New Directions for Day Treatment at the Betty Ford Center

Expanding our care options for patients

After only a few weeks on the job, Sandy Islands, PhD, LPCC, CADC II, is already realizing one of the core components of her responsibilities: communications. For this new manager of the Day Treatment program at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, communications occur on a rapid basis and often need an immediate response—from early morning team meetings where night shift techs share critical patient updates, to financial reports regarding patient status, to facilitating patient transfers from residential, and welcoming new admissions.

“In Day Treatment, our focus is on ongoing recovery; however, we follow each patient from admission—through detox, residential treatment, Day Treatment, IOP, or OP—to their anticipated discharge,” said Sandy. “And our communications encompass a broad spectrum, on all levels of care, ranging from daily status checks on the patients to confidential progress reports to their individual referent.”

As patients near their residential discharge date, they may choose to return home or stay longer and participate in the treatment options available through Betty Ford Center’s sober housing. The 15 sober housing units on Daisy Lane are located in a secluded neighborhood, away from the main campus, and designated specifically for patients who are enrolled either in the Day Treatment program or in Intensive Outpatient therapy (IOP). On Daisy Lane, there are nine homes for Day Treatment patients and five IOP sober living houses.

All the homes are gender specific with a three-bedroom, three-bathroom floor plan. There is also a community house for group meals, fellowship, or co-ed functions with supervision.

Patients may be assigned housing based on their level of participation, work or financial situation, or insurance reimbursement. Mitch Reynolds supervises sober living and the drivers who transport patients back and forth to treatment and appointments. Gay Juarez supervises nine addiction technicians who monitor activity on Daisy Lane and help facilitate all aspects of the patient’s orientation, drug testing, and activity groups.

“The more structure and routine that people have in early recovery, the more experience they have of becoming independent with a degree of support, the greater their chances for staying clean and sober,” said Sandy. “Ideally, if a patient has 30 days of residential treatment, two to three months of Day Treatment, and then three months of sober living and IOP, the patient will have almost a year to establish the healthy lifestyle patterns of recovery.”

The primary differences between Day Treatment and IOP are based on treatment time and interaction with the clinical staff. Day Treatment allows for more direct interaction with addiction counselors and staff members as patients meet every day, Monday through Friday, for five hours a day or a total of 25 hours a week. IOP patients meet four days a week, Monday through Thursday, for three hours a day or a total of 12 hours per week. In both programs, the goal is to help individuals transition to the next level of care.

In the Day Treatment program, patients work through the stages of change, and in the process, they are also asked to “give back.”

“As part of their own recovery journey, our patients are asked to mentor or meet with other individuals who are still in residential treatment and to help them ‘see the bigger picture’ of recovery,” continued Sandy. “This enables people, in the very early stages of recovery, to transition to the next level of care so much easier and with less fear.”

The treatment day starts at 8 a.m. with meditation, a morning lecture, group therapy, and lunch, followed by specialty groups addressing such topics as emotional sobriety, eating disorders, grief workshops, or fitness. AA and NA meetings are scheduled either during the day or in the evening, and patients may participate in individual sessions, art or music therapy, or attend one of the professional groups, including the Legal Professionals Program (LPP); the Heath Care Professionals (HCP) program facilitated by Dr. Harry Haroutunian; or the LGBTQ group. At the Betty Ford Center, the “Caduceus” AA group also meets regularly for all health care professionals.

Currently, there are five full-time counselors in the Day Treatment program: Tania McCormick, MA, LMFT; Velia Patrick, MA, LMFT; Tenesha Thompson, MA, MFT, LAADC; John Urrutia, BA; and Joel Boss, BA, CADC II, CAMF. The three counselors in IOP are: James Barry, MS, LAADC, CADC II; Liz Cornejo, BS, CATC III; and Melissa Yarbray, MA, LMFT. Each of the counselors is assigned approximately 8-10 patients.

And the essential communications continue throughout the program duration. At each stage of early recovery—when a patient leaves residential and transitions to Day Treatment or IOP, or chooses to go home and participate in outpatient services—the counselors, case manager, and continuing care coordinator are actively involved in the treatment process. A case manager handles patients in both Day Treatment and IOP, and Leslie Place, continuing care coordinator, meets weekly with each patient and provides an updated progress report, individualized continuing care plan, and the information required by their referent.

“Depending on the referent—it may be a therapist, an airline, medical board, or an individual physician—weekly updates are usually required or a pre-arranged call is made from the patient’s therapist at the Betty Ford Center. In general, each situation is unique and patient updates are provided as stipulated by the referent,” said Sandy.

Through it all, Sandy is enjoying her new role in this dynamic environment.

“I love the energy of this place, and it’s been such a positive and spiritual experience for me. It is so wonderful to be in an atmosphere where people are motivated to change and move forward in their recovery. Being in recovery myself, I have a passion for substance use disorder treatment, and I’m so happy to be here. I feel grateful and blessed every single day,” she said

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