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Thought Leadership

​The Importance of Investing in Outcomes for Addiction Treatment

A May 2nd article in The Daily Beast calls attention to the new documentary, The Business of Recovery, which is characterized as shining a “skeptical light on the tony business of high-priced addiction centers.” I haven’t had the opportunity to view the film yet, but I look forward to seeing it. In the meantime, we would like to address a few points in The Daily Beast’s story.

One of the filmmakers is quoted as saying that treatment centers, “paint this picture that they’re going to fix everything. These families in crisis are so vulnerable, and they want to believe what they hear.” We agree that it’s not acceptable to paint the “we can fix it” picture. Addiction is a chronic disease and we tell patients at the outset that recovery is a life-long journey. At our centers, we offer a personalized approach for individuals and families as part of a holistic behavioral healthcare plan. Recovery is ongoing, which is why it’s critical to create a tailored program for patients and their families before they leave treatment.

We also agree that the addiction treatment industry should have standards for measuring success rates – with an investment in more significant outcome data. For that reason, Caron pioneered My First Year, a program that provides consistent, valid and reliable outcomes utilizing measuring tools and a process that follows patients and their family members post treatment for one year. Data collected by a Recovery Care Specialist and researcher focus on quality of life, sobriety, relapse and re-engagement, utilization of next level of care providers and 12 step activities within the program.

The program extends beyond phone calls with random urine screenings for the full first year following treatment. The secure online tool provides ongoing education, access to an online social platform with like-minded peers and ongoing calls with counselors and therapists. It is available to both patients and their families. Before leaving treatment, patients meet with the recovery support specialist they will interact with during the year and sign a contract agreeing to certain steps if they relapse. Thus, we are prepared for early interventions if necessary.

Caron developed the program in conjunction with Dr. Robert DuPont, who served as the first director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the founder of the Institute for Behavioral Health. Caron actively consults with James R. McKay, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and Director, Penn-TRI Center on the Continuum of Care in the Addictions at the University of Pennsylvania. Both are leaders in the field of research related to efficacy of treatment and continuum monitoring outcomes.

In fact, Caron, an active member of the National Association for Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) along with up to 13 other nationally recognized treatment providers, will participate in a pilot study by the NAATP starting this year. The goal is to provide consistent, valid reliable outcomes that stand up to national standards for research. These outcomes will empower consumers to make decisions about treatment providers as well as assisting policy makers and the treatment industry in general. A unified approach is necessary to support a continuum of care especially when treating a chronic disease like addiction.

Since it’s inception in 2012, 107 former Caron patients and 165 family members have participated in the My First Year program. Outcomes as of March are as follows:

  • We have connected by phone with 80% of these former patients and their families.
  • 70% of participants completed random drug testing and 94% of those drug tests are negative.
  • 62% of those enrolled maintained continuous sobriety in the program.
  • 79% of those enrolled were sober at the end of the year.

Although Caron’s treatment and the My First Year program are deeply rooted in the 12-Steps, Caron doesn’t view the 12-steps as an “all or nothing” aspect of addiction treatment. In fact, we incorporate appropriate medical interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing alongside the 12-steps.

It’s also important to note that not all facilities focus on profit. As a non-profit, Caron doesn’t have shareholders or owners, so we are able to focus on recovery as our only bottom-line. We’re currently on track to provide $20 million in scholarships this fiscal year to people who can not afford treatment at Caron.

Filmmakers have every right to tell their story, but there are many people whose lives have been transformed by residential treatment. Two are Anita Devlin and her son Michael, a Caron alumnus who received treatment for prescription drug and heroin addiction and has been sober for more than four years. Together they’ve written a book entitled S.O.B.E.R about their experience.

We agree that more needs to be done to help regulate the behavioral healthcare industry and hold facilities accountable for outcomes. Caron intends to be part of that solution. In the meantime, many patients and their families do find hope and recovery through residential addiction treatment.

Featured Staff
President & CEO
A strong advocate for both research and prevention, Doug Tieman has spent 30 years in the addiction treatment field.