Do Follow-Up Services Stop Relapse?
Access to drug and alcohol addiction treatment services is more vital now than ever before. Data from the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA) suggests that 8.0% of residents met the criteria for substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year, and 7.5% needed treatment but didn’t receive it. Overdose rates across the nation and the state are on the rise. Going to an addiction treatment center is often the first step in a person’s recovery journey. Aftercare or follow-up services are proving to be just as critical in keeping people from relapsing.
Beyond a 25 to 40-day residential stay, which is typical of many drug and alcohol rehab stints, treatment centers like Praxis of Carmel by Landmark Recovery are required to provide Medicaid patients with aftercare/relapse prevention plans. Studies show that when patients engage in aftercare, or behavioral health resources like an intensive outpatient program, these services can help them reduce substance use and the negative health consequences that accompany it. However, if a patient returns to old behaviors and doesn’t participate in recovery activities, like support groups or outpatient treatment, their risk of relapse and a return visit to a rehab facility increases.
“Often you’ll see readmissions with patients who don’t engage in follow-up resources once they leave,” said Eric Becker, executive director at Praxis of Carmel.
Reducing Readmissions With Alumni Program
Medicaid patients and providers have identified inadequate planning and unsuccessful follow-up care as root causes of high readmission rates at hospitals and addiction treatment centers. To combat this, Praxis of Carmel has a new program expanding across all Landmark Recovery facilities. With the help of alumni coordinator Sa’Terra Gilbert, Praxis of Carmel organizes a group of readmits once a week. Gilbert says the group will work to identify the “causes of relapse, looking at relationships that they might have in the outside world that might play into them going back out of treatment.” The group has a five-week lesson plan and meets once a week to discuss what went wrong the first time and how to make it work the next time they go through treatment.
“It’s like digging in a little deeper,” said Gilbert. “They already have the core knowledge of the curriculum. We’re looking at what didn’t work and how can we fix that?”
What’s missing are check-ins to ensure that questions are answered and patients feel supported once they leave the safe and structured environment residential treatment programs provide.
“A lot of the patients get really involved with it,” said Gilbert, who received treatment at Landmark Recovery of Indianapolis in 2020 before becoming a patient engagement specialist, patient advocate and now alumni coordinator at Praxis of Carmel. “They don’t look at it like a negative thing that they’re in this group. It’s being able to talk to other people who also went through the same program and maybe ran into some of the same issues. They get super involved, super detailed and super vulnerable. It’s really cool to see.”
“You have to be engaged in your recovery”
Successful recovery journeys are often defined by patients who take advantage of their treatment options post-discharge. It doesn’t matter how far removed from treatment a person is. Studies show that aftercare programs like intensive outpatient and outpatient services are effective in reducing substance use and its consequences. However, many addiction experts say a patient might have difficulty sustaining their recovery if they don’t accept post-discharge treatment options at the facility and follow through on them once they graduate.
“You have to be engaged in your recovery,” said Becker. “Even for people who do have five years of sobriety, if they’re not going to meetings or reminding themselves of why they even started this process, then it’s a really slippery slope.”
Expanding Access to Aftercare programs
Many Medicaid patients complete treatment programs without a solid support system to return home to. Residential treatment provides a structured living environment that’s hard to replicate at home.
“What we provide is a constant reminder of new behaviors here with our group therapists or individual therapists,” said Becker.
Without aftercare programs like IOP or the alumni program to lean on, it’s much easier for someone leaving treatment to run the risk of returning to old behaviors, relapsing and ending up back in rehab.
“Once they leave, they just don’t have that support system,” Becker said.
Many people find jobs after rehab to support themselves financially. As they work to get back on their feet, they may not have the availability to attend in-person meetings. In that case, Becker says it’s on the facility staff to convince patients about the importance of aftercare before they graduate, while also “having options available that they can work around their life” once they leave.
“For somebody who’s never been to treatment before, we offer virtual and in-person IOP,” Becker said, adding that addiction is a lifelong struggle that requires more than just getting clean for a short period of time. “To quit the drug isn’t really addressing the issue. You need to change the way you think and behave.”
For Indiana residents seeking an outpatient program, Praxis of Carmel has sessions available four times a week – Monday through Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. If a patient’s schedule won’t allow for evening IOP, recovery coaching is another alternative.
Landmark’s recovery coaches call graduates three times per week in the first 90 days. Then, the calls drop to two times a week, followed by one call per week after six months, post-graduation. During that time, recovery coaches outline goals with graduates, equip them with community and mental health resources and serve as their accountability partner in the early stages of recovery.
“I use my own story and knowledge of community resources to show them that they’re not alone and recovery is possible,” said Toni Wasden, a recovery coach at Landmark Recovery of Indianapolis. “I try to cater to the path of recovery they choose and respect their decisions around it.”
Learn More About Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment
In addition to the intensive outpatient program (IOP), we provide residential treatment, medical detox and more services covered by Medicaid at Landmark Recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or need more information about aftercare programs, call 317-458-9955 to speak to a recovery specialist at Praxis of Carmel. We’re available 24/7.
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