Develop a plan for alumni to interact with current clients

2014 Collaborative Session Notes 


Convener: Ryan Miller, Futures of Palm Beach, [email protected]

Scribe: John Courshon, Gateway

Megan O’Connor, Valley Hope   Sabrina Mathis, Foundations    Tori De Groote, Sovereign
Carol Ricossa, Foundations     Emili Barbour, New Directions    Mark Kloster, Jaywalker
Jim Geckler, Hazelden BF   Ryan Miller, Futures of Palm Beach    Luke Watson, Desert Palms
Paul Scudo, CeDAR      Sharif Ali, Alta Mira        Savannah Ganje, Milestones
Karen Zaccour, Lakeview     John Courshon, Gateway

Need to be aware of security issues:

  • Alumni bringing drugs back onto the unit.
  • Connecting discharged clients with established alumni, especially for alumni that live away from the treatment program.
  • Gather contact info from clients in order to communicate with them after treatment.

Have alumni speaker come in to talk to clients.

  • Establish timeframe for alumni to be clean to come back to speak.
  • This might be a valuable part of the alumni program.
  • Train them in public speaking.
  • Some do it monthly, some weekly, and some daily.
  • Have dinner and a speaker.
  • Tap into the local recovery community.

Integrate some activities for alumni and active clients together.

Volunteer program with alumni to work as peer recovery coaches.

Time frames for alumni to be clean, speak, volunteer, etc.

  • If you wait too long they will find other opportunities and you may lose them.

How to sell this to the staff:

  • Elicit their help.
  • Ask them what help they need with clients.
  • Show them how alumni work is critical to successful recovery.

Resource: Minnesota Recovery Connection

Clients near discharge can attend alumni meetings

This is a part of the long-term recovery model.

Spring 2015 Collaborative Session Notes

How to Get Alumni to Return/Days of Hope

Convener: Carver Brown [email protected], Lauren Kirschberg [email protected] of Pine Grove

Scribe: Nicole Heller, Beachway Therapy Center, [email protected]


Bade, Leonard Hazelden/Betty Ford [email protected]
Cape, Laurie The Bridge to Recovery [email protected]
Chadwick, Cindy Life Healing Center [email protected]
Chaffee, Heidi Astoria Pointe [email protected]
Cox, Mitch Focus [email protected]
Gordan, Becky A New Path [email protected]
Hall, William Cornerstone Recovery Center [email protected]
Hutts, David Benchmark [email protected]
Kelinpeter, Felicia St. Christophers [email protected]
Kinloch, Bill The Refuge [email protected]
McLeod, Tim Sierra Tucson [email protected]
Miller, Ryan Futures [email protected]
Obernauer, Lorie LO Group, Inc. [email protected]
O’Neil, Cara Hanley Center at Origins [email protected]
O’Shea, Christopher The Journey Home [email protected]
Placencia, Tammy Hazelden/Betty Ford [email protected]
Smith, Melissa Serenity Now [email protected]
Smith, Tharin Origins [email protected]
Spollen, Shannon The Meadows [email protected]
Stannard, Elizabeth Hazelden/Betty Ford [email protected]
Starbuck, Lisa The Farley Center [email protected]
Wilcox, Neena The Bridge to Recovery [email protected]
Zaccour, Karen Lakeview [email protected]


Days of Hope at Pine Grove:

Took a year to plan, convince staff at 5 programs to give it a try, and integrate into the culture.

Took small steps, meeting with all directors/program directors, to handle and correct any objections before presenting it to the group as a whole.  Everything was already ironed out at that point.

Main concern from staff:

What do we do with unhealthy/intoxicated people returning?

  1. DOH is for alumni support as much as it is for patients. As long as they show up sober they can participate.
  2. We do UDS if suspicious and can readmit for relapse track if necessary. This is very rare. Most people in relapse will not want to come to DOH (which is a completely voluntary program).
  3. When it does happen, offer support, assessment, meet with their therapist, and recommend they stay for a month or more. If they refuse, we ask them to go sleep it off and call us later if we can help.  Let them know it’s not appropriate for them to be around patients, how would they feel if they were a patient, no judgement, but they can’t stay for DOH if intoxicated.

Other concerns from staff:

  1. Can AMA’s come back? Depends on how they left and how they are doing now. Leave this up to each director.
  2. Can we pick who comes back? No, we want the patients to see a real picture of what life after treatment is like, no one should leave with rose colored glasses.

Because Hattiesburg, MS is not California or southern Florida, we needed to add a therapeutic element to get alumni to return.

Days of Hope (DOH) is 4-5 times a year on Thursday/Friday and two times a year on the weekend.

Alumni and their family members return for two days of treatment.  They go back to their primary group, interact with patients, tell stories, go to REACH ropes course, yoga, whatever the patients are scheduled to do, the alumni go with.  Families have curriculum and alanon meeting at the family program building.  They also walk the labyrinth with the spiritual director.

30-60 people return to each DOH

How did it change the culture?

  1. DOH is discussed from day one of treatment
  2. Patients experience it while there. See alumni return, creating a crisis of belief
  3. Staff creates an Expectation to Return
  4. DOH dates are chosen at discharge and become part of the discharge contract/treatment plan
  5. For a period of time, staff HAD TO fill out DOH reservation with each patient leaving. Called it a Wildly Important Goal (WIG)
  6. Alumni Staff reminds them of upcoming commitment to return
  7. DOH is free and lunch is provided both days
  8. Alumni pay travel/hotel expenses
  9. Best to be during the week so staff won’t have resentment about participating


After a year, added a sober fun element, bowling, softball, laser tag. Plans to add kickball next time.

All alumni and families come together on the last afternoon for a recap and a spiritual send off with alumni staff and spiritual director.  They fill out a list of their Pluses and Wishes for the next DOH (this is a much more positive and simpler way to get feedback than a survey).

DOH from Marketing Standpoint: (for families calling during initial call) “We offer free lifetime support for the addict and the family in the form of DOH” then go on to explain what it entails.

Other ideas for returning alumni from the group:

Neena Wilcox at The Bridge to Recovery is having their first ever Reunion with 75 registered: Dinner, Speaker meeting, 4-5 Clinical Sessions, Kickball, bonfire, s’mores, Equine therapy, zip line, ropes course. Alumni pay for travel and lodging, used event bright for RSVPs and let them choose which clinical session to attend, had staff volunteers.

Cool idea: have new hires at your center “go to treatment” for two weeks to get an understanding of how the process works

Tim McLeod of Sierra Tucson: always recognizes staff with alumni shares/thank you’s and hugs from alumni.  Had a “Bike Build” with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Alumni get placed into groups and have to put bikes together as a team, when they are 80% done the kids to receive the bikes come to surprise them.  It’s an incredible experience.  Walmart donates the bikes.

Other ideas:

  1. Alumni donate money and treatment center matches the contribution
  2. Buy toys at Christmas as a group for Toy for Tots
  3. Take stuff to local foster homes
  4. Teach them that there are other ways to give back to the community than just 12 step stuff
  5. Alumni support patients in treatment during the holidays by
  6. Sending gifts, sending a tree with decorations to make
  7. Come back on holiday and spend a few hours with patients
  8. Secret Santa
  9. Easter eggs
  10. Christmas cards to decorate

Fall 2015 Collaborative Notes

Getting Alumni Back on Campus: Days of Hope/Days of Ascent 

Conveners: Carver Brown, Pine Grove [email protected]

Ryan Miller, Futures of Palm Beach [email protected]   

Scribe: Kaitlin Pickrel, Foundations  [email protected]


Megan O’Conner, Valley Hope  [email protected]

Kacy Ritter, Origins  [email protected]

Jaana Woodbury, Northbound   [email protected]

Emili Barbour, New Directions for Women  [email protected]


Carver began with descriptions of Days of Hope at Pine Grove:

How Days of Hope started:

-had many many conversations with employees at Pine Grove

-Was asked a lot of “what ifs”?

-families attending

-what if alumni could check in

-stay connection with their primary group

-went to CEO and presented the case

-spoke to the program directors to make it happen

-Pine Grove has several locations and entities, all of the different pieces started to help, and communicate with the different facilities to get the conversation started

-Each program was different yet it had different plans

-it took about 6 months to figure it out

How it works:

-Patients signs a reservation form- make a commitment to return to campus

-Ask “when would you be willing to come back to campus and they get a reminder to come back

-Ryan and Days of Hope: becomes part of treatment, it formulates a relapse track

-Carver intervenes on them and encourages the patients by saying “we think you would benefit from staying”

Pine Grove Days of Hope Logistics:

-special price to come back to treatment

-happens 5 times a year- they stay in hotel and are responsible for the price of the hotel


-separate weekend event for sex addiction

-Days of Hope has been happening for three years

-Reservations are starting to get overwhelming, so soon people will have to make a small deposit to reserve a spot, first come first serve, and then it becomes a competition


-showed the treatment team how to have fun at this event

-Alumni get 12 step

-patients are benefitted

-Therapists benefit- they realize the fruits of their labor

-turned into a giant machine

Typical Agenda:

-Day begins with a rally (speakers, high energy, asking everyone where they are from)

-Then goes to programs- everyone separates and goes into programs (ex: reach, YMCA, expressive therapy)

-Then meals/programs and in the evening go to a 12 step meeting

-Friday afternoon- alumni story sharing

-Friday evening- spiritual close education

-Friday evening: Giant Softball Game!

Outcomes from the weekend have begun to increase

Legality Issue:

-can alumni come back/interact with patients?

-tell about what other treatment centers are dealing with

-Carver was careful NOT to push against the resistance, instead was a listening ear and tried to find the best way to work with it

What ifs-

-The culture and fear of alumni being dangerous, this is a stigma that can be broken



-2 times a year

-There are some rules- you can’t just show up, you have to stay in touch with alumni coordinators. Great to have people come back on campus.

-Very useful for staff to have people come back on campus

-Futures is 30 day program with locked doors, when Ryan told alumni they could come back to campus the response was overwhelming, people were so happy to be able to come back

-alumni are coming in together, staying in community of a team

Marketing Tag: two free days of treatment for the rest of your life, becomes its own marketing material

During Days of Ascent: Therapist meeting is done by reservation only, not a full therapy session, they want to tell them how they are doing. They don’t make a note in the document with the therapist-this gets rid of the problem of a therapist meeting with an alumni.


Valley Hope: monthly renewal days, counselor facilitated alumni groups. It effects patient care by the patients not being overwhelmed by the alumni, and the staff and patients see the celebration in the alumni


West Palm Beach: reunion/celebration/possibly a retreat


Difference between getting to be an alumni vs. being a patient

Pine Grove: no mandatory drug testing when alumni come back

Futures: ask to pull out pockets/no big purses, etc.

-When an alum poses a problem when they come back, it is more about approaching them are starting a conversation versus making them feel like a patient again

If someone discharges a week before Days of Hope/Days of Ascent they are welcome to come right back

Potential Problem:

-Fear of relationships beginning during the event or the risk of doing drugs while together

-Written down rules: you can’t be seen talking to a member of the opposite sex

-Days of Hope: Patients have Ids they wear

-Problem of straight vs. gay- have to be mindful and again more about starting a conversation

Important Tips:

-You can’t roll out it out at once, slowly need to implement it

-The culture at Pine Grove has changed because of Days of Hope

-Futures: it has reduced the AMA rate

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Contact Information

Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services
PO Box 1152
Salida, CO 81201
(757) 784-7550


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