September 11, 2014

A circle of support

A new program at Caron Treatment Centers provides unprecedented support to addicts and families during the first year in recovery.

By Kelly Burch

There’s no doubt that the first year in recovery is tough: returning home, or to work, and assuring yourself again and again that you can in fact do this.

A new program at Caron treatment centers is trying to make that first year just a little bit easier by increasing support for addicts and their families following a stint in rehab.

 In the My First Year of Recovery program, the patient and two family members receive continuing support, including that of a clinical case specialist, and a family assistance specialist. The program incorporates everything from regular phone calls to random drug screenings to keep a high level of accountability during the first tumultuous months.

“There is an added level of accountability when we speak to the patient and involve the family member,” Cheryl Knepper, vice president of continuum services for Caron Treatment Centers, told Renew. “Our ultimate goal is to aid them in recovery.”

The program covers the transition back to everyday life, helping patients not to be scared or anxious about things like returning to work or establishing healthy boundaries, Knepper said.

About 180 patients and 200 family members have completed the program, which is a year and a half old.

UPenn has worked with Caron to collect data on relapse rates. Before the program, about 50 percent of addicts lost contact with their recovery support system in the six months following their treatment.

“We suspect a fair amount have slips, and run away out of shame,” Knepper said. “We wanted to be better than that.”

With more monitoring through the My First Year program, Caron has a 60 percent success rate, defined as people in recovery staying in contact for one year and continuing their recovery. Ninety percent of the drug screens that are performed in the program are negative. Of the people who do relapse, 85 percent contact the program and are able to reestablish their recovery.

“We reengage swiftly and get them back on track,” Knepper said.

My First Year also keeps patients involved with an online community that allows them to draw on the support of their peers and experts.

“They can stay connected and realize that they’re not alone,” Knepper said. “This is a huge transition, and success comes from having it integrated into their daily lifestyle.”

Knepper is excited about the My First Year program at Caron, but also eager to see similar programs established at other treatment centers.

“We do believe in the chronic illness model,” she said. “This support is the wave of the future. We’ve seen that with cardiac and diabetes patients, so why not in the addiction field?”

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