We have been overwhelmed as an industry with financial challenges, with phrases such as “budget cuts” and “short-staffed” having become more commonly spoken in our circles than relapse and recovery. Our profession is too important to be destroyed by these difficult economic times. We are not going to be able to rise above the situation simply with a “this too shall pass” mentality. We must make specific decisions and take strategic actions to ensure that we make our programs recession-proof. Here are some areas that I believe all treatment programs and professionals should consider.
Get the word out
Social networking has quickly become a new method of marketing, so if you think social networking sites are just for play, you are greatly mistaken. Create a buzz about your programs, services, fundraisers, etc., on multiple sites to increase referral opportunities.
Earlier this year I and a handful of colleagues started a social networking site for addiction professionals (http://addictionprofessionals.ning.com). As of this writing we have more than 200 members, as well as links to all of the major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Members are able to create a profile for their program and consult with other professionals from around the globe. Start blogging, posting and Tweeting your way out of this recession by establishing a strong online presence.
Also, you have to let your local community know you are there to be of service. A program may have been in a community for years, and still there are community leaders and residents who have never heard of the agency. This can no longer be acceptable, especially during these difficult economic times.
Sponsor a free or low-cost community educational workshop on addiction recovery, enabling, co-dependency, adolescent drug prevention, or whatever subject you believe would benefit your community. This will allow you to connect with your neighbors and to spread the message of recovery at a price all can afford. If you charge a minimal fee, this could cover the costs of advertising the event. Attendees will remember you and will keep your program in mind when a referral comes their way. The more people who attend and the more often you conduct these workshops, the more word-of-mouth marketing you will receive.
You also might be thinking that canceling your advertisements is a great idea at this time. However, in times of financial strain you should actually consider being more aggressive when it comes to advertising opportunities. You might be able to increase your exposure at the same time that other programs are deciding to limit theirs. Do not let your budget interfere with being able to reach the consumer.
Every dollar counts when business, admissions, and funding sources have decreased. Small changes will make a big difference, even in areas such as the decision to avoid using disposable products in your operation. Think about the money our programs spend on coffee cups alone. Moving to reusable products when feasible puts money back into the budget rather than taking from it. Imagine what this strategy can save in the long term.
Finally, don't be afraid of opportunities through technology. If you are anything like me, you are often bombarded with announcements of professional meetings but you have limited time and availability. There are now many cost-effective Web conferencing options on the market. With a small monthly fee you are able to schedule meetings in the comfort of your own office with attendees from anywhere else. The majority of Web conferencing systems provide free trials and training. Search for the best deal and beat the recession one meeting at a time.
I can encourage you by saying that times will improve, business and admissions will increase, and your organization will become fully staffed again. But along with these words, you must be proactive. We need to make up our minds that we are going to emerge from the current environment as better administrators, better professionals and better stewards of our programs' financial resources.
Rick Reyes, ICADC, CADC II Rick Reyes, ICADC, CADC II, is Clinical Director at New Hope Behavioral Health in Mesa, Arizona and has maintained an intervention and recovery coaching practice for six years. He most recently developed the Addiction Professionals Network, a social network for counselors and other professionals. His e-mail address is
firstname.lastname@example.org. Addiction Professional 2009 September-October;7(5):43