Recently, The Ponte Vedra Recorder had a chance to speak with Jim Evanger, CEO of Lakeview Health, a nationally recognized alcohol and drug treatment center in Jacksonville.
Many people do not think of addiction treatment as a healthcare need. Can you explain the connection between this treatment and its ramifications for the patient’s health?
Addiction is a disease — just like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and others. Alcohol is the third largest preventable cause of death in the U.S., over 88,000 cases annually. And over 71,000 people additionally died of drug overdoses last year. That is a health care crisis that isn’t always understood.
Substance abuse, whether it is alcohol or drugs, also takes its physical toll on the body, impairs brain function, affects decision making, work and family relationships. It’s a major health issue.
The good news is, the body also has amazing healing abilities if you combine the most effective medical efficacy with a high-quality therapeutic environment, engage in physical activity and the right nutritional needs for the body — which is how we holistically approach treatment at Lakeview Health and Stepping Stone.
Lakeview Health has been called one of the best facilities of its kind in the country. What sets it apart?
Our people are truly difference makers utilizing evidence-based treatment methods for some of the best clinical outcomes in our industry — including a 4% recidivism rate, which is amazing.
We are one of the few programs in the country that has a full-time medical staff, 24/7 medical care, and our chief medical officer is one of few doctors in the country that is dual board-certified in addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine.
We only utilize master-level therapists, and we take a very individualistic approach to each person’s treatment, using evidence-based methodology. Our family workshop engages family members in your treatment to better understand the new commitment patients are making and how they can support the patient’s journey. Seventy-nine percent of our patients have reported that they have better relationships with family members post treatment than prior.
We have many comprehensive programs with separate residential treatment centers for women and men, a professionals program (we are an approved center of excellence for the NFL Trust and the professional pilots and flight attendant associations), a chronic pain recovery program, equine and surf therapy.
Our Aftercare and Alumni program is also a huge difference maker for people after leaving treatment. At many centers, you come in for 30 days, and then you return home with little or no support. Recovery is a lifetime journey, and our Alumni program keeps you connected through our private social networking, in-person events here in Jacksonville, our Cared For app and also regular phone calls and weekly virtual support groups that are confidential. Our Aftercare coordinators help get you connected to regular meetings in your area, and outpatient therapy to help keep you on track.
How has the recent COVID-19 outbreak contributed to an increase in alcohol use?
In general, people are feeling a lot of anxiety and depression from being so isolated and not being able to live their lives normally. Alcohol being readily available at home makes it an easy way to alleviate those issues. If before, you went out to dinner and had two drinks because you knew you were driving home, why stop at two drinks now, when you’re already home? Having children at home with restricted activities causes more pressure on families. Many people have been laid off or furloughed, which can create financial pressures as well as just having too much time on their hands. Alcohol is a legal and easy escape from those pressures.
How is Lakeview Health meeting the demands of this increase?
We doubled down our efforts to actively speak and engage with our alumni knowing they would be the most affected by this pandemic. Our campus is on 14 acres and can accommodate over 225 patients, so we are large enough to still hold group activities and dining with the appropriate social distancing. We transitioned to virtual family workshops and meetings as needed. Our exceptional staff of professionals adapted as needed, even weekly, to meet the ever-changing demands.
I often like to say that people that come to us learn to “trust” that we were here for them during this pandemic, and we will be here with them always. Our Lakeview brand promise to our patients and their families is to “empower profound recovery,” and we have all of the right tools in place to deliver on that every day.
How does your virtual outpatient treatment work? This seems like a timely advantage, considering the current emphasis on social distancing.
It is — and we are running our virtual services from our Lakeview Woodlands location in Texas. That facility is led by Mark Baumgartner, who was formerly with the Betty Ford/Hazelden Centers, and he had done an amazing job transitioning quickly to this format.
Services include individual assessments, addiction psychiatry, professional counseling and education. All patients receive individual, family and group therapy. Our individualized virtual teletherapy allows you to receive only the treatment you need, for as long as you need to begin or sustain a lifestyle in recovery that you can manage on your own.
We offer intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization and outpatient treatment services, family and evening hours to accommodate every lifestyle, and we are in-network with many insurance plans — making it a convenient, safe and effective way to get the help you need.
Note: Patients report that that their experience of connecting with our licensed therapists and other peers virtually in treatment on their computer is so powerful that they sometimes forget that they are online.
Tell me a little about your specialized women’s program.
The Rose Center is a safe environment for women’s unique needs in treatment, healing and recovery. This specialized clinical program addresses cultural and trauma issues that are often present and the cause that led to addiction. Women are more likely to open up without men also being included in group discussions — or as distractions.
Our approach treats the whole woman: mind, body and spirit. Our staff members are trained in assessment, grounding skills, reprocessing, art/music therapy and more. We’ve designed warm, tranquil, and spacious spaces to enhance our treatment experience. On top of the facility design, we take great lengths to keep genders completely separate during treatment so they can focus on what’s important — their recovery.
I understand Lakeview Health has been able to remain open throughout the pandemic and that more than 450 lives were saved in the four months since the outbreak. Can you tell me what measures allowed the facility to accomplish this?
We immediately responded to the rapid business demands with new protocols, so we could remain open to handle the needs the COVID-19 environment dictated. We never closed one day, and we were one of the few centers in the country that had immediate access to both types of rapid testing on patients immediately — and prior to admission.
We designated one facility for testing and for safely, medically detoxing new patients, and quarantined as needed until test results could return. This allowed us to not have to turn anyone away — and resulted in saving the lives of people who might otherwise not have been able to get the help and treatment they needed during a very traumatic time.
Also, can you tell me a little bit about the connection between your treatment and how it saves lives?
Addiction is a dangerous, life-threatening illness — just like diabetes and cancer, and causes a myriad of health issues from heart problems, Hepatitis C and liver failure.
It’s not about someone’s “will,” and actually stopping cold turkey, especially with alcohol, can be life- threatening.
Because we are also a medical center, we don’t have to send people to a hospital to detox and then transport them to our facility for treatment as other facilities might have to.
Addiction is a disease that truly hijacks the brain. Our doctors that specialize in this field help patients understand this. Coupled with our many evidence-based programs that are proven to get patients on the right track to begin their recovery journey, we have the highest rates of recovery you’ll see anywhere in the country.