” says Lorie Obernauer, PhD, who formerly ran the alumni services operation at CeDAR in Colorado and now works primarily in recovery coaching but remains a key leader in TPAS. “It’s constantly being updated.”

Obernauer adds, “Our goal in the coming year is to offer a variety of membership levels and to beef up our website.”

TPAS has sought in its three-year history to bring together professionals who work in the areas of alumni, continuing care and recovery support services, offering opportunities for these professionals to share best-practice information. The discussion often becomes one of determining how to facilitate a paradigm shift within treatment centers, from the traditional focus on discrete episodes of care to one that takes a long-term, recovery-oriented view.

Obernauer says that those who attended last year’s collaborative are reporting back that there has been some movement in that direction in their facilities. It might be something as modest as hiring a half-time person to coordinate activities and outreach for clients after they have completed treatment.

But Obernauer says that often can be enough, as moves toward this expanded vision do not have to be dramatic. “Individual organizations can shift in this direction without major changes in funding and personnel,” she says. “Sometimes it’s an attention shift.”

TPAS’s 12 charter members are Harmony Foundation, CeDAR, Northbound Treatment Services, A New Path, Valley Hope Association, Origins Recovery Centers, Benchmark Recovery, Women in Recovery, MAP Accountability Services, New Directions for Women, Pavillon, and Pine Grove. They and other organizations will be represented next month at the collaborative, an event where overall attendance is capped at 50 in order to stimulate discussion and interaction. A period of discounted early registration has been extended to Aug. 23; there are still some spaces available.