CRC Health Group had several reasons for choosing Bowling Green Brandywine in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, as headquarters for the treatment group’s Recovery Month event September 20: the program’s specialty track to treat first responders, focusing on police officers; the track for addicted pregnant women using medication-assisted treatment; and the planned expansion adding 42 beds and 23 jobs. ADAW interviewed Chief Operating Officer Jerry Rhodes and General Barry McCaffrey, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and a member of the CRC advisory board, by telephone the morning of the celebration.
The first responders program was set up in conjunction with the New York City Police Department and other law enforcement organizations for officers who have addiction and other mental health issues. Rhodes explained that this population is exposed to frequent stress and trauma. As in the military population, there is a certain acceptance of alcohol abuse, said Rhodes. Also, there is trauma — witnessing violence, repeatedly — with officers resorting to the use of alcohol or prescription drugs, said Rhodes. It’s also important for the program to reflect the fact that these patients are in law enforcement, with their own group therapy sessions. The majority of the patients in the first responders program are from out of state, which helps diminish concerns on the part of the local patients who may have gotten in trouble with the criminal justice system.
“One of the things we try to do is break down apprehension between cops and the treatment community,” said McCaffrey. Treatment providers think police officers are aggressive, he said. “But I found just the opposite. If you want to know about drugs, ask a community sheriff, who is likely to be older, compassionate, and pragmatic,” McCaffrey told ADAW. “They know it doesn’t help to lock someone up for 48 hours.”
Pregnant and addicted
The residential program for opioid-addicted pregnant women is one of the few in the country. Women on opioids are not detoxified, because withdrawal is dangerous for the fetus, Rhodes noted. “The safest and most effective treatment is with methadone,” he said. The women stay at the facility until they deliver; delivery takes place in a number of local hospitals. Bowling Green Brandywine arranges for the obstetric care throughout the pregnancy. After delivery, when the women have had postpartum care, they are discharged to aftercare, typically placed in another agency. These patients stay much longer than most patients, usually well over three months, said Rhodes. Most of the referrals come from the City of Philadelphia, he said. Typically there are about five to seven patients, addicted either to prescription opioids or heroin.
Press attacks on Aspen
We also asked McCaffrey about some recent press coverage of CRC criticizing the company’s programs at Aspen Education, a CRC subsidiary that has residential programs for adolescents. Because CRC is owned by Bain Capital, which was founded in 1984 by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the coverage has appeared mainly in liberal media and has consisted of no new reporting but focused on abuses that occurred before Bain/CRC acquired Aspen in 2006. “I’m absolutely non-partisan,” responded McCaffrey. “I’ve been on the board of directors at CRC from when we were just a dozen California treatment centers, so I’ve been through the changes in governance.” McCaffrey, while not afraid of controversy, believes “it’s normally a bad idea to take on the media and try to move the discussion.”
“I think the Bain guys are smart and have integrity,” he said. “And I don’t think the media attacks are going after Romney. There’s something more.” He thinks the same old stigma — addiction and its treatment — is just rearing its head in a new way but with the same attacks. “It’s selective invalid journalism,” he said, adding that there are more than 23 million Americans in need of substance abuse treatment. “I think we have to stick up for this incredibly important part of healthcare.” •
Editor’s note: CRC has responded to attacks on Aspen with letters, which have been published. For an example, see CRC’s response to the articles published in Time online at http://ti.me/Uad0SA. The other two programs still under criticism in these reports — Straight, Inc. and Synanon — are out of business.