Addiction Treatment: Collaboration, not Competition, yields best results for Patients, Families and Treatment Organizations
When we opened Maryland Addiction Recovery Center in early 2014, we designed and built the organization to follow several key principles that we believed were vital in guiding business, organizational, and clinical decision-making. First, we believed in treating addiction as a chronic illness that required comprehensive long-term care. Second, we believed in a community-based model that would offer services and fill needs that the community was lacking, and that the community was asking for in terms of treatment and recovery services. Third, we believed in treating the entire family unit, involving loved ones throughout the entire treatment experience, and that in order to effectively treat a patient, we would also need to treat and support their family unit. Fourth, and possibly most important, we believed that in order to be successful as a company, as a treatment organization, and in offering the highest quality of treatment to patients, we needed to begin in our infancy and grow through a spirit of collaboration, not competition. This primarily meant collaboration with other rehabs and treatment providers, but also with community organizations, local nonprofits, government organizations and other entities.
Like many industries, competition runs rampant in the addiction treatment and recovery field. The idea that organizations “fight” for patients is the type of mindset that has created the current treatment landscape of patient brokering, enticements, black hat online marketing tactics and other illegal, unethical and/or immoral business practices. Not only does this type of mindset create a fertile breeding ground for unethical behavior, but it also equates to putting dollar signs ahead of patient care, shoddy clinical oversight and short-term thinking in the way of operational decision-making. Not to mention, the idea that rehabs should be in competition for patients is ludicrous. It is a well-known fact that nearly 21 million people in the United States are suffering from substance use disorder and addiction, and that meet criteria for treatment, and yet only 1 in 10 are actually accessing care. That means, potentially, there are almost 19 million Americans that need help for addiction that are not seeking out treatment. Part of that is that is typical symptoms of addiction: denial, rationalization, minimizing the need for help, resistance to change, fear, just to name a few. However, part of the reason that people are not seeking treatment is the overall distrust that consumers have of the addiction treatment field. The competition mindset of many treatment centers and the constant competing for patients that bred and fueled unethical and illegal business practices has led to an ultimate distrust of the addiction treatment industry as a whole, creating a vicious cycle. Instead of being leaders in addiction treatment, instead of creating platforms of education for our local communities, instead of working to change the paradigm of how addiction is viewed and treated by society, and instead of creating unified health systems that address the needs of those suffering from substance abuse in our local areas, many treatment centers focused on business and the bottom line, fighting each other for patients, as if they had ownership on the suffering individuals and families. This competition mindset beget widespread unethical and illegal practices, which beget the “bottom line above quality care” types of practices that today continue to operate regularly in the space.
Five years ago, we started MARC based on the principles described earlier. Before opening our doors, our founders spent over a year and a half devising guiding principles, a business plan, and operational plan, and conducting necessary research. We believed in the recovery principle of “filling a need,” the idea to go where there was a need and provide what that community needed. Although we always knew that we wanted to create a comprehensive extended care treatment center that also offered community-based services, we believed in starting small, growing our brand and our clinical reputation, and organically growing as a company. We made a five-year plan. We didn’t want to come into the community and tell them what they needed, but rather to begin and respond to what the market asked for in terms of treatment and recovery services and support.
We started small. A community-based intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment program to service Baltimore County. We believed that any treatment program worth salt would be staffed with full time staff. We hired three full-time clinicians and a medical director. No fluff services. No marketers. We believed that our job was to provide the highest quality of treatment we could and that ultimately the results would speak for themselves and the quality of care would market for us. Immediately we began reaching out to the local community, introducing ourselves, who we were, what our background and experience was, what type of program we were opening, and asking how we could be of help or support. There were several other programs in the local area and certainly a number throughout the state. We made calls, sent emails and set in-person meetings with other inpatient rehabs, outpatient treatment centers, local clinicians, community organizations, nonprofits, government entities, anyone and everyone we would. We said we believed regardless of a similar or different level of care, that we thought we could bring a bigger value to patients and the community together rather than apart. We believed that there were more than enough people to help and that by working collaboratively we could help more people.
The response was mixed. Certain people were more than happy to hear about what we were doing and offered their support. Many others turned up their noses, responding in poor fashion or not responding at all. We were told to our faces that “what you’re doing won’t work” and “you’re just competition. Why would we ever work with you?” Others had an opposite reaction, welcoming us with open arms. Many of the local, regional and national providers took more time, for good reason, as many were skeptical of new programs. As they should have been. However, we persisted, working to establish and grow relationships. Demonstrating through our clinical work with patients and families what we were about. Over time, those relationships grew and blossomed into trusted partnerships, true working relationships, and interorganizational support. It was through collaboration and a spirit of unity, along with methodic growth based on community need, that Maryland Addiction Recovery Center grew quickly, reaching our five-year goal in a year and a half.
Collaboration between providers does not simply mean referrals, although it can. It can refer to referring patients to different programs when done with the patient’s best interest in mind, meaning that we do not take a “heads in beds” approach or look to admit anyone that calls in seeking help, but rather take the time to learn about the individual’s situation and clinical needs, and then get them to the most clinically appropriate facility. Collaboration means casework between facilities pre-admission, during treatment and at discharge. Collaboration means when a patient is in our treatment continuum, we are consistently in communication with any outside providers that may be involved with the case, which can include other facilities, individual practitioners like therapists, psychiatrists, or interventionists, but also medical professionals who may be treating them for medical issues or other medical and healthcare specialists. Collaboration also means transparency in programming and working with other treatment professionals on best practices. We have often invited clinical and medical professionals to come into our treatment center and spend a day in our clinical programming, and we have sent our staff out to numerous facilities to spend a day in theirs. It means building relationships not just with marketing or outreach professionals, but with our staff and outside rehab leadership, medical and clinical teams, admissions and discharge staff. Collaboration means working with other professionals in addiction treatment and mental health to offer educational platforms for professionals and community members, aiding them in getting a better understanding of addiction, treatment and recovery. Collaboration means communicating nationwide with professionals who are experts in certain areas such as trauma, the LGBTQ population, psychiatric issues, and eating disorders and bringing them in on case consultations to make sure that patients are receiving the highest quality of care.
Over the years, this type of collaborative mindset has served us well because it has served our patients well, ensuring they receive the highest in evidence-based treatment approaches, support and care, as well as served our organization well by furthering trust with other professional organizations and local community organizations. We believe in operating with transparency and that our clinical services are the product that we offer to individuals and families in need, therefore it needs to operate with the utmost in integrity and with the highest quality available. In doing so, we have built a trust with other organizations that know what MARC is about, how we operate, what we expect from organizations we work with, and ultimately trust us with the safety and care of those in need. Through these principles and practices, we have developed a strong continuum of care and well-established, mutually beneficial relationships locally with facilities such as Ashley Addiction Treatment, The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt, Tranquility Woods, Serenity Acres and Encore Recovery, regionally and nationally with facilities such as Caron Treatment Centers, Mountainside, Cirque Lodge, Cumberland Heights, Newport Academy, Visions, and many others, as well as therapists, psychiatrists, interventionists and organizations nationwide. We do not take these relationships for granted, as the value of having trusted partnerships goes along way in establishing a strong continuum of care for patients, supporting patients and their families into long-term sustainable recovery, and creating best practices throughout a field that all too often falls short.
We believe that working in the addiction treatment field is a calling, as we are trusted with the lives of those suffering from addiction. In doing so, we have a duty to work collaboratively to ensure patients receive the best care possible, and we know that we can’t do it alone. It takes a village, but first it takes having the right mindset to work to develop those relationships that create that village. Rather than seeing other rehabs, treatment centers, or providers as competition, we chose to look at how we could be of service to them and how they could be helpful to us. By working together, we have begun to be of better service to our patients, their families and our local communities. We could choose to compete, but we chose instead to work together to help. It has worked remarkably well and paid off for those that entrust us on a daily basis with the lives of their loved ones.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at email@example.com. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.
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