May 1st, 2012

Quitting Time offers a safe haven

It is the question that every medical facility administrator has to ask: What is it that makes a health program stand out?

Many facilities have similar programs, from cancer screening programs to AIDs awareness to support groups or recovery programs. They run on similar modalities – education, therapeutic interventions, self-awareness exercises and more.

But what makes a program succeed?

For the administrators of the Quitting Time Program at Hampstead Hospital in N.H., the piece that really makes the difference is the staff. When it comes down to it the success of a program it depends on the intangible qualities contributed by the people who manage and run the program.

“I think that’s what makes our program unique, the clinicians,” said Patti Shea, Psy.D., director of clinical operations for the hospital. “We have people with a variety of skill sets and some who can bring their own personal experience with recovery.”

Quitting Time is an intensive outpatient chemical dependency program facilitated by Master’s level clinicians who use a motivational approach to provide education and improve personal insight. The program admits approximately five people per week for its first phase and offers a family support group as well. Clients come primarily from residential or acute care facilities although some may also come from outside referral.

The goal of the program is to give these clients a chance to stay with their daily routine including jobs or school while receiving recovery treatment services. The program condenses a larger number of sessions into a shorter time period than traditional treatment programs to offer a convenient and cost-effective way to address the addiction.

Operated in 3.5-hour sessions, four days a week, the program recently expanded from evenings to include a morning session.

“We reformatted in July,” said Shea, “and doubled the clients we can serve. With more staff, we have been able to focus even more on meeting people where they are at in their recovery process.”

Meeting people in convenient settings is a key element. For some, they may be ready to attend outside meetings and work a 12-step program. Others may not be there yet. Each patient meets individually with the clinicians to evaluate their treatment goals.

“We are, of course, striving for every person to remain in recovery and remain abstinent,” said John Iudice, LICSW, LADC, the clinical director for the program. “But that is not going to happen with every client.”

Success for a recovery program should not be based, he said, on whether everyone is able to stay clean. Instead, it should look on how the clients use the program itself.

“With everyone who comes through, we see positive changes made,” he said. “Some will say up front when they leave that they plan on drinking still on weekends or using opiates. That is not necessarily success but they gained education on where to go when they see that plan is not going to work for them.”

After the first phase of the program, clients must attend at least four weeks of a weekly aftercare group. This part, not covered by insurance, is free to all alumni and many continue to come long after their four week requirement is complete.

There are others who return to go through the entire program again.

“Recovery is a process and it is a tough process,” said Shea. “Not everyone who completes the process is done … That is the true success of a program, to be a place where people can come back if they are having a hard time.”

By Catherine Robertson Souter

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