While Montana continues to have one of the nation’s highest rates of alcoholism and drug abuse, the recovery rate after treatment is nearly twice as good as it was when I was writing the “Alcohol: Cradle to Grave” series of stories a decade ago.
And it was wonderful to see that several of the problems identified by those stories have been fixed. I suspect that’s one of the reasons for the improved success rate.
For one thing, counselors have found that the one-size-fits-all treatment method doesn’t work for alcoholics either.
“One big change is putting wrap-around services into the mix and allowing people the amount of treatment they need,” said Joan Cassidy, chief of the state Chemical Dependency Bureau. “One individual may need two weeks of treatment versus the next one who might need one year of treatment.”
The state now offers three tiers of treatment options: full hospitalization, two eight-bed facilities with full medical attention 24-7 in a home-based environment, or 11 supportive living centers based around the state.
In addition, the state is providing assistance in other living skills that alcoholics may be deficient in — things like education or financial planning or anger management.
These are the programs that Cassidy calls wrap-around services. They are designed to give alcoholics the social skills they need to survive in society.
Those two elements have nearly doubled the success rate of treatment, which used to see only about 40 percent of the patients still abstaining from drugs and alcohol six months after treatment. I noted at the time that the Hazelden Foundation in Center City, Minn., boasted a success rate of around 60 per cent at the time, largely on the basis on assigning local mentors. i.e. recovering alcoholics, to each patient leaving their facility.
Since 2003, the state of Montana has been checking its former patients every quarter, and it has found that six months after treatment:
ã 75 percent of its patients remained abstinent from alcohol and other drugs;
ã 63 percent were employed full time;
ã 86 percent remained clear of the criminal justice system;
ã 0.2 percent reported homelessness.