Monday, May 26, 2008

Treatment center's sole focus: Sobriety

The people living in a former bed and breakfast at the base of Pikes Peak are diverse: A chiropractor. A teenage boy. A welder from California. A woman recently apprehended by celebrity bounty hunter Duane "Dog." Chapman.

But for all their differences, they have at least two things in common: a fight with addiction and a place to wage it.

They are the most recent patients at Peak Addiction Recovery Center, which opened April 7 and appears to be the first local inpatient rehab center focused exclusively on sobriety.

Colorado Springs has some rehab programs, but those are either for specific groups of people, such as the homeless, or they include substance-abuse programs among other services. Cedar Springs Hospital offers treatment, for example, but it is a general psychiatric facility.

Peak Addiction, by contrast, is a 16-bed residential facility geared solely toward helping people get sober, stay that way, and live a better life afterward.

It was started by Dr. Charles Stephens, a doctor specializing in addiction medicine, and Executive Director Michael J. McKelvey, a former addict with a long career in nonprofits. The idea started from a conversation about the lack of services in the region. Most cities the size of Colorado Springs have at least two rehab centers, McKelvey said.

"It opens up treatments to populations that haven't been able to receive this locally in the past," said Michael Allen, vice president of Connect Care, a part of Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group, which administers public money for substance-abuse programs.

Allen typically sends clients to rehab centers in Denver and Las Animas, but the patients have a higher risk of relapse when they return to Colorado Springs without a support system in place.

"I think demand is going to be huge," Allen said.

The program relies on proven models such as the 12-step method used by Alcoholics Anonymous, behavioral and motivational therapy, group sessions and individual counseling. But it also includes holistic methods such as yoga, exercise, a proper diet and relaxation.

In its first two months, the center has enrolled about two dozen people, and there is a waiting list for men.

Several clients, many of whom have been in and out of rehab, said they were more hopeful about long-term sobriety from their time in Peak Addiction. The atmosphere, more bed-and-breakfast than institution, keeps their spirits at ease and makes them more willing to focus on their lives.

David Packard, 19, said he'd fallen into cocaine and marijuana and within a year had resorted to stealing. He went to Cedar Springs in April and relapsed less than four hours after getting released. He was arrested days later for possession.

At Peak Addiction, he said, "It's like a family."

He's learned lessons that were lost on him before. The focus goes beyond drugs, but the program delves into the reasons patients have turned to them and how to be a productive, happy person without them.

A 30-year-old patient, who asked that her name is not used because of ongoing legal concerns, said meth addiction had left her on the streets and resulted in jail time. She'd been in and out of rehab, and said she feels hope for the first time. "It makes my heart melt almost, you know. It gave me another chance at life."

Most of the staff members have overcome addictions of their own, which serves as a source of inspiration for clients. The program also includes a detailed plan for sobriety upon leaving.

McKelvey said the rehab center charges clients on a sliding scale. Treatment, which can last as long as 45 days, generally costs between $4,000 and $10,000. The center is planning to pursue grants, and it accepts donations. It also accepts insurance.

The center is partnering with other organizations, including the court system, to help substance abusers.

Jeff, a chiropractor, was leaving on a recent morning after spending a month at the facility. He thought he'd beaten his drinking problem after a year of sobriety, but relapsed with a night of heavy boozing, which scared him.

As he waited for his ride home from the center, he said he learned that everyone has problems and ways they deal with stress. An addict's ways are just especially dangerous, and the brain is wired for destruction.

"Once I get alcohol in my system, I don't have a choice of whether or not I can drink anymore," he said. The program has taught him not just how addiction works, he said, but how to use that knowledge to stay sober.
source: Colorado Springs Gazette