Monday, June 8, 2015

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16-Point Safety Checklist before Sending Your Teen to Residential Treatment

16-Point Safety Checklist before Sending Your Teen to Residential Treatment
Considering residential rehab treatment for your teenager? First read this warning-sign checklist to spot and avoid dangerous or ineffective programs.
As a last resort, parents sometimes consider adolescent residential treatment as a preferable alternative to hospitalization, incarceration, serious injury or worse. 
This can be the right choice, but it’s not something to take lightly - and it’s not something to consider until exhausting all interventions that would keep your child in the family home.
Should you decide on residential treatment (after consulting with other professionals) you need to find a program that:
  1. Can likely help your teen
  2. Won’t worsen the situation
  3. Protects your child's safety and well-being
In this article you’ll find some information on picking the right teen program (get qualified professional help for this) and more information on how to avoid a program that won’t help and could hurt.
  1. Why you need to worry about residential treatment safety
  2. A check-list of points of concern and potential red-flags to consider
  3. The basic rights you should demand for your child

Private Teen Treatment – An Unregulated Industry

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions consumers that no federal regulations cover private adolescent residential treatment programs - and many run as unlicensed and unregulated operations. Examples of private adolescent residential treatment programs include:
  • Therapeutic wilderness programs
  • Therapeutic boarding schools
  • Boot-camp programs
  • Behavior modification programs
  • Emotional growth academies
  • And programs under other names
Of course, a residential program can be unregulated and still safe and effective, but without any significant oversight or standardization, it’s really up to parents to thoroughly investigate any program before signing on. Before sending any child away, the FTC recommends that parents:
  • Visit the residential program site
  • Research the program on the internet (looking for negatives, as well as positives)
  • Ask many questions
  • Get all agreements and promises in writing
  • Ask for documented proof of staff credentials and facility licensing and accreditation1
To help you spot potential problems, consider the list of 16 red-flag warning signs below for any program under consideration.

Residential Programs Checklist: Points of Concern

Here is a checklist of potential points of concern, or in some cases, red-flag warning signs. Do not send a child off before going through this list and feeling satisfied on every count; no program is perfect but you should never compromise on safety. Reviewing programs carefully will take some time and effort, but you need to invest the time now to avoid mistakes you can’t undo later.
  1. A warning sign doesn’t necessarily indicate a serious problem – though it might.
  2. Take your time when selecting a program. Things are almost never so drastic as to preclude a few days/weeks of careful consideration, and in fact, you should consider any undue attempt to rush your decision a cause for concern (you are not buying a used car here; strong sales tactics are unethical.)

1. Check for an Appropriate State License and Any Accreditation

If the program is licensed, be sure to ask what agency issued the license, and then confirm with that agency that the license remains valid and is appropriate to the situation you are considering.
In some cases, a program may have licensure or accreditation for one aspect of their program, but not another. If a program offers educational services, residential care and therapeutic services, their licensing should reflect this.

2. Check for Consumer Complaints

Past problems may indicate present challenges. Contact your state Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau and your local Consumer Protection office and ask for:
  • Any publicly available information on complaints or actions filed against the program
  • Copies of site visit evaluations
  • Violation reports
  • Corrective actions mandated
 Be very concerned if you find reports of past problems with:
  • Insufficient staff supervision
  • Medical neglect
  • Violations of youth or family rights
  • Any physical or sexual abuse, either between residents or involving staff
  • Poor diet
  • Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
  • Forced exposure to extreme physical situations

3. Check Staff Credentials

If a program advertises a psychiatrist on staff and that professional checks in for a few hours once a month to ‘assess’ a large group of clients, is this a deception?
You can answer that question for yourself, but it’s a good idea to spend some time investigating the experience level of the staff who’ll be spending the most time working with your child.
  • Who will spend the most time in direct contact with my child? What credentials and experience do they have? Are they licensed in this state? What agency provided licensure? Can I see copies of relevant licensing documents?
  • For peace of mind, take 2 minutes to confirm the accuracy and validity of licenses by contacting the issuing body. This is a very normal and routine request to make of these agencies.
Obviously, any misrepresentation of staff qualifications is a huge red flag.

4. Ask about Background Checks

Are background checks performed on all staff that will be in contact with your child? If so, what is the name of the agency that conducts these checks? Consider contacting the agency that did the checks to confirm that checks are up to date. Have all employees been cleared by your state’s child abuse registry?

5. Check If You’ll Be Asked to Give up Your Rights

As a parent, you should have reasonable access to your child at any time and you should be the person to make important decisions. Be wary of any program that would restrict your ability to communicate with your child or that asks you to relinquish – even temporarily – any of your normal custodial rights.

6. Will You Have Open Access to Your Child?

Quality programs relish family involvement, knowing that caregivers play an essential role in the therapeutic process.
  • How often can you visit? Can you visit whenever you want to? If you can’t, why not?
  • Do children ever lose family contact ‘privileges’ for rule violations?
  • Will staff listen in to phone calls or read letters? You do not want to put your child in a position where they are geographically isolated and unable to communicate with you about problems or abuses.

7. Check Specific Treatment Practices

You child has a completely unique history and personality, faces unique challenges and needs personalized treatment, not cookie-cutter solutions.
You send a child to residential treatment to work on a specific problem. There is little point in sending a child away unless you feel confident they will benefit from the experience.
To make sure you get appropriate benefit, confirm that the program uses effective therapies that are suitable to your child’s unique situation. Ask:
  • What therapies will you use to treat my child?
  • What research evidence supports the use of these therapies?
  • Is there research evidence to support the use of these therapies for my child’s key challenge?
  • How will you measure whether these therapies are working for my child?

8. Check Disciplinary Practices

How do staff discipline? Ask for specifics. Ask if staff, under any circumstances, make use of any of the following corrective techniques:
  • Humiliation – ‘breaking down to build back up’
  • Isolation (solitary confinement or forced silence or ostracizing)
  • Restraint (other than in very extreme cases to protect the safety of the child or others, and always in a manner that is compliant with federal law and best practices)
  • The withholding of food, water or medical care
  • Denying contact with family members as punishment
According to The Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth (a residential treatment safety group) restraint or seclusion indicate dangerous treatment breakdown – these should never occur as normal disciplinary practices.
Likewise, it is inappropriate and unethical to deny a child contact with his or her family as a disciplinary technique.
The best programs use positive reinforcement and build on strengths, rather than tearing down weaknesses. If a child doesn’t feel ready or willing to share personal information, how is this handled? Is this a rule violation that’s met with discipline?

9. Ask about the Use of Escort Services

Only you can decide if your situation warrants the use of an escort service, but do not agree to the use of an escort service before considering the possible consequences.
  • Escort services come into your house (at your invitation) in the middle of the night, restrain your son or daughter (if necessary), and force them into transportation to a facility.
Before agreeing to such an intervention, think carefully about the potential long-term consequences, such as loss of trust, humiliation, trauma and PTSD, etc.
Before agreeing to an escort service, find out what type of background checks the escort company performs on their employees.

10. Check for Trauma Sensitivity

Some children develop emotional or behavioral problems after experiencing trauma, such as abuse, the death of a parent, violence, foster care, neglect and others.
Children struggling with trauma fear a loss of control. These children can be further traumatized by:
  • Confrontational tactics
  • Interventions designed to bring out an extreme emotional reaction
  • Being pushed to reveal their story before they are ready to do so
If trauma is an issue for your child, be sure to ask about the program’s trauma-sensitive adolescent treatment practices.

11. Medication Issues

Many teens with behavioral or emotional issues severe enough to require residential treatment are on one or more medications. Some of these children are likely over-medicated and some are likely under-medicated. Given this, the program shouldn’t have an extreme philosophy on medication (for example…"We need to wean kids off too much medication.")
  • Will program staff get in touch with my child’s doctor to discuss medication needs?
  • Who hands out medication to children? What qualifications does this person have?
  • Do other children ever hand out medications?

12. Watch for Pressure Sales Tactics

According to the Alliance for the Safe, Therapeutic and Appropriate Use of Residential Treatment (ASTART) deceptive marketing and pressure sales practices are unfortunately common within the industry.
Parents don’t usually consider residential options until the family situation reaches a crisis point. From this position of great stress, it’s normal for parents to struggle with a mix of negative emotions, like:
  • Anger and frustration
  • Anxiety about your child’s future
  • Worry about the well-being of others in the household
  • Exhaustion and a need for the ‘drama’ to end
It's hard to make calm analytic decisions from an emotional position - and what’s worse, unscrupulous admissions ‘counselors’ may stoke fear to make a sale.
Be skeptical about the true motivations of anyone who urges a quick decision on residential treatment, especially if they present worst-case scenario outcomes as likely if you delay.2

13. Quick Assessment over the Phone or Internet

Programs that will diagnose and admit a child after a brief conversation about behaviors and symptoms cannot be considered ethical healthcare providers.
Cookie-cutter solutions don't work and you should only consider treatment after your child receives a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis/recommendation from a licensed professional. According to the Building Bridges Initiative, a national treatment policy group, to increase your chances of finding an appropriate and effective program:
  1. Get in touch with a professional who truly specializes in your teen's challenges and request a thorough evaluation and recommendation. An example could be a psychologist who publishes research on conduct disorder, or a psychiatrist who researches and specializes in the treatment of ADHD.
  2. Make sure that any professional you approach has no financial or professional relationship with any organization under consideration.
  3. Remember that all things being equal, the closer program is the better program – families should be a part of the process and proximity allows for more frequent visitation.3

14. One-Size-Fits-All Treatment

If your child has a serious mental illness or substance abuse problem, you need to send them to a specialized program that’s designed and staffed to meet the challenges inherent in this type of treatment. If the program claims to treat an A to Z list of problems and mental illnesses, you should proceed with caution.

15. Ask about Education

If academics play a role in the program, ask:
  • Are teachers certified, and if so, by what agency?
  • Does learning occur via classroom teaching or through independent study?
  • Are credits earned transferable to your local school? (You may want to double check this.)

16. Ask about Undisclosed Financial Relationships

If a professional or agency has referred you to a program, be sure to ask about the existence of any business relationship. If an agency is paid to refer students, can they be impartial?

When to Consider a Residential Treatment Program

In some situations, adolescent residential treatment makes sense, but according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in the vast majority of situations, you should only consider sending your teen away after ‘utterly exhausting community mental health care resources.”
Additionally, any residential phase of treatment should:
  1. Be as short as possible
  2. Be focused on achieving a very specific goal – such as assessment, stabilization or respite
  3. Be centered on a goal of having the adolescent return to the home with as little stress and disruption as possible.4

Your Child’s Rights

Programs that respect your child’s basic rights are less likely to be abusive or neglectful. Check to make sure that:
  • Your son or daughter will have regular access to a phone and to unsupervised phone calls.
  • You and your son or daughter are provided with hotline phone numbers to call to report any program abuses.
  • Program staff never use abusive disciplinary techniques, such as forced seclusion or restraint, denying medical care, food or water, sedation with medications, inducing fear, humiliation or any form of corporal punishment.
  • Parents or caregivers should be notified promptly after sickness or injury.
  • Parents or caregivers should be notified with 24 hours about medication regimen changes or missed dosages.
  • Parents or caregivers should receive notification within 2 days of any investigation into allegations of child abuse or neglect, violations in health or safety standards of violations of licensing standards.

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And, as always, thank you for reading!
All the best to you and yours,

Martin Schoel,
founder of Choose Help
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May 22 - 28
COMING UP IN THE FIX// Life Imitates Art in New Indie "Heaven Knows What" / Motivational Enhancement Therapy / Drugs Over Dinner / Interview with Cali Estes, The Addictions Coach / 7 Habits I'm Breaking Now That I'm in ACOA Recovery / Shock Treatment in Prison / Relapse in Paradise / Can Abstinence Be Harm Reduction? / Revolutionary Bombs and Cocaine Corruption / Video: What Is Suboxone? / Drunk and Famous in the Groucho Club
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Friday, June 5, 2015

Law Enforcement Concerned About China’s Role in Synthetic Drug Manufacturing - Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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Profile of a TAM Mom
Written by Sherry Schlenke, and borrowed from Kim’s own beautiful and eloquent Voice.
Moms, please meet Kimberly Griner Heinz. Kim is one of the most amazing and inspirational women that you will ever know. She has an opportunity to be the feature runner on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine. Moms, she needs your votes! If you are inclined to, you can vote DAILY for her till July 22,2015 Please click here to vote:
Kim lost her only child, her boy, Eric, in February of 2014, to the demon heroin. Rather than letting her grief consume her life, she is a Marathoner who travels the country, running 26 miles in memory of Eric, who was only 26 years old at the time of his tragic death.
In Kimberly’s own words “life presents challenges from which we choose to either give up or grow, retreat or rise up, accept or act upon. As the saying goes: ‘you can either throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off your face’. Keep wiping the sweat off your face and keep moving forward. I run and leave the pieces of grief behind me on the pavement."
She weeps as she runs, both in her races, and in the early morning practice runs in Wisconsin; she runs in fog, in rain, in wind and in cold. Eric often ran with his mom. Now, her three, 4-legged companions accompany her; one is a 12-year old, blind, diabetic black lab named Hoosier. He walks 1 mile with Kim. Kimberly is devoted to her dogs, as they are to her.
“Running - my towrope, my lifeline, pulling me through life and at times when grief and sorrow squeeze me so hard I can barely breathe, I hold on tight and keep moving.”
Eric was born on 2/22/1987 in Chicago. Through high school, he lived 
in Florida. He moved to Chicago when he was 21, attended Roosevelt University. His passion was fishing, Miami Dolphin football, and Chicago Cubs baseball. 
A high school football injury to his back, coupled with his work as a cook, introduced him to the world of Oxycontin.
Kim believes, after reading Eric’s journal that she discovered after
his death, that this was the beginning of Eric’s journey on the tragic
road of addiction:
Eric wrote:
“I did heroin for the first time in over a year. I don’t know why I chose to. Like always, it’s a warm blanket on a cold night. I actually feel ok right now. Heroin masks all my physical, emotional and psychological pain completely. When it comes to drugs, alcohol, coke, Xanax, they were just affairs, but when I met heroin, it was true love.”
Eric was a freckled, redheaded cutie pie, as handsome as his mother is beautiful. But Kim’s beauty is not superficial; her beauty runs deep into her soul, as she runs in Eric’s memory, reflecting upon his brief life and tragic death:
“I could no more stop missing or thinking about Eric than I could stop breathing. What I would give to hear the word “Mom” again. The real challenge after losing a child is moving forward. But life does continue, whether we like it or not; morning comes, again and again. So we pick ourselves up and we live, but we are never the same. At first, we are different because of our raw sadness. Over time, the sadness moves from our skin into our bones. It becomes less visible, but no less who we are. It changes into a wisdom, one we'd give up in a heartbeat to have our child back. We who have lost children understand life's fragility and beauty, understand that nothing is more important than each other, those we love. Soar high with the angels my beautiful boy, Eric, forever 26.

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SaturdaySeptember 19
Penn's Landing, Philadelphia

Registration begins at 7:00 a.m.
Walk begins at 9:00 a.m.
Register online at

Team Captains Kickoff Meetings in June
Learn how to organize and INSPIRE a Team
Come join old friends, and make some new ones, at any one of our Team Captains meetings scheduled in June at our Recovery Community Centers. A Team Captain is a leader living in recovery, family or friend of someone in recovery, or anyone supporting the recovery movement. 

In addition to the camaraderie, you'll learn how to organize a team, sign your team up online, instill a sense of fun into the process, and raise more money effectively. You may even want to design and order special t-shirts for your team (we have a contact for that). We will have plenty of tips, handouts and answers to your questions. You can also visit us at

If you have already started your team, come share your tips with newcomers. And please continue inviting your friends, family and associates to join your team and learn more about why we walk.

We appreciate all of your support as we continue to break down the stigma and 
share the joys of living in recovery.

Kickoff meetings scheduled to date:

Thursday, June 4, 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Central Bucks Recovery Community Center
252 W. Swamp Road, Unit 12
Doylestown, PA 18901
To register, please contact Rick Petrolawicz here, or call 215-345-6644, ext. 3151

Wednesday, June 176:00-7:00 p.m.
Philadelphia Recovery Training Center
444 North 3rd Street, Suite 307
Philadelphia, PA 19123
To register, please contact John Carlson here, or call 215-923-1661

Tuesday, June 23, 12 Noon - 1:00 p.m.
Philadelphia Recovery Training Center
444 North 3rd Street, Suite 307
Philadelphia, PA 19123
To register, please contact John Carlson here, or call 215-923-1661

Wednesday, June 30, 12 Noon - 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center
Bucks County Office Center, 1286 Veterans Highway, Unit D-6
Bristol, PA 19007
To register, please contact Karen Burke here, or call 215-788-3738

If you cannot attend one of our Team Captains Kickoff Meetings but are interested in organizing a team, please contact Steve Calderbank here, or call 215-788-3738.
A Note About Sponsorship

As you can imagine, hosting an event that attracts 23,000 people annually is an enormous undertaking that involves major overhead expenses and a large, dedicated pool of volunteers. 

Building our sponsorship support is an important part of the planning. We would greatly appreciate any help or suggestions you can offer as we build our sponsorship support over the coming weeks. There are many levels of sponsorship and promotional opportunities that could benefit your company or organization, while helping to reduce the stigma and grow our recovery communities.

Additionally, please consider asking your employer about the possibility of
matching your charitable contributions for this event,
and/or building a work team to participate in the 1.5 mile walk.

For more information about sponsorship, or to receive an informational packet, please contact Linda Brooke here, or call 215-345-6644, ext. 3115.  
Recovery Walks! 2015
SaturdaySeptember 19 
 Penn's Landing, Philadelphia 

Register Free . Form a Team . Volunteer . Donate . Sponsor
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PRO-ACT is dedicated to educating its constituency and mobilizing its members to advocate for the recovery community.

The initiative is working to reduce the stigma of addiction, ensure the availability of adequate treatment options and influence public opinion and policy regarding the value of recovery.

PRO-ACT believes that long-term recovery from addiction is possible and that individuals and families should have access to a wide spectrum of services and support that enhance the potential for all to achieve.

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