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Spirit Lodge rebrands to become Promises Austin

December 3, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Although it may have come as a surprise to some, David Sack, CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, says that the plan to rename the high-end treatment center Spirit Lodge (Austin, Texas) has been lingering for quite some time. The program, which has a maximum of 24 clients at a time, treats men and women aged 26 and older for addiction and trauma recovery.

When Elements acquired The Right Step in August 2012, Spirit Lodge was “sort of an anomaly,” says Sack, meaning that the previous owners had started what they wanted to become a high-end program but it was still a work-in-progress. When Elements stepped in and the program was evaluated, the team saw plenty of opportunities for improvement – adding trauma programming, stronger psychotherapy and mental health components, single-gender groups, and a higher level of mental health counselors and professionals.

These changes began to take shape about a year ago and as the program evolved, a new clinical director – Ilana Zivkovich, LMSW, LCDC – was brought in as well. With most of the changes completed, administrators begun to notice that from a clinical and philosophical perspective that it was starting to closely resemble the Promises Malibu program. The private nine-acre estate in the Hill Country outside of Austin, Texas, overlooks a valley. It is equipped with an executive chef, large rooms and some private rooms.

The main factors that Sack attributes to the similarity between the programs are:

  1. The clinical improvements;
  2. The physical environment;
  3. “The fact that the program was very much committed to abstinence-based treatment and integrated therapies;” and,
  4. “That it was not widely-known outside of Austin.”

Thus, Sack says the belief was that the program would be easier to communicate about if it was rebranded as Promises Austin.

“The reality is that it really didn’t have much to do clinically with the other Right Step programs that were in our insurance-based model,” Sack explains. “So we decided that because of the improvements we’d made over the years that we were ready to rebrand it and have it be part of the Promises family.”

Expanding further throughout the country

The expansion of the Promises brand, which is the “first expansion outside of Southern California in its 25-year history,” according to the company’s website, has many wondering if the Promises name will continue to spread throughout the country.

Sack says although the organization has occasionally looked for campuses on the East coast and in the Southeast, expanding the Promises name has not necessarily been a priority. The priority, however, has been “to broaden the base of the Elements company to reach more clients and their families at different price points so we have a range of programs,” he clarifies.

Because Promises is Elements’ most exclusive program, it won’t be able to accommodate some clients. “The goal was to be an organization that could work with people with mental health problems and substance abuse problems across the spectrum of circumstances and incomes,” Sack says.

He says that the company will continue to look for other opportunities and programs that might fit with the Promises brand but will also be looking for some of the other Elements programs that they think might make sense to replicate across the country. For example, he says The Ranch in Tennessee might be looked at in the future to replicate through other treatment facilities.

For the clients who were on campus at the time of the name change, Sack says it didn’t seem to change their perspective. The area where the response has been visible has been with the referents who use one or more Elements programs. This group, he says, is much more interested in the Promises Austin program than they were initially (when it was called Spirit Lodge). “We’re getting a lot more tours and a lot more visits because of the name change. I think that what we expect is that as people have experience with the program, they’ll be very enthusiastic,” he says.

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