After earning a graduate degree in social work from Louisiana State University, Johnny Patout, LCSW, entered the behavioral health field and worked in several positions before becoming CEO of New Beginnings Adolescent Recovery Center, a private facility in Opelousas, La. Like many behavioral health leaders, Patout experienced the treatment system personally when he committed to his own recovery process in the 1980s.
“When I returned home from treatment, I was feeling like I had scarlet letter on my forehead with my addiction and having gone through treatment. It was an ugly-duckling situation,” Patout says. “After I returned home, an old high school buddy called. He heard I had gone through treatment, and he asked if I could provide assistance with his alcoholism. When that occurred, my addiction instantly turned from something ugly to this precious gift I could use to help others.”
He says the stigma he endured then has helped him to make business decisions today. For example, staff members at New Beginnings are trained to always offer kindness and respectful engagement with each other, with clients and with their families—it’s his number-one rule, Patout says. Staff members use courtesy titles such as “Miss” or “Mister” to show respect when speaking to others in person and over the phone.
While respectfulness might seem like a subjective vision, at New Beginnings, it is measured objectively through client feedback, written questionnaires and direct observation in daily interactions. And there’s a business case for it. New Beginnings serves adolescent clients, and the kindness philosophy makes an impact on engagement, according to Patout.
“Teenagers are complex. When they come to our facility, often times, they are resistant and angry at the world and at their parents. And when they experience kindness and respect, they tend to slow down and get involved with the program and the early stages of recovery,” he says.
As outcomes measures continue to come to the forefront, behavioral health providers need to create measurement tools and continuous process improvement based on those measures. In 2013, under Patout’s leadership, New Beginnings Adolescent Recovery Center received the 2013 James W. West Quality Improvement Award from the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.
Patout and his business partners purchased the 30-year-old New Beginnings center three years ago with the intent of turning around the program and establishing greater financial viability. He says the center had program issues as well as financial issues after the three founding physicians passed away several years ago and that strong leadership was needed.
The new leadership team spent six months conducting a needs assessment to identify areas of opportunity to improve. Patout’s philosophy of respect became a large part of the new framework. He says in a short period of time, patient referrals increased as a result of the program improvements, including referrals from outside of the Louisiana area.
“In order for a program to be sustainable, it has to offer quality service,” he says. “That’s what attracts referrals. Revenue is certainly driven by admissions and having patients on campus. And in the past two and a half years, we’ve watched that steadily grow. The other thing that’s telling is that our out-of-state admissions have grown year-over-year by at least 20% each year.”
Patout says revenue, patient days and admissions in 2012 grew 22% as compared to 2011, and in 2013 grew additional 30% over 2012. By the end of this year, he is expecting to see a continuation of the 20% trend. New Beginnings Adolescent Recovery Center is also in the process of expanding capacity from 34 to 42 beds and in May broke ground on the expansion space for the new residential and detox beds.
“Teenagers can be quite a challenge, so it’s important to pay attention,” Patout says with a laugh. “But that’s true of any business: Leadership has to pay attention to not only macro things but micro things and every little aspect of the business.”
Johnny Patout, CEO of New Beginnings Adolescent Recovery Center, a private facility in Opelousas, La., flew to New York City on a day’s notice in September 2001 to offer counseling to first responders, volunteers, victims of the terrorist attacks and their families. He says it was one of his most challenging experiences.
“I saw firsthand the kindness and generosity and unselfish commitment on the part of the first responders,” he says. “Even in the face of devastating tragedy, those men and women helped to start the healing process by providing hope that healing was possible. I took what I observed, in that kindness can go a long way in helping people have hope.”
He’s a Red Cross volunteer and had received specialized training to prepare him for such service, but he says he never anticipated he would actually be called into action. Immediately following the volunteer work at Ground Zero, he was called to provide therapy and emotional support in the Belle Harbor area near JFK International Airport in New York where an American Airlines passenger flight had crashed on takeoff. The 260 passengers onboard and five individuals on the ground in the path of the aircraft did not survive. Although the crash was later ruled an accident, first responders at the time struggled with the recovery task as well as their renewed fears of possible terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy.
According to Stephanie Wick, who nominated Patout, “It is next to impossible to place a number on the amount of people he has touched during his 30-plus years in the behavioral healthcare industry.”