Extended engagement in recovery-focused services leads to better outcomes, but only the wealthiest patients have a guaranteed option for receiving that type of stay at a residential level. This leads the CEO of Benchmark Recovery Center near Austin, Texas to state this conclusion: “Good-quality recovery residences are the future of rehab in this country.”
At a time when leaders in the recovery residence community are working overtime to promote best practices and to call out poorly managed recovery homes that tarnish others' reputation, Benchmark Recovery Center often gets cited positively among model organizations. Last month's Best Practices Summit held by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) in Atlanta featured a presentation by Benchmark Recovery Center men's program director Greg Fabry, who along with CEO Marsha Stone was recently interviewed by Addiction Professional.
Fabry explains that Benchmark Recovery Center, which originally operated as the Mark Houston Recovery Center when it opened in 2006, has adopted a three-pronged process for supporting its residents (some of whom arrive from primary treatment and others who are re-engaging in the recovery process and were not recently receiving services):
Benchmark operates gender-separate intensive recovery residence programs that do not offer clinical care and emphasize life skills; the program operates at Level 3 of the four-level structure of support that NARR uses to classify recovery homes. “The program is robust from the time they wake up all the way to bed,” says Fabry. Residents stay an average of three to four months at a cost of $12,000 a month. Fabry says opioid addicts in their 20s and 30s are the most prevalent population.
A less intensive Level 2 transitional living program of at least three months is available only to individuals who complete Level 3. Residents live in apartments and pursue work opportunities, and pay $1,000 a month for an average stay of four to five months.
What generally separates the Benchmark program from many other recovery residences is the yearlong support that individuals receive from the moment they exit Level 3. Benchmark's $7,500 aftercare monitoring program pairs individuals with recovery coaches, with the support offered by telephone for individuals who choose to leave the Austin area. “The coaches are making sure the residents are implementing their continuing-care plan, and are looking for red flags,” says Fabry. “The coaches also can be on the phone with the person's family, and can take the family out of the role of being the 'recovery police.'” Recovery coaches in Texas under the peer recovery support specialist title.
A group dynamic is encouraged in the Benchmark programs. “We talk about holding one another accountable,” says Stone. “We ask residents to discuss what they see as blocking others' recovery.”
Need for standards
Benchmark, located in the community of Manor east of Austin, was eager to participate in last month's NARR summit, as it was one of the earliest supporters of the national association representing recovery homes. Stone believes NARR plays an important role in emphasizing quality for this growing component of the continuum of addiction and recovery services. But she is quick to point out that recovery residences are not alone in needing to monitor ethical conduct within their ranks.
“Anybody in any field in the world needs some sort of oversight and accountability,” Stone says.
Drug testing constitutes a regular part of Benchmark's programming, with twice-weekly testing at the Level 2 of support and less frequency as individuals have been engaged for a longer period. Unnecessary drug testing in order to bill insurance (five times a week in some cases) has been one of the main targets of those trying to call out unscrupulous providers of recovery support services, and Fabry sees this type of practice as symptomatic of a cultural problem in some organizations.
Unlike an organization built on the recovery-affirming values of integrity and service, “If the culture is to make a quick buck, that touches clients and everyone in the organization in that way,” Fabry says.