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Alumni groups harness the power of recovery

September 18, 2011
by Dennis Grantham, Editor-in-Chief
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A Sunday workgroup at NCAD 2011, hosted by Sherri Lawton of La Hacienda (Hunt, Tex.) and Matt Feehery of Memorial Hermann’s PaRC (Houston, Tex.) examined the potential of program alumni and strategies for supporting, sustaining, and sharing the energy of these individuals in recovery.

“Alumni programs can enhance and support the group dynamic of 12-Step and other addiction treatment programs,” says Feehery, noting that such groups “become a resource for building a community of recovery in which alumni help themselves by helping others.”
In a profession hungry for outcomes data, Layton says that keeping connected with alumni offers not only access to long-term outcomes data, but also a very reliable source of referrals. Alumni referrals account for some 25 percent of La Hacienda’s new program residents. “Alumni are really a cost-effective marketing resource,” she says.

Structuring alumni networks poses some challenges, though both noted that such networks typically follow from the location and demographics of the provider. Given the metropolitan Houston location of the PaRC, Feehery says that most of its alums are local, within easy driving distance. So, it’s easy for them to gather weekly at the PaRC’s inpatient facility or occasionally at its outpatient locations.

La Hacienda draws from a much wider geography, while is rural location—well to the northwest of San Antonio—makes regular visits from most program alumni impossible. So, it focuses on larger, less frequent events, such as a multi-day recovery celebration that welcomes over 1,000 people annually.

The building blocks of successful alumni programs, their relationship to after-care programs, their governance, and more will be the subject of the Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services (TPAS) meeting held Monday, September 19, from 6 to 9 PM in the Windsor Rose Room at NCAD 2011. Those unable to attend can learn more about TPAS by contacting Sherri Layton at slayton@lahacienda.com.

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Dennis Grantham

Dennis Grantham

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www.behavioral.net