Friday, December 18, 2015 - 10:00am

I am neither a marketer nor a salesman. I have no training in presentations, PowerPoint or motivational speaking. My first job at age 16 was selling women’s shoes and I was horrible at it. To be fair, who would hire a teenage male to sell women’s shoes? I have always been more comfortable working with addicts and their families than selling or marketing. But marketing is part of my job description, so into the breach I go with a smile on my face.

As I boarded the plane to Denver, the trip ahead played out in my mind. Essentially, I am doing two things. First, I am assessing a program so that I can ethically recommend it to families who call, desperate to help a suffering alcoholic and/or drug addict. Second, I am presenting Gray Wolf Ranch as a continuing care option and maintaining a healthy, professional relationship with a program. A third reason crept up: I was curious about this program. At Gray Wolf Ranch, we are uniquely suited to see the results of the hard work done by primary treatment programs and this facility seemed to be knocking it out of the park without any hype - just good, solid clinical and 12-Step work.

What do I look for in a chemical dependency primary treatment? First are the facilities. It doesn’t need to the Four Seasons, but you can tell a lot about a program by how well they take care of grounds and buildings. Is it clean? Is there a sense of pride? Does it protect the anonymity of the clients? What’s the food like? Does it feel like a jail?

Second is the staff. Staff is obviously of vital importance and should be presentable (I’m not a suit-and-tie guy so I’m looking for professional, not fashionable). Are they qualified in their field? There should be a feeling of teamwork, mutual respect and passion for treating those who suffer from chemical dependency. Third is the philosophy of the program. Are they 12-Step, abstinence-based? Behavioral modification? The philosophy should be obvious almost immediately and evident in the schedule, décor, literature, the way the program is presented and in its online presence.

Last are the intangibles. What is the feeling when you walk in? What is the mood of the peer group? Do the employees seem like they want to be there? Do the clients seem like they want to be there? The question I ask myself is: would I want one of my children to attend the program? If you have ever walked into a treatment center, you know within five minutes if it feels ‘right’. (That ‘right’ feeling should not be the determining factor, but pay attention to it!). I suppose effectiveness should be considered, but this is difficult to judge. Of course a program is going to say it is effective, so how do you really gauge its effectiveness? Outcome studies can be useful, but always consider who does these studies. Because of the nature of Gray Wolf Ranch, we are lucky because we see the effectiveness of the program in our residents.

What I had seen thus far in clients from CeDar was impressive, so I had to see it for myself. I spent four hours over two days at the campus and was able to speak with the Men’s Cottage and the Community Outreach staff.

The program is located on the grounds of the University of Colorado hospital located in Denver, and the campus is well hidden. I would not have known it was a treatment center from the outside. There were no telltale signs of typical treatment centers: no butt cans, people smoking and milling around entrances. The main entrance protects the privacy of the clients while remaining comfortably inviting.

Once past reception, a new world opens up into a well-thought-out campus that is beautiful, functional and easy to navigate. The detox unit is relaxed and quiet. Patients receive timely medical attention that ensures a safe, comfortable detox. The living spaces are spacious, clean, well-lit and comfortable.

What impressed me the most was the thought put into making the client’s stay as seamless as possible. Example: there are pictures of all the staff with their names, done with the understanding that memory can be spotty in first few weeks of recovery. In the center of the campus is an old mansion left over from the days when this was an Army base. It has been restored and is used for continuing care. There is an amazing chapel and Family Program area where one can find a moment of solace or an understanding ear from the clergy.

The dining area is well appointed, with good food and caffeine-free drinks. There is no separate staff dining area, a concept I love! Professionals who understand the patients’ needs and the importance of a balanced exercise program monitor a state-of-the-art workout facility. The facility is simply amazing, allowing for patient privacy, ease of navigation as well as involvement of the larger 12-Step community.

The staff as a unit was unique and exceeded my already high expectations. They are personable, well-educated and passionate. The one thing that stood out was the complete lack of ego within the team. They operate as a close-knit treatment team like none I have ever heard of. The counselors work closely with the doctors, psychiatrists and therapists. I was amazed to hear how many times their treatment team got together daily. Once, sometimes twice a day with ALL the clinical staff. That is nothing short of amazing and shows the commitment to quality client care that encompasses the whole person. Education and certification levels are off the charts, but what stands out is the practical experience and passion for treating those who suffer from chemical dependency.

I was impressed prior to coming to CeDar with the level of family work. There is an institutional commitment to helping families. The programming seems to interconnect with clear, concise goals with an eye on long-term recovery. There are continuing care groups as well as Intensive Outpatient programs on campus.

The philosophy I felt was: all resources were focused directly at the patient. There is no doubt the client comes first. I saw a staff member moving a patient’s luggage from the detox facility to his room with a smile on her face. There was a balance of research-based medical and clinical approaches combined with 12-Step facilitation.

There are lots of programs doing good detox protocols. There are lots of programs doing good, research-based clinical approaches. There are also many programs doing 12-Step work, but there are few programs pulling all together the way CeDar does. What originally attracted me to CeDar was the report of the residents who had completed the program and told me about their detox from opiates. The commitment to research-based detoxification that gives the patient the best chance of long-term abstinence was evident through out the staff and facility. It was a breath of fresh air to be presented with a program that is wholly focused on the clients and their recovery.

The intangibles are the things that often get overlooked when a family is in crisis and researching a program. I did not feel special when I was at CeDar and that is how it should be. I was a fellow professional who was given time and respect, but there was no red carpet (thank God!). Why is this important? Because it means the patient was their priority.

There is a commitment to getting people into treatment that does not depend solely on money. They are there to help families and individuals who suffer from chemical dependency. I was impressed with the small group size in everything from the primary program to the IOP to the continuing care groups. They could easily pack more in, but they are more interested in effective treatment. As a professional who has worked with CeDar clients at Gray Wolf Ranch, I can say that their clients are well prepared for recovery and well taken care of. The bottom line is this: it feels right, it feels comfortable, it feels like people are getting well.

I know I sound like a paid advertisement of the program but in an industry where there are hundreds if not thousands of choices, CeDar sticks out. It sticks out because I see the result of their work in their clients who have come to Gray Wolf. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, CeDar should be on your short list.