Youth Recovery Center gives teens an alternative to drugs and alcohol |

Youth Recovery Center gives teens an alternative to drugs and alcohol

All over Colorado there are teenagers in trouble. They’re heavy drug and alcohol abusers, and though they’ve been in and out of numerous treatment centers, they can’t seem to turn their lives around. Often, their family life is a mess, they have juvenile crime records, and they have problems in school – if they’re even going to school. They’re running out of options.

For these teens, a program at Valley View Hospital can provide much-needed help. The Youth Recovery Center is the only inpatient, hospital-based acute care, chemical dependency facility in the state of Colorado.

“This program is not for first-level care,” said Youth Recovery Center director Kathy Kopf. She said that all of the center’s clients must show that they’ve been unsuccessful at other types of treatment before being admitted to the program.

Probation officers, case workers, parents, therapists, teachers, medical professionals provide referrals to the center. Sometimes even the client will refer him or herself.

“Treating teens for chemical dependency is different than treating adults,” said Kopf, who’s also a nurse and nurse practitioner. “Adolescents are often unsuccessful because they don’t have the life skills necessary to deal with their recovery. Here, they have a safe, private drug-free environment, away from peer pressures.”

The center, located in a private wing at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, admits 10 teenagers at a time for intensive, 42-day stays. There’s always a four-to-six month waiting list.

“All of our clients need to demonstrate a certain level of willingness to work with us before they’re considered for the program,” explained Kopf. “This is a volunteer program. We’re not a lock-down facility. They have to want to try to change their behavior.”

There’s a lot of opportunity to do just that. On a daily basis, clients attend “school” on site, participate in group and private therapy, learn to play new sports and receive family counseling.

All the while, a staff of nurses, teachers, psychiatrists, mental health workers, family therapists, counselors and recreational therapists are on hand. The center is staffed by a nurse around the clock.

This kind of one-on-one care doesn’t come cheap. The program’s daily fee is $725 a day. Some patients have health insurance that covers the program, and others pay for care privately. Kopf said program fees are often covered by Medicaid by those who qualify. Medicaid pays a percentage of the total cost, and the hospital incurs the balance.

“We realize the program is on the expensive side,” said Kopf, “but these are the costs for this level of care. Efficiency is key to running this program and keeping it at a break-even point.”

The center didn’t start out in 1987 with the intention of serving the entire state. According to Kopf, Glenwood Springs social worker Sue Maisch and physician Paul Salmen got the idea of creating a teen treatment center. After serving on a committee about health care, and hearing from parents, teachers and others who work with youth, they realized the region had to address teen drug and alcohol problems.

“There was a real need for a chemical dependency facility for local adolescents,” said Kopf.

Out of that need, the treatment center was developed and has continued growing in its scope – and its reputation.

Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center and Valley View Hospital initially partnered up to provide treatment services. The hospital provided the center’s physical space, nursing and administrative staff, and Colorado West supplied and employed psychiatric and mental health staff to work with the center’s clients.

Now, Valley View pays all YRC staff.

“It was a morale issue,” said Kopf of the hospital’s decision to administrate the center. “Our mental health staff was employed by Colorado West. That made them a bit displaced being employed one place and working in another. It also led to dual paperwork and different benefits being offered. We’re still a partnership; we’ve just simplified the process.”

Kopf said the first step in moving clients away from chemical dependency is to change their perspectives.

“It all depends on the client’s values and shifting those values,” explained Kopf.

That means every day clients are shown new ways to use their time – doing something other than abusing drugs and alcohol.

“We show them there are alternatives,” she said. “In the winter, we go snowboarding, cross-country and downhill skiing, and bowling. In the summer, we go hiking and biking. We go to the pool. It just depends.”

Role-modeling is an important component.

“With our recreation therapist, we show them how cool it can be to go boarding or climbing,” she said. “A lot of these kids have never even considered that rock climbing, for example, is a cool thing to do.”

Before attending YRC, many teens have no history of understanding the value of outdoor experiences. Kopf said by getting teens outside and exposed to a role model who’s a climber, often their values can change.

The center also doesn’t employ a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery.

“All our clients are required to attend AA and NA meetings,” she said, “but we know that for some, telling them that `no more, anytime, all your life’ doesn’t work. So we also offer another philosophy, called `harm reduction,’ for those clients. And for everyone, we offer an extensive after-care program to track and monitor clients after they leave the program.”

The program works – but not for everyone.

“We have a 50-60 percent success rate,” said Kopf, “depending on how you define `success.’ We define it as leading a productive life.”

For more information about the Youth Recovery Center, call 945-3440.

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