Harmony Teams Up With Rocky Vista University to Improve Addiction Training

Rocky Vista Logo

In his groundbreaking report on addiction in America, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy suggested “a comprehensive approach” to address the substance misuse crisis in the United States including “improved access to evidence-based treatment services, integrated with mainstream healthcare, for those at risk for or affected by substance use disorders.“

Better integration with mainstream healthcare requires better addiction training for medical professionals—among other things. In a new partnership with Rocky Vista University, Harmony Foundation is now providing just that.

RVU was established in 2006 as the nation’s first private, for-profit health sciences university to offer a professional medical degree since 1910. RVU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine grants the degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and admitted its inaugural class of medical students at the Parker, Colorado campus in 2008.

Recently, RVU added a physician assistant program. The goal of the PA program is to support the development of “clinically competent, collaborative, and compassionate” physician assistants. One of the first students in that program is Adrianne Bryant who recently also benefitted from the trailblazing partnership with Harmony. She was able to learn quite a lot about the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) during her rotation at Harmony.

Supervised by Harmony’s medical director, Christopher Reveley, MD, Bryant got a “well-rounded look at addiction treatment and what recovery is like,” as she puts it. “I had the opportunity to talk with the psychologist and multiple counselors. I was able to take part in group therapy and learned about managing meds and the detox process. I’m getting a really good overview of the whole program.”

It’s a modest but important beginning. Harmony aims to become an incubator for teaching and learning around the medical side of addiction. Dr. Reveley considers Harmony an ideal place for that kind of training. For many medical professionals, this “may very well be their only experience in addiction medicine before launching into their careers, regardless of whether they become MDs, DOs, or PAs,” he says. “Here at Harmony, we can offer a full spectrum of inpatient treatment. We’re treating all kinds of addiction problems, with all kinds of substances, and we have a fully qualified mental health staff.”

This kind of first-hand experience is often lacking in the medical field. Not many medical schools require or even offer it, despite the current addiction crisis in America. Dr. Reveley can speak from experience. Years ago, when he went to medical school himself, he didn’t have any addiction training at all. Then, when he became interested in recovery and the treatment of addiction after years as an anesthesiologist, he started to look for an addiction medicine fellowship. There were fewer than 50 on offer in the entire United States—in 2015!

“It’s really admirable that RVU has acknowledged the importance of addiction treatment,” says Reveley. “Primary care doctors, in particular, are in the front lines of recognizing addiction in patients and getting them into treatment. So it’s so important for someone like Adrianne Bryant, who might be working in a primary care clinic to know what addiction looks like.”

Bryant agrees: “I don’t think people have a real good sense what drug-seeking behavior looks like, so we may not recognize it all the time,” she says. “This rotation is helping me in that regard because I see people in recovery who genuinely try to get better. Sitting in on counseling sessions, witnessing patients taking an honest look at their lives, I get a better sense of what people struggling with addiction are like, what they were like in active addiction, and what recovery looks like.”

Dr. Reveley hopes that collaborations like the RVU-Harmony partnership will get more medical professionals interested in addiction treatment. Thanks to her Harmony rotation, Ms. Bryant will certainly be in a better position to recognize SUD in her patients and suggest evidence-based therapy for them. That’s a big step forward. “A lot of substance misuse doesn’t result in treatment because doctors simply don’t ask about it,” says Reveley.

Addiction is a complex biopsychosocial disease requiring comprehensive treatment in an integrated care environment. Many agencies can help make that treatment a reality. In the case of the new partnership, Rocky Vista was also aided by the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) which helped with the placement of students. The AHEC Program works with regional offices to build state-wide network capacity in Colorado, strengthening academic-community linkages in four core mission areas: health careers and workforce diversity, health professions student education, health professions continuing education and public health and community education.

Harmony Fights Opioid Epidemic with HOPE

More than two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, escalating an epidemic the CDC says “continues to worsen and evolve.” From 2016 to 2017, opioid-related overdose deaths increased 12 percent overall, surging among all age groups 15 and older.

The CDC report’s recommendations for curbing opioid-related overdose deaths include “increasing naloxone availability, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, enhancing public health and public safety partnerships, and maximizing the ability of health systems to link persons to treatment and harm-reduction services.”

Naloxone is a medication often used by first responders because it can rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain relievers.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used to decrease opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission. Medications used for the treatment of opioid use disorder are buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex), methadone, and extended release naltrexone (Vivitrol). Some of these drugs are controversial in the recovery community because they are themselves opioids.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US government research institute, clarifies that contrary to what some critics say, “methadone and buprenorphine DO NOT substitute one addiction for another. When someone is treated for an opioid addiction, the dosage of medication used does not get them high–it helps reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal. These medications restore balance to the brain circuits affected by addiction, allowing the patient’s brain to heal while working toward recovery.”

The use of these medications should always be combined with behavioral counseling with the ultimate aim of ceasing all substance misuse.

HOPE – Harmony’s Opioid Programming Experience

Harmony has provided all clients with medication-assisted treatment for many years. This combination of education, counseling, and the use of medication in early recovery is part of the Harmony philosophy. HOPE expands MAT to include medications that alter the physical response to opioids, reduce cravings, and give the patient time to heal from the psychological, social, and spiritual wounds of addiction.

“It’s important to remember that MAT is only a small part of the picture,” says Harmony’s medical director Christopher Reveley. “That is why we call it ‘medication-assisted’ treatment, because by itself it is not the treatment. Used alone it has a low probability of being successful.”

At Harmony, HOPE begins with thorough medical and psychological evaluations. Collaboration with the patient, members of the interdisciplinary team and, when appropriate, family and referral sources, determine the most effective treatment plan. All HOPE clients are invited to participate in weekly support groups led by a professional addiction counselor. These groups address the unique challenges of early opioid recovery, including uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, cravings, and strategies to avoid relapse. In this setting, clients support each other and are educated about the process of recovery.

Medication-assisted therapy may help stabilize the patient for these challenges in early recovery. “It gives people an opportunity to step out of the chaos of addiction and consider other ways of being,” says Dr. Reveley. “I never felt that buprenorphine was meant as a lifelong or even long-term solution.” Although there may be exceptions. It all depends on the individual needs of the patient. Reveley remembers a patient who had been on methadone for 46 years. “He tried to taper off a dozen times and relapsed to heroin use every single time. His family was initially very opposed to him being on methadone but eventually they told him ‘this is working, your life depends on it.’ So there are people on either end of the bell curve but in most cases buprenorphine is only a small but important part of the solution.”

Buprenorphine can be an important tool, especially in early recovery from opioid use disorder. The medication offers patients the opportunity to start living a “normal” life, far removed from the drug culture lifestyle they may have been immersed in while using heroin and other opioids. People are dying every day from opioid overdoses, especially in the age of the fentanyl scourge. Buprenorphine may provide the buffer that enables them to launch into sustained recovery. It is a buffer that can save people with addiction from a potentially lethal overdose.

Harmony has been treating addiction for 49 years and HOPE is now offered to all Harmony clients with opioid use disorders. The program involves enhanced medical, counseling, and case management services specifically tailored to meet these clients’ unique needs.

The Harmony care team works closely with clients who choose to include buprenorphine in their treatment strategy. This will typically involve full participation in HOPE and a recommendation for participation in Harmony’s Transitional Care Program (TCP), an intensive, 90 day intensive outpatient program coupled with monitored sober living and medication management by Harmony providers. When clinically indicated or to accommodate client preference, Harmony’s case managers may refer clients to other programs with similar services.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid use disorder and needs help, call Harmony at 970-432-8075 and one of our admissions specialists can discuss next steps.

Ambassadors for Wellness & Recovery

Business Dev

A Retrospective Look at the Importance of Business Development
by Gina de Peralta Thorne, MS

If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would be working in the field of addiction treatment I would have looked at you funny.  The idea of working with recovering addicts and alcoholics was never intended to be a part of my world.  I had family who suffered from addiction, but I didn’t know them and I never had any personal issues with alcohol or drugs.  My only exposure to AA was hearing about Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA’s)  Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA’s) from a mother who self- identified as an ACOA. 

So how did I end up being such a strong ambassador for recovery and wellness? I tell people, that I didn’t choose this career path, rather, it chose me.   My first time exposure to working with people in recovery was 10 years ago as Director of Business Development for a treatment program in Virginia.  I was so nervous, unsure how I could contribute to helping people live a life in sobriety?  I remember the first time an alumnus asked me if I was in recovery, I was uncomfortable to share that I wasn’t.  He stood for moment, looked at me and said, “That’s okay, and you’ll do.”   At the time, his response didn’t give me any tangible reassurance, but today, I understand.

With over a decade of ushering individuals and families into treatment, I know that it wasn’t pivotal for me to be in recovery to do this work.   I have been awed and inspired by what I have learned from working side by side with those in recovery. I have learned how to recognize my own character defects, practice the discipline of restitution, (making amends for my mistakes), find gratitude daily for all things in my life and recognize, “this too shall pass”.  I believe my role in this field has helped people find the connections and resources necessary to make their lives that much better and what an honor it is to be given this responsibility.

Today, the landscape of business development and marketing is challenging.  There are some big shifts in perception regarding our work.  Referrals are skeptical of our intentions, trust is questioned and our efforts to work collaboratively can be tested.  But I believe “doing the right thing” will win out every time.  We are “Ambassadors for Recovery”  charged with the responsibility  to help mentor and coach those new  to the field, teaching the ethical, transparent and collaborative approach to helping people get well. 

We are not about “heads in beds”,   or labeling our clients as insurance contracts. Our purpose is much greater.  We are the frontline of recovery for many of the families and individuals suffering.  Our role is vital and compelling. Never sell yourself short as being “just a marketer”. We are the connectors, the bridge to hope and opportunity and “we’ll do”!

Gina de Peralta Thorne, MS – Chief Marketing Officer with Harmony Foundation is a graduate from Florida State University with a degree in Health Education and Masters from University of West Florida in Health Education and Management. She has over two decades of experience working in the field of prevention, intervention, addiction treatment and recovery. Her background in health communications and health promotions has evolved in both the public and private sectors working in local, regional and national organizations, hospitals, and institutions of higher learning in Florida, New York, Ohio and Virginia. She has worked in marketing and business development for residential treatment programs in Virginia and Florida. A recent transplant to Colorado, Gina was Vice President of Marketing for Lakeview Health providing leadership and oversight to brand management, digital marketing communications, outreach support and alumni services. She is an industry leader speaking about Ethics, Recovery Oriented Systems of Care and Marketing and Business Development best practices. She is a member of the Treatment Professionals Alumni Services (TPAS) Board and an active member of the Addiction Treatment Marketing Organization (ATMO). Gina philosophically believes that change happens when others stretch across the divide and work together.

Harmony Receives $100K Grant for Local Addiction Needs

Harmony Foundation, a Colorado-based addiction treatment center, announced today that it has received a $100,000 Daniels Fund grant to to support new initiatives in long-term recovery services. These comprehensive efforts will serve to improve access to care with an additional location, providing a non-residential level of care, and exploring new aftercare approaches to meet individual needs.

Harmony Foundation will provide continuing support to alumni and families by creating more robust recovery services and engagement opportunities for those seeking long-term sustained recovery, including:

Opening a new location along the I-25 corridor for expanded aftercare services

Aftercare services are an effective contributor to success for individuals who have completed the primary residential program. Ultimately as these facilities are self-supporting they will provide full-service assessments and an Intensive Outpatient Program open to the greater community.

Providing telephonic and online recovery coaching

Harmony Foundation’s clinical case managers will use technology to help them more accurately monitor the recovery of alumni through telephonic and online recovery coaching. Harmony Foundation will construct a state-of-the-art facility to serve the large number of program alumni and their families who currently reside in this northern Colorado location where currently there are a dearth of resources. This provides discharging clients with accountability and support from a familiar Harmony professional on their early recovery journey.

Expanding chapter groups

Alumni chapter groups provide a regular place to reinforce the tools provided by Harmony Foundation for healthy long-term sobriety as well as continued education through guest speakers. The grant will help subsidize current chapter groups but also expand the number of chapter groups geographically.

“As a nonprofit we have the ability to put mission first, a critical advantage in addressing the disease of addiction because we focus on the disease from the patient perspective,” stated Jim Geckler, CEO of Harmony Foundation. “The Daniels Fund helps us work to continue that mission in both reach and breadth.”

About Harmony Foundation

Harmony Foundation is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction recovery program that serves in a collaborative and respectful treatment environment. Harmony promotes physical, emotional and spiritual healing, empowering our clients to embark upon the lifelong journey of recovery. Visit HarmonyFoundationInc.com to learn more.

About the Daniels Fund

The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through its grants program, scholarship program, and ethics initiative. Visit DanielsFund.org to learn more.

Harmony Foundation, Inc. Announces New Chief Executive Officer

Estes Park, CO – June 20, 2017 – Harmony Foundation, Inc. announced that James Geckler, Chief Operating Officer, has been selected by the Board of Directors to succeed Dot Dorman as the organization’s next chief executive officer, effective July 1, 2017.  Dorman and Geckler have worked side-by-side for over a year building a succession plan that would move Harmony Foundation to the next level.

Following thirty-two successful years with Harmony Foundation, nine most recently in her current role as CEO, Dorman made the personal decision to retire from the organization at the end of the fiscal year, allowing for a smooth and seamless leadership transition. She will remain involved as CEO Emerita through December 2017.

“Today, Harmony is a leader in the Colorado addiction treatment market with a strong foundation for continued growth in helping individuals recover from substance use disorders,” says Dorman.   With the introduction of new treatment programs into Colorado and the ever changing landscape of addiction treatment services, Jim is the right leader at the right time to grow and build on our success, enhancing the recovery experience for our clients, families, staff, alumni and donors.”

As CEO, Dot delivered significant results for Harmony Foundation with growth in programming and campus expansion.  The acquisition of Kingstone, the launch of a new state-of-the-art Health Center and Dining Pavilion, allowed for increases in clinical programming that would assist in medical detox, transitional living offering clients a amplified recovery experience.

Geckler has served the recovery community in a professional capacity for over 15 years, as former COO for A-I-R, one of the country’s premier intervention and family consulting groups to most recently as a senior leader at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.  Jim joined the Harmony Foundation team in February 2016 as Chief Operating Officer providing leadership and support to members of the Nursing, Admissions, Development, Dietary, Housekeeping and Maintenance teams.

Harmony’s commitment to a healthy succession plan enabled the Board to evaluate the key leader who can take the organization to the next level.  The Board unanimously agreed that Geckler is the perfect leader for this role.

     “We are pleased to have an internal leader with Jim’s experience, national presence and commitment to recovery to chart next steps for Harmony that will increase access to treatment for consumers, continue to build an organizational culture that values our employees and offer recovery support services to alumni.” said Patricia Nielson, Board President,  Harmony’s Foundation. “Jim has been a substantial asset to the organization over the last year, building staff leadership; introducing operational changes that helped us remain relevant positioning us to be a national leader of addiction treatment services.”  The Board is confident he will guard the philosophy of Harmony and its legacy while imbedding new opportunities that will carry the mission of our organization to the next level.”  The Dorman era at Harmony,   will be long remembered for program and campus expansion, consistent leadership and three decades of commitment to recovery in the Rockies.” 

Beginning July 1st, Geckler will work collaboratively with senior leadership and members of the Harmony team to execute the recently Board approved strategic plan. Efforts will focus on an increase in technology resources, advances to clinical programming including trauma informed care and mental health services and philanthropic giving to provide greater access to addiction treatment services for clients at Harmony.

“I’m honored to be given the opportunity to lead this organization with such a powerful legacy, honorable and ethical reputation and incredible talent – a combination that I believe sets us apart in this field,” Geckler said. “Our success will be based upon “always doing the right thing” for our clients and families. Building upon the foundation Dot and many others within Harmony have established over the years, we will be focused on continuing to be the leader in the addiction treatment industry not just regionally but nationally.”

Clinical Boundaries

Ann_Matino_Executive_DirectorWorking within the field of addiction treatment provides unique challenges to professionals with respect to keeping boundaries while providing compassionate care. When individuals working in treatment centers are also in recovery—and both staff and clients are involved in community groups and fellowship—lines can blur with the best of intentions. The opportunities for all staff forming more of a friendly relationship and less of a professional one are also increased in residential settings. One common issue is “over sharing.” Sharing one’s story is an important piece of recovery. When, however, does staff sharing details of their story become more about the staff member than about the client? How much personal information should clients know about their treatment providers?  Another issue can be the “physical comfort” aspect of fellowship. Many women in treatment have experienced sexual abuse and physical trauma and may also have deep rooted sex/love/relationship issues or addiction.  How do staff manage this for themselves, in community meetings and in the milieu?

Setting and keeping good boundaries requires practice, effort and professional collaboration—regardless of the role of the provider in the treatment setting. In addition to boundary issues specific to the substance use disorder treatment field, all staff should be aware of general boundary guidelines and principles of ethics set forth by behavioral health licensing entities—even if they themselves are not licensed or credentialed. One way to increase awareness of boundary issues is to have a forum to discuss case examples—perhaps in a staff meeting or before or after a designated training day. Specific training on this subject would also be very valuable as most staff want to do the right thing but need guidance in understanding boundary issues.

The Rose House is a 16-bed, gender-specific, dual-diagnosis treatment center in Boulder County, Colorado.  For nearly 10 years, our three-month-plus program has been helping women heal through evidence-based addiction, mental health, and trauma treatment.

The Rose House: Women get better here.

Ann Matino, LCSW
Executive Director, The Rose House

New Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

alcohol use disorder

This month we are talking about alcohol, because April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The annual occurrence involves a number of events taking place throughout the country, with the aim of increasing public awareness and understanding about the dangers of alcohol use. Alcohol Awareness Month is sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) – the leading advocacy organization in the world addressing alcoholism and drug dependence since 1942. This year’s Alcohol Awareness Month theme is: “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.”

Having an unhealthy relationship with alcohol during adolescence can lead to an alcohol use disorder as early as young adulthood. Parents who have open, honest conversations with their children drastically reduce the likelihood of their kids using drugs or alcohol. The more teenagers know about the dangers commonly associated with alcohol use, the greater the chance they will stay away from the insidious substance.

“Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people,” says Andrew Pucher, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCADD, “and parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.”

Unfortunately, many young adults are already living with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is why researchers have a huge incentive to develop effective treatments. Residential treatment centers give people struggling with alcohol the best shot at recovery, but there are times when medications are used to help prevent relapse, such as:

  • Acamprosate
  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram

While some people recovering from alcoholism respond well to the aforementioned medications, others have not been so fortunate. Researchers from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation may have found a new treatment for AUD, and the beta blocker pindolol has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Science Daily reports. The findings were published in Addiction Biology, the Journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction.

“Drugs currently used for AUDs (alcohol use disorders) — acamprosate, naltrexone and disulfiram — have limited success — so this is a ground-breaking development with enormous potential,” said Professor Bartlett who is based at the Translational Research Institute. “In an internationally-significant breakthrough, our study showed pindolol was able to reduce ethanol/alcohol consumption, particularly in relation to binge drinking, a key behaviour observed in human alcohol dependence.”