Seeing his organization grow from a small child welfare agency when he arrived to one of the national mainstays in addiction treatment today, Philip W. Eaton of Rosecrance Health Network predicts further positive developments ahead.
The president and CEO of the Illinois agency largely deflects praise over his 40 years of uninterrupted service and calls it a product of support from staff, board members and donors, adding that the field remains challenging for him and his colleagues in addiction treatment leadership.
“I never tire hearing stories of broken lives as people arrive at our doorstep, coming to us in such dire straits and really wanting to have an outcome that’s different for the future,” says Eaton, who on May 25 marked his 40-year anniversary at Rosecrance.
The professional journey of Eaton and his organization reflects that of the field as a whole. Eleven years into Eaton’s tenure at the agency, Rosecrance in 1982 made the transition from children’s home to addiction treatment organization, largely because it was consistently seeing youths whose most pressing problems were being listed as “drinks and drugs daily,” Eaton says.
This was back at a time when substance use still was being seen mainly as a symptom of another problem rather than the underlying problem itself. Rosecrance would be instrumental in changing that perspective as it also witnessed further changes in the field, from a necessary merging of once discrete alcohol and illegal drug services to the unwelcome imposition of limits on treatment in the managed care era.
Now the watchword in treatment is integration, both with mental health and primary care, and Rosecrance has placed itself at the forefront of this with its formal merger with the Janet Wattles Center community mental health organization last fall.
Eaton said in a statement issued on his 40-year anniversary day that it will take the now larger organization some time to determine how best to integrate services as it deals with “licensing, funding and methodology” issues. But he added in an interview that he is optimistic amid the uncertainty.
Commenting on integration with primary care, Eaton says, “This is one of the true opportunities to improve outcomes, as we move toward a more whole-person approach.”
From the time that patients mowed the lawn at the facility because there was no maintenance staff, to today’s positioning of Rosecrance as a leading national voice in behavioral health services, Eaton says at no point did he give much thought to working anywhere else. “It’s been a pretty dynamic journey that reflects how the field has evolved,” he says.
Eaton began as a social worker at the agency in 1971, taking over as executive director as the organization transitioned to addiction treatment in 1982. Among many honors he has received during his career was the American College of Addiction Treatment Administrators (ACATA) Administrator of the Year award in 2002.