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Remembering history, creating history

April 1, 2010
by Brian Albright
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NAATP's new generation points to the future of addiction treatment

Over the past several decades, the field of addiction treatment has gone through numerous changes, from the development of the Minnesota Model of treatment nearly 60 years ago to the use of experiential therapies and advancements in neurological or pharmacological treatments today.

As the founders of modern addiction treatment leave the field and a new generation of leaders emerges, treatment professionals are looking for ways to move the industry forward while still honoring those early pioneers. Many of these new leaders have had first-hand experience in recovery and their treatment experiences inspired them to help others. But while they are steeped in traditional approaches to addiction treatment, they have also embraced new ways to expand treatment options and make treatment available to more people who need it.

“This next group of leaders is coming out of a traditional treatment background, but they are going to provide leadership in expanding our approach to treating addiction,” says Ron Hunsicker, president and CEO* of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). “They have all of this history to build on, and they can now take that knowledge to help create the next level in our field.”

An open container

One of those new leaders is Bob Ferguson, founder and director of the Jaywalker Lodge in Carbondale, Colo., who began his career at ground zero of the modern addiction treatment field: the storied Hazelden clinic in Center City, Minn., where the Minnesota Model was originally developed.

Bob ferguson, founder and director of the jaywalker lodge
Bob Ferguson, founder and director of the Jaywalker Lodge

Ferguson, formerly a New York City journalist, first came to Hazelden in 1992 as a patient after two failed attempts at getting sober. He stayed on in the St. Paul sober community, eventually working at Hazelden himself in continuing care and alumni relations for six years.

“Without formal or clinical training in treatment, I really came through my own recovery story, framed by my Hazelden and St. Paul experiences,” Ferguson says. “My roots in the field are really my own sober roots and in the Minnesota Model of care.”

He later worked at the Crossroads program in Antigua (founded by guitarist Eric Clapton), followed by Promises Malibu, which showed Ferguson the value of establishing a bridge with local Alcoholics Anonymous programs.

He founded Jaywalker in 2005 in order to take the basic principles of the Minnesota Model and combine them in a more open residential treatment setting that emphasized community interaction and recovery. The 120-day program is based around what Ferguson calls “an open treatment container” that focuses on interacting with the community in recovery within the facility as well as the community at large.

“That is counter to how you are seeing treatment centers marketed on the Internet,” Ferguson says. “We believe the safety and welfare of the group as a whole supersedes the wants and needs of individuals.”

Jaywalker lodge in carbondale, colo
Jaywalker Lodge in Carbondale, Colo.

Patients attend 12-Step meetings across the region, participate in wilderness activities, and do service work as well-everything from helping flood victims in Iowa to assisting with the construction of new buildings on Native American Indian reservations.

“You have a higher risk and higher reward proposition,” Ferguson says. “It's not right for every client, but if you catch somebody in the right point in recovery, then I say get them out of the closed campus or institutional setting and focus on initiating life in recovery.”

Now with 34 beds, Jaywalker has developed a reputation for providing effective treatment for men with a history of relapse, and also helped foster a vibrant aftercare community, which Ferguson believes is an increasingly important part of any addiction treatment program.

A clinic reborn

Dwayne Beason, president and CEO of St. Christopher's Addiction Wellness Center in Baton Rouge, La., is not only playing a role in the future of addiction treatment, he actually helped revive part of its past when he re-opened St. Christopher's in 1998.

Dwayne beason, president and ceo of st. christopher's addiction wellness center
Dwayne Beason, president and CEO of St. Christopher's Addiction Wellness Center

Beason's introduction to St. Christopher's came when he went through treatment himself in 1988 and was referred to the halfway house. The facility closed while Beason was working at a local hospital, but after attending a wedding where he was able to count at least ten men who had gone through the facility and were still sober nearly a decade later, he made it his mission to re-open St. Christopher's.

By the time he achieved that goal, though, treatment had changed considerably.

St. christopher's addiction wellness center in baton rouge, la
St. Christopher's Addiction Wellness Center in Baton Rouge, La.

“Managed care had stepped in,” Beason says. “When I was in treatment, you went through a program and then to a halfway house. When I reopened St. Christopher's, most of our referrals were from failed outpatient experiences. There were a lot of retreads. A lot of the focus had gotten lost.”