Recovery Talks: Fairbanks Long-Term Residential Treatment

August 13th, 2019

Discussing long-term residential treatment, your host Kathleen Gill, and Manager of Men’s La Verna Lodge Scott Adams, talk about the benefits and value of a local addiction treatment program. Read the full transcript from the podcast below or listen to it here or on iTunes or Google.


Kathleen Gill:   Welcome to Recovery Talks, a Fairbanks podcast where experts from Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center located in Indianapolis, Indiana, take time to discuss unique aspects of addiction, substance use disorder, and recovery, as well as other relevant issues with our guests. I’m your host, Kathleen Gill. I’ve worked at Fairbanks since 2007, and I am a woman proudly living in recovery.

Kathleen Gill:   Today on Recovery Talks, we are talking about long-term residential treatment programs and are joined by Scott Adams, the manager of men’s La Verna Lodge. Scott, glad to have you with us today.

Scott Adams:   Thanks, Kathleen.

Kathleen Gill:    Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to Fairbanks and the progression of work you’ve done and landing at La Verna Lodge.

Scott Adams:   Well, I’ve been at Fairbanks Hospital since 2012. Kathleen and I worked pretty close in proximity, having offices right next to each other for a while. I’ve been in the field of social work for a number of years and did a lot with community mental health. A friend actually told me about an opportunity with Fairbanks and I couldn’t pass it up once I learned a little bit more. So I followed suit and came to Indianapolis, started off as a clinical supervisor, kind of a team lead in the outpatient program. And then when the position opened up with La Verna Lodge, I didn’t know too much about it. I had heard, heard stories and seen pictures. I went out and checked it out and met some of the employees there. It was beautiful and it was a wonderful program. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. I’ve been there since 2014, and it’s been a great experience.

Kathleen Gill:   Before we begin to talk about La Verna itself, let’s talk a little bit about long-term residential care. Can you explain that to me please?

Scott Adams:   Sure. For people who don’t know a lot about it, that’s perceived to be the treatment or expectation when somebody comes into treatment at Fairbanks is, “I’m going to go away for 30 days and I’m going to be in treatment,” and that typically isn’t the case. Times have changed. People are seeing brief therapy. They’re seeing more short-term inpatient stays followed up with longer outpatient stays. But long-term residential treatment is still a need for a lot of the people that we work with. What it really implies is that somebody needs to be medically stabilized. They need to be completely detoxed off of any type of medications or drugs and alcohol. Once they are completely detoxed, then they can come to our facility.

Scott Adams:   What we ask for them to do is to stay a minimum of 30 days. We often see people stay for 45, for 60, for sometimes 90. We’ve had people stay for six months, for a year. But essentially what they do is they get the opportunity to really learn how to integrate themselves back into life, and they learn a lot of different things in the process.

Kathleen Gill:   The long-term residential care that as an option is wonderful because you cannot really accomplish what you need to. What is the difference? What would you say are the benefits of having a 30-day continuum of care versus that basic outpatient programming, a quick run-through detox and then into outpatient programming?

Scott Adams:   Well, I know with detox, I think in the five to eight days, that’s a place to get stabilized. A lot of people think that, “This is my treatment, and I’m going to be better once I get off drugs and alcohol.” And that’s just the start. Unfortunately that’s why we see a lot of people leave treatment, jump right back into their lives, and unfortunately jump back into what they were doing before and come right back to Fairbanks or a place like Fairbanks. So a lot of times if people can commit to a longer period of treatment, whether that’s through partial hospitalization or through our program with residential treatment, it really immerses them in recovery. It’s a way to kind of put everything else on the back burner.

Scott Adams:    I think our natural tendencies sometimes are to solely focus on what kind of bridges we burned, what kinds of things are in the wreckage, what kind of relationships need to be repaired, and really if we don’t address what’s truly going on with ourselves, we’re going to be missing that piece and things aren’t going to work out. I think coming to a place like La Verna Lodge really allows you to take a look at you and to work on a lot of different things that need to be fixed.

Kathleen Gill:   Treatment is a lot more than just simply detoxing from the drugs and alcohol.

Scott Adams:   Correct. I think nothing’s going to change if you don’t get off drugs and alcohol. But again, that’s the first step in really starting a life toward recovery.

Kathleen Gill:   Right, right. So tell us a little bit about La Verna Lodge.

Scott Adams:   Sure. Well, we are a 14-bed facility, and we are located in Carmel, Indiana. If you look at the website, there’s a picture of us. We’re off in the woods and we do see deer. It’s pretty cool. They’re often there on a regular basis. We have pretty extensive programming, a structured schedule that keeps the guys busy. We do group therapy every single day. We also have a number of activities in the afternoon, like going to the gym or going on an activity out in the community. We take in meetings every single evening, AA meetings, NA meetings. We have an alumni support meeting that we go to. We also have a family support meeting in the evenings for family members.

Scott Adams:   But the guys, they come there and I think what they recognize that even though it’s overwhelming and daunting, it’s a safe place and the guys rally around each other and really kind of promote a fellowship or a brotherhood all about itself. So it’s a great opportunity to see people grow, to learn how to do things differently, and we hope that they’ll extend that once they leave treatment.

Kathleen Gill:   How long has Fairbanks offered long-term residential care at La Verna?

Scott Adams:   Well, I think Fairbanks acquired La Verna Lodge, I want to say in 2004, but it’s been around since 1998. The hospital was acquired then, in 2004, and we’ve had a number of different people through the program, working in the program. We have one employee that’s been there since 2000 and she’s fantastic. But again, I think what people have seen is just the program can change based on insurance needs, based on society, and what we’re seeing as far as the opiate epidemic and just how the face of recovery kind of changes as well. In the past four years we started allowing insurance at the La Verna Lodge and that’s also helped a lot of people get the treatment that they need that wasn’t previously an option.

Kathleen Gill:   We hear so much on the news about how treatment is not available. Tell me more about what makes a a good candidate for La Verna Lodge.

Scott Adams:   Sure. We see anybody probably from age 20, 21 years old. I think the person that’s been the oldest since I’ve been there is 72 years old. It’s really cool to see them all come together in this kind of melting pot of recovery and really just work with each other. But it’s just been great to see age not really be a factor and people connecting and really working on recovery together. I think for people who we typically see at La Verna Lodge, they either have the financial support that’s necessary, sometimes that goes along with treatment, or they have insurance that’s able to really work toward their benefits to have continued stay there. They get reviews for insurance every single week and hopefully that can extend for a period of time that can really be conducive to them working on their recovery while they’re in the environment.

Scott Adams:   Typically we tend to see a lot of people who are motivated. There are some first-time people who are in recovery and this is their stopping point for their recovery. I think they’re kind of deer in the headlights, “What am I expecting? What’s going to be happening here in my treatment?” But the people that are willing to embrace that and to keep working on every single change that needs to be made do well on the program. We also see a number of people that have been in treatment a number of different times, and they bring that foundation of recovery with them as well. It’s great to see people utilize what they’ve learned in the past, what has worked for them, what hasn’t worked for them, and really apply it, and also share that with some of the newcomers.

Kathleen Gill:    La Verna, you’ve mentioned that the location in Carmel is specifically for men.

Scott Adams:   Yes.

Kathleen Gill:   And does Fairbanks offer any kind of long-term residential care for women?

Scott Adams:   We do. Currently our women’s lodge is in Shelbyville, Indiana. That’s a little bit southeast of Indianapolis. It’s on a beautiful location as well. They have a 10-bed facility out there, and it’s just on a beautiful campus. They do see women in recovery working on their own recovery and their own daily needs as well. There’s just as much, if not more, of a need for women to really focus on this and their recovery. I think that they’re an underserved population, and I feel that it’s very difficult for women sometimes to really commit to what’s required of recovery due to all of the hats that they wear. So it’s really great to see women who can come out and really can commit to whatever stay that they can just so they can bolster their efforts and recovery.

Kathleen Gill:   That’s great. How long ago or how long has Fairbanks offered the women’s program?

Scott Adams:   I believe the women’s program has been around since 2013 or 2014. I was just getting ready to come out to the men’s lodge and it was already up and running. So it was nice to take a look at that program and be able to implement some of the things that we’ve also been doing at the women’s lodge as well.

Kathleen Gill:   Since I coordinate many of the volunteers at Fairbanks, I am seeing many of the La Verna grads coming to Fairbanks and volunteering and really just see a very tight-knit bond between a lot of the guys that are alumni of that program. I believe you mentioned the word brotherhood that happens out there. What is it about La Verna Lodge that creates that kind of a bond?

Scott Adams:   Well, we force them to be vulnerable. No, I’m a firm believer that vulnerability really kind of breeds closeness and connection. What they find right away is when the guys are able to be vulnerable, when they’re able to be real and honest and open about what’s truly going on in their lives, it really allows other people the space to be able to do the same. More often in life, we don’t necessarily get the opportunity to spend 30 days on ourselves and to really connect with other people. Now they have that. My hope for them is as they continue to build these relationships and build with the alumni program, alumni network, or even just as they continue their journey through Fairbanks, is that they not only continue to make new connections, but they stay connected.

Scott Adams:   So when we send them off into their lives, into the real world, my hope is that they continue to connect with Fairbanks, continue to connect with La Verna Lodge. That’s a huge strength for our program, and then also continue to welcome the newcomer because I think that’s how our program continues to sustain. We’re always happy to see people be directed to you and to also volunteer through Fairbanks Hospital to see how other people’s journeys began, to be a support to them, just to help out in just the smallest ways sometimes. It really gives back to them in their recovery as well.

Kathleen Gill:   It is amazing to see, not only from the volunteering, but I know a lot of them stay very connected and do a lot of things outside in their social lives. They really have made friends.

Scott Adams:   Absolutely. There are a number of people that have been sober for years. They continue to go to dinner once every other month. A lot of them go on golf outings together. They’ve been at each other’s weddings. They travel all over the United States. I think the primary focus when they get together, not only is fellowship, but it’s recovery and they continue to work on the step work. They continue to connect in real ways. It’s fantastic.

Kathleen Gill:   Describe for us what a day at La Verna Lodge looks like.

Scott Adams:   We get up every morning. A lot of times they’ll need medication, so they’ll take their medications in the morning. They’re responsible for making their own breakfasts. We do buy all of the food for the guys, that’s part of our package, and they make breakfast. We start off every morning discussing our goals for the day. We also talk about what we’re grateful for. We have a daily meditation. And then we jump right into group. We have a building right next to La Verna Lodge. It’s called The Shed. For some reason guys don’t love talking about, “I’m going to therapy,” or whatever the case. So they just talk about The Shed. “I had a really great Shed today.” They’ll go out there and they’ll talk about a lot of real things. They’ll talk about their recovery. They’ll talk about how they’re struggling. They’ll talk about how they’re angry, and they’ll talk about feelings that they haven’t tapped into for a number of years, which is uncomfortable.

Scott Adams:   So they’ll do that for a couple of hours. And then we come out and have lunch. In the afternoon, we generally have a number of different activities throughout the week that we do depending on the day. In the early evening, we’ll talk about a Big Book reading where we discuss topics of recovery. And then we’ll go out to an outside meeting, an AA meeting or an NA meeting in the Indianapolis or Carmel area. Then on the Wednesday night, we have the alumni meeting. We’ll see probably 30, 40, 50 guys that are alumni continue to come back every Wednesday and just connect with the new people and just to see familiar faces. That’s great.

Scott Adams:   Then in the evening we do a wrap-up, just kind of discuss, “How’d your day go? What kinds of things made you happy? What kinds of things made you angry? Let’s talk about it.” Because I think the common thread that we see with a lot of guys is, “We don’t know how we’re feeling, and we’re sure as heck not going to talk about it.” So this is really an opportunity for people to get comfortable with not only talking about what’s going on, but also talking about how they’re feeling.

Kathleen Gill:   That sounds a lot like intensive outpatient program where … or the partial hospitalization program, where you would be in a group setting, getting vulnerable, sharing your innermost secrets and pains and joys and things of that nature. What is the benefit of the residential?

Scott Adams:   I think in the residential program, whereas they do have time for themselves, they are allowed to have cell phones and computers and whatever it is. I mean that’s that piece of life that we want them to have and stay connected to, but we want to make sure that they’re also not being completely distracted by all sorts of things in life that are going out on the outside, pulling them away from their recovery. I think with a program like partial hospitalization or with an outpatient program, there’s so much else going on that needs tended to. So somebody might participate in IOP, but then they have the whole rest of their day to focus on life. That might be a good place for somebody to step after they come to La Verna Lodge. But for right now, they really need to get the foundation and the fundamentals of recovery. If people jump right back into their lives, recovery can take a back burner.

Kathleen Gill:   Yes. If someone was seeking treatment, how would they make the choice between residential versus more of a inpatient and then moving to the outpatient care?

Scott Adams:   I think a lot of times it has to do with what’s facing them on the outside. Some people can’t commit to long-term treatment, whether it’s due to their work or their family situation or their lack of supports on the outside. They’re the primary breadwinner. They’re the primary custodian. Something is pulling them away from really needing to be able to sit and focus on their lives for the next 30 days. So for people that are really considering residential treatment, I guess the expectation would be is that they can commit to that process of identification and exploration of recovery and learning these concepts and implementing these concepts in their lives. I’ve heard from people like, “My job needs me back or my wife is struggling at home with the kids.” Those are all real valid concerns. But if we don’t get the recovery right, this isn’t going to matter.

Kathleen Gill:   Right. I’ve heard that everything you put in front of your recovery stands a chance of being lost, so this really builds a strong, strong core to build on. Again, so you’ve got somebody who’s looking for treatment and they really like the idea of La Verna Lodge. What’s the process?

Scott Adams:   Well, we do have a number of people who will just show up on our doorstep and we have to say, “Well, thanks for visiting. Unfortunately we need you to start at Fairbanks.” Essentially it would be scheduling an appointment with the Access Department, which is the assessment department through Fairbanks, going in there, talking about what’s really been going on, doing a pretty thorough assessment, a medical assessment and nursing assessment. And then based off of that would determine the level of care that’s recommended. If somebody, again, is completely detoxed, then they can come directly to our program, essentially just go from door to door and start their program right there. A lot of times, however, we do have people that really need that medical intervention of being detoxed. Once that happens, which again, generally it takes about a week, then they can come directly from Fairbanks and then come and stay with us for 30 days.

Kathleen Gill:    What about effectiveness that you see with the long-term residential care?

Scott Adams:   We see a number of people. What I tell people when they ask about, “What is the efficacy of your program,” the people who stay connected stay in recovery and the people that drop off the planet, nobody knows where they went, nobody’s heard from them, all it takes is sometimes a couple of days and even if you don’t know what’s going on, the more you see it, the more you worry that something’s not right here. But the people that do stay longer, the people that stayed for 60 days, sometimes 90 days, the efficacy of their recovery, I think, is pretty significant. And again, I think that has developed the foundation, the fellowship, the real groundwork that needs to happen in recovery. What I tell people, “You come to treatment and you learn how to be treated. You learn how recovery works. You learn how everything is supposed to happen.”

Scott Adams:   But unfortunately recovery is a process that requires maintenance. A lot of times people feel fixed. They leave treatment. Everything is good now. And then they revert back to what they were doing before, which doesn’t work. They know that it doesn’t work, but addiction’s a pretty tricky fellow. It will convince you that you don’t have a problem. That’s the thing that continues to take people down. So we recommend for everybody not only to stay connected, but to get a sponsor, to work the steps, to continue to do the things that are feeding their recovery. It’s like your medication. When you stop taking your medication, things get bad.

Kathleen Gill:   Fairbanks in 2020 will be celebrating its 75th year in business. Why do you suppose that Fairbanks added this continuum of care as an option?

Scott Adams:   I believe because it’s unlike any other program that Fairbanks has. I was really excited to hear that the women’s program was being opened in 2013 and 2014 because we … Even looking at the state, I mean there are only a couple of other treatment programs that are like La Verna Lodge, where you can go and you can have this kind of respite to really focus on yourself and to reflect on recovery and really just learn how to meditate and to grow. So I think, again, because it has been very popular throughout the past decade and a half, I think a lot of things have really worked for a lot of people. It’s been successful. We see people continue to come back. Just the other day, somebody mentioned to me they went into a store and saw somebody that was an alumnus of La Verna Lodge.

Scott Adams:   He was just doing general business, but they found out that the person was working through Fairbanks. He said, “I just want to let you know that I went to La Verna Lodge. I’m an alumnus and you guys saved my life. I was there four years ago.” Just when you hear those kinds of stories, it’s really, really exciting and really rewarding. It reminds you why we do this, is that we do see recovery. We do see people get better. That’s a benefit in and of itself.

Kathleen Gill:   Yes, indeed. Those stories happen frequently.

Scott Adams:   Yes.

Kathleen Gill:   If I have my name tag on and go to a store, it’s wonderful to have that. I think about the TV commercials that I see late night and they talk about long-term residential care. You need to go to Florida or you need to go to California where the ocean and the mountains are. What’s different about long-term treatment right here in good old Indiana versus heading to Florida or California?

Scott Adams:   Well, I’ve never been. I’ve been to California and I’ve been to Florida, but I haven’t been to any of the treatment centers out there. From what I’ve heard from a number of people who have though, really mixed reviews. When they go to some of these destination recovery places and they either feel like they’re getting all the luxury and maybe not the treatment or the recovery that they necessarily need, or that they could really dictate whatever it is that they wanted as opposed to maybe what they needed. And that’s not what they ended up needing when they came back from wherever it was that they were. I went to a convention and we got to meet a lot of other treatment providers all across the United States. When they were presenting their programs and talking about snowboarding therapy or swimming with the dolphins or any of those different things, well, we don’t have a lot of dolphins in Carmel.

Scott Adams:   But we do have a fellowship that’s unlike a lot of programs. We do supplement a lot of their day with things that are healthy for them and their recovery. I tell the guys, “You can eat a regular sandwich. It doesn’t have to be a recovery sandwich, but if you’re doing healthy things in your daily life, those things are feeding your recovery.” We do offer a really great program. We can’t compete with all the other stuff, but I think the people that have come out to the Lodge, the people that have stayed at the Lodge, they have really great things to say about the Lodge.

Kathleen Gill:   The community and the bond that is built when you seek recovery in your hometown, you don’t have to go re-establish that after leaving a destination recovery facility. It is just been beautiful to watch those bonds.

Scott Adams:   Sure. We’re a secret, I think, sometimes. A lot of people don’t know about La Verna Lodge and maybe that’s what makes it a little special. We would love more people to know about La Verna Lodge and what we have to offer. I think a lot of times people seek these destination places like Florida or California or Colorado because they didn’t realize that there’s something in their hometown that might be more accessible. The other piece of that is that foundation of recovery, that network that you develop when you go to a place like Florida. It’s gone when you come right back. We do see the benefit of people staying connected. We can’t always move wherever we go to treatment, but what a benefit to have that kind of foundation that you can tap into.

Kathleen Gill:   Absolutely. The need for treatment, there’s a lot of facilities opening up. There’s a lot of attention that substance use disorder is getting nationally at this stage of the game. Is the program at La Verna Lodge an evidence-based program?

Scott Adams:   Yes. We do a number of different evidence-based treatment modalities. The most recent thing that we’ve been implementing at the Lodge would be EMDR and utilizing that for work specific to trauma. We’ll see a lot of guys that have gone through their lives and have never even recognized that things that have happened to them along the way have been traumatic and it’s left a fingerprint. So we’ll talk about that and ultimately work through some of the desensitization to get people to the point where they can at least acknowledge, and then a lot of that work will really happen once they leave treatment. We’ll also do a lot of motivational interviewing. We do a lot of cognitive behavioral work with the guys. Yeah, I mean I think what we’ve done throughout the time in my experience at La Verna Lodge has really been effective, and I think it’s because we’re working with what works.

Kathleen Gill:   Fairbanks, La Verna Lodge are NAATP-accredited organizations and that is very important when seeking treatment.

Scott Adams:   Yes. Because I mean you can go anywhere you want. Who knows what kind of treatment you’re going to be getting or what kind of things that really need to happen in your recovery that are evidence-based or that will be effective?

Kathleen Gill:   Very good. Encourage people to seek help that … How do we do that, Scott?

Scott Adams:   How do we encourage people to seek help?

Kathleen Gill:   Yes.

Scott Adams:   I think really it starts by just connecting. We will get a lot of just people who really have no idea how to start this whole process. It’s scary. I hear stories all the time about people will drive three hours, pull into Fairbanks’ parking lot, and turn right back around and leave. That’s about fear, a fear of getting better, fear of the unknown, fear of a lot of different things. So let’s have a conversation. Let’s talk about what’s the concern. Let’s talk about what needs to happen for this to get better. Hopefully that’ll stick and hopefully people will get the help that they need. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, but if people are willing to take a chance and work on themselves, things can get better. I think people see that the longer they stay sober.

Kathleen Gill:   Yes, absolutely. The stigma of addiction creates so much fear for people to seek help. We want to let our audience know that, or anybody seeking treatment, that in our Access Center when they cross that threshold, though that might be the scariest thing they’ve done, oftentimes we have volunteers sitting in there greeting the newcomers and the families. They’re there to explain what it’s like and how it’s changed their life.

Kathleen Gill:   I think you’re right. Starting a conversation is a really wonderful place to start and a free assessment at Fairbanks is always available. We look for the opportunity to be able to help people navigate through whether Fairbanks is the right place for them to come and explore their journey into treatment from substance use disorders.

Scott Adams:   I think the longer you work in a field like Fairbanks or a program or an organization like Fairbanks, that the more you see that relapse can happen. It is part of this disease, and sometimes it takes that for people to recognize this is pretty tricky. This is a pretty insidious disease and maybe this isn’t my last stop for recovery and my last treatment. When we see people come through those doors, it’s just as scary for people who feel, “I failed. This didn’t work. I may have lost my job and now I’ve got a lot of guilt and shame.” But really, coming to a place like Fairbanks after a relapse is really success. It’s not a failure at all. It’s really a commitment to getting your life back on track.

Kathleen Gill:   Anyone who is willing to get their life back on track and ask for a helping hand is a hero in my book.

Scott Adams:   It’s not easy. But the more you see people do it, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Kathleen Gill:   Scott, thank you so much for joining me today. At Fairbanks, we often say, “Together we can.” That’s a rather open-ended statement. I’d like to ask you what that means to you to say, “Together we can,” what?

Scott Adams:   Well, I was thinking about this last night. I was like, “What can I say that’s profound?” I’m not sure I’m going to nail it today. But the thing that really came to mind is today we can live instead of just existing. We talk about that a lot at La Verna Lodge, where people are just shells of who they might’ve been. Once they get sober, once they start the recovery processes, they get everything back, sometimes slowly, sometimes very quickly. But they learn how to live again and instead of just kind of existing, going through every single day like life isn’t mattering. So it’s cool to see people do that and to see people actually get better.

Kathleen Gill:    Yes. I think that the words, “I got my life back,” is a common comment on our feedback that we get from the work we do at Fairbanks. That’s a pretty fulfilling day when you know you’re helping people do that.

Scott Adams:   Absolutely. Total secondary gain, and that’s why I love La Verna Lodge.

Kathleen Gill:   Yes. Thank you again, Scott. I might also just use this opportunity to let the alumni of Fairbanks, if you have not received any mailings from us, then we would love to have you on our mailing list so that we can reach out to you and stay connected and let you know of the wonderful recovery opportunities that we have going on.

Kathleen Gill:   This has been Recovery Talks, a Fairbanks podcast. If you or a loved one needs support in the journey of recovery, the experts at Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center can help. Visit our website, fairbanksrecovery.org for recovery resources. Or call 800-225-HOPE for immediate help. Thanks for listening.