Intensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs are often held in peaceful natural settings such as the Santa Cruz Mountains or the rolling Sonoma foothills. Such settings may soothe the wayward soul, but they typically don’t integrate friends and family into the rehab process, leaving graduates without a local support network.
That’s why doctors at Mills-Peninsula Health Services are launching a new 28-day rehab program that includes biweekly meetings with friends and family.
"Some days you may be a little under stress and thinking about having a drink, so it helps if you have a lot of friends and mutual support to keep you heading in the right direction," said Dr. William Glatt, medical director of the Chemical Dependency Program.
Patients sleep at austere sober-living facilities and are transported each morning to the Behavioral Health Center in San Mateo. There, they spend 10 to 12 hours a day reviewing their family histories, discussing obstacles to rehab, practicing meditation and doing group work with patients in the hospital’s detoxification program. Therapists also help addicts develop an abstinence plan with the option of continuing weekly study sessions for up to a year after completing the program.
Before enrolling, Glatt said, patients ideally will have already tried less-intense solutions, such as the hospital’s outpatient rehab programs.
The new program meets a growing local demand for rehab services, said Dan Becker, Behavioral Health medical director.
"These aren’t the guys you see on the corner, sleeping on the streets; these are men and women who are active and have families and have lost control," said Glatt, who estimates about 10 percent of the U.S. population now suffers from drug or alcohol addiction.
The most common local addictions are to alcohol and prescription opiates and tranquilizers, Glatt said. Many people start out looking for relief from medical conditions such as headaches, backaches and arthritis, then increase dosages to sustain the drugs’ diminishing effects.
Unlike many rehab programs, Mills’ program is run by certified addiction medicine professionals, and patients have access to the hospital’s medical facilities, which are available in case of relapse, said Ron Kemper, director of business development. At $10,000, Kemper said, it is the cheapest program of its kind.
While Mills’ rehab program must now be paid for out-of-pocket, Kemper said that could change as the hospital is currently negotiating with at least one large employer to include the program in its employee health insurance package.
How Mills-Peninsula’s new rehab program is different:
Whether to include rehab programs in insurance plans shouldn’t be a choice.
A 2008 federal law stipulates that, as existing insurance contracts expire, employers with 50 or more workers must begin offering mental health and substance abuse coverage. Such services must be offered at the same level as other medical services, eliminating restrictions on rehab services.
Most large employers and insurance companies now comply with that rule, but "it’s not universally applied," said Mills’ Ron Kemper, who said he’s been unable to find any California regulatory body that is enforcing the mandate.
— Niko Kyriakou