Though the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year for many, for alcoholics they can be the most perilous, according to Chapman Sledge, M.D., chief medical officer of Cumberland Heights treatment center. Because of the stress that comes with a hectic season and rituals that involve drinking, both the active and recovering alcoholic can encounter difficulties most people never think about. The holidays are a time when families, groups and companies come together to celebrate – and alcohol has become a seemingly indispensable part of the celebration.

“We toast the Thanksgiving turkey. We “break the ice” with a cocktail (or two or three) at the holiday open house. New Year’s Eve has even been dubbed “amateur night” because individuals who don’t partake the rest of the year will often drink to the new year,” Dr. Sledge says.

Attitudes toward alcohol are more permissive during the holidays, and it seems that everywhere we go it’s served not just in moderation but in abundance. Adding to the challenge, the holiday season continues to get longer – now extending from Thanksgiving through Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day, college bowl games, the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.
This combination of permissiveness, socializing and opportunity is especially daunting for active alcoholics because they are more easily exposed. Hiding their drinking problem from family, friends and co-workers becomes more difficult. Loss of control becomes more evident. The person who drinks too much and behaves inappropriately at the company Christmas party is more than just a caricature. The obnoxious family member or friend is more than just a stereotype. Many times, it’s a sad reality.
Many alcoholics try to make it through the holidays without help because they think they can “pull it together” once the season ends. In reality, the loss of control won’t end when the festivities are over. And waiting to address the problem only increases the risk of adverse consequences.

It’s not unusual to see the holidays end in an intervention, where family and friends step in to seek treatment for someone they love. That kind of encouragement and bold action can sometimes save the alcoholic’s life.

There is help for individuals and families whose holiday season is negatively impacted by the disease of addiction. Specialty care can bring about lasting recovery so the joy of the holidays can be fully experienced for years to come.

Visit http://www.cumberlandheights.org or call Cumberland Heights at 615-352-1757 for additional information. An in-depth discussion of at-risk drinking can be found at http://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.

Cumberland Heights is one of the Southeast’s oldest and largest alcohol and drug treatment facilities. Founded in Nashville in 1966, Cumberland Heights has treated more than 100,000 patients and has directly touched the lives of more than a quarter of a million family members of persons with addictive disorders. Patients come from 47 states and a number of foreign countries and they range from indigent and unemployed individuals, business people and government employees to nationally recognized personalities from the sports and entertainment industries.

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Save the date – Satuday Nov. 5, 2011 from 12:00 – 4:00. Patients, families, alumni, staff and guests are all invited.

Hot dogs, S’mores, snacks and great music on top of the hill near the Alumni Pavillion.

On Sunday, October 2nd, You are invited to attend a Blessing of the Animals. Our own Paul Pradat, will be dedicating a service to the blessing of Animals at 6:00pm, at our River Road Campus in the Auditorium of the Frist Family Life Center.

The History behind this event:

Saint Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone; 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men’s Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, and he lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis begged with the beggars at St. Peter’s. The experience moved him to live in poverty. Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following. His order was endorsed by Pope Innocent III in 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which was an enclosed order for women, as well as the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance. In 1219, he went to Egypt where crusaders were besieging Damietta, hoping to find martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the order. Once his organization was endorsed by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas manger scene. In 1224, he received the stigmata, making him the first person to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion. He died in 1226 while singing Psalm 141.

On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment and one of the two patrons of Italy (with Catherine of Siena), and it is customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October.

September is National Recover Month and in honoring that, we would like to recognize the following Cumberland Heights employees for their years of service and for giving themselves to the cause each and every day.

Jaime Garza, LADAC
Jaime, a counselor in the Extended Care Program, has been with CH for 3 years. “He has been a true gift to the Men’s program. Jaime has been willing to fill numerous roles quite often when circumstances necessitated a need and a quick resolution so that patient services would not suffer. Jaime has always been a “team” member in the truest and healthiest sense of that word.” – Paul Pradat, Chief Clinical Director.

Tammy Stonem LADAC, LPC, MHSP
Tammy, Director of Outpatient, has been with CH for 19 years. “Tammy has literally grown up professionally at CH. Her wide variety of experiences as an employee has served her well as she trains and mentors the next generation of staff. Tammy, through her training of others, is instrumental in assuming that the quality of care provided by staff is of the hightest order” – Paul Pradat, Chief Clinical Director

Genie Laurent, LADAC
Genie, Case Manager for the Women’s Program, has been with CH for 25 years. “Genie’s clinical experience has been a resource to the women’s program. She has a strong functional knowledge of addiction. Genie has a positive influce on the treatment team and across the CH campus. Patient care and their needs always comes first for Genie. I have never felt that she was judgemental of patients or staff” – Roberta Sewell, Women’s Center Program Director

Nancy Smith, LADAC
Nancy, First Step Women’s Counselor, has been with CH for 2 years. “Nancy joined the Women’s Program in 2011 and has brought new energy to the First Step program. She is a true advocate for the patients and their needs. Nancy has teamed with her Case Manager and Family Counselor to make certain the First Step patients get quality treatment and comprehensive continuing care plans. She is a valuable member of this treatment team” – Roberta Sewell, Women’s Center Program Director

Ruth Ann Burton, LADAC
Ruth Ann, Counselor in the Intensive Outpatient Program, has been with CH for 10 years. “I began working in the field of Addiction in 1980. I started in this field as an intern and was hired as a full time employee. During this period of time I have worked in several different programs. I have increased my certifications and at this point I’m credentialed as a LADAC Counselor and also have certification BCPC through American Psychotherapy Association as a Board Certified Professional Counselor. I have worked at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office as a Case Manager with persons who came to this program in lieu of jail.

Ayne-Wallace Nichols, LMSW
Ayne, Counselor in our Youth Program, has been with CH for 5 years. “Ayne is a true professional who brings an enthusiasm and sense of humor to work with her in the youth program every day. She has championed equine assisted therapy and Junigan sand tray therapy and comfortably relates the metaphors as they apply to practical application toward day to day 12 step recovery. Ayne likes a challence; she is flexible and meets the kids where they are. Anyne actively seeks professional development by stepping into a variety of roles at CH, through outside learning and supervision, program development and marketing. Ayne exemplifies the “Spirit of Cumberland Heights” ” – Paul Citro, Youth Program Director

Brent Davidson
Brent is a Case Manger for the Youth Department. “Brent is a committed advocate of the youth in our program and works to assure that each of our kids receive the optimum amount of opportunity for treatment. Brent also assists in Utilization Review for the Adult Programs. He has been in recovery for 28 years and has worked at Cumberland Heights for eleven years in Intake and Utilization Review. His innate desire to help each and every youth is what drives him to work tenaciously and tirelessly. It is important to Brent that our youth receive the information about addiction, recovery and 12 step support to ensure their success. Brent is someone whom the youth staff revere and the patients refer to as a “Twelve Step Guru” ” – Paul Citro, Youth Program Director

Kenny Heins, LADAC
Kenny, Counselor in the Traditional Adult Program, has been with CH for 11 years. “Kenny is a long tenured and awarded sustance abuse counselor respected throughout Tennessee. He is a legent in his knowledge about the history and program of AA. Kenny is masterful in his ability to help men understand the disease and teach them to use the 12 steps to radically change their lives. Kenny uses his own experiences and compassion for the suffering alcoholic/addict to be one of the finest counselors in the country. He offers humor with firmness to gain the respect and trust of his patients” – Will Radford, Traditional Adult Program Director

Keith Collier
Keith, First Step Family Conselor, has been with CH for 17 years. ” Keith has been a First Step staff member for years who has always stepped up to handle any task asked of him with great professionalism. Keith is very talented in the application of the Ropes Course and other experiential applications to the treatment of addiction. Keith works with the families of the First Step patients to teach them about addiction and how to heal along with the patients. Keith is one of the kindest and friendliest professionals in this field making him an asset to his coworkers and the population he serves” – Will Radford, Traditional Adult Program Director

Nearly a year ago, the benefits manager for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee canceled a contract with Cumberland Heights, one of the area’s oldest and largest inpatient drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

The upshot of that decision was that patients’ expensive stays at the 45-year-old facility, which sits on a 177-acre campus about 16 miles west of downtown Nashville, wouldn’t qualify for insurance payments.

Most people would be on their own to cover the costs of what generally amounts to a four-week inpatient treatment plan similar to how other nationally known programs such as the Betty Ford Center in California and Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota operate.

Cumberland Heights’ staff first went into shock, then denial, and finally its top brass – led by CEO Jim Moore – swung into action to try to save the place.

The insurance contract was lost, and there’d be no getting it back. In an era of health-care cost-control frenzy, the idea of treating addiction problems with a month or more of inpatient therapy looked frivolous to insurers.

The dollars-and-cents impact on Cumberland Heights was swift.

Moore and company expected to lose at least one-third of their revenues. Sixty-three jobs were cut. Marketing and sales efforts were increased to draw patients from a wider geographic area with deep enough wallets to pay full freight.

Glimmer of hope

The formula is beginning to work. Fast forward to today, and the good news is that the beginnings of a turnaround are visible at Cumberland Heights.

There has been a lot of adversity to tame. Consider these statistics:
After the insurance decision last July, the treatment center, which prides itself on putting patients first and painstakingly adhering to a classic 12-step approach to battling addiction, lost 40 percent of its patients. The hit to revenues wasn’t quite as severe, dropping 23 percent.

Moore, who started on the payroll at Cumberland Heights 33 years ago as a counselor, said there also was a nagging cultural hurdle to overcome.

With unemployment high, and others in the workforce fearful of job loss, not as many people with problems seem willing to seek treatment for fear of getting a black mark on their work record or raising too many questions in a supervisor’s mind.

Still, Moore and company fought for survival.

Billboards went up on the interstate highway system in Nashville pinpointing the cost to companies and the emotional toll that addiction problems can exact on families and the economy.

Marketing and outreach efforts were ramped up as Cumberland Heights contacted physicians and other psychological counselors in major cities outside Tennessee, seeking referrals of patients whom the center might help.

Contacts rekindled

Moore said referrals have always been the lifeblood of Cumberland Heights, but important contacts were rekindled in Baltimore; Chicago; Raleigh, N.C.; Atlanta; South Florida; and New York, among other locations.

“There’s actually been somewhat of a silver lining to all this,” Moore says. “It made us realize we have the ability to stick to our principles and refuse to compromise our quality of care.”

Cumberland Heights’ basic mantra is that the longer a person stays in treatment, the better the outcome and the greater the chances the person will return to health.

Moore says Cumberland Heights is considering increasing its advertising and marketing budget even more. And the strategies already in place appear to be paying dividends.

Revenues rose to an adjusted $4.62 million in January-March, up 3.6 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010. And that was achieved despite a drop of nearly 30 percent in inpatient admissions compared with the first quarter of 2010.

Helping Cumberland Heights cope is the fact that 10 percent more patients are being drawn from outside Tennessee and 17 percent more treatment days are self-pay accounts (the patient pays the full cost).

“Our turnaround is in place, and it’s gaining traction,” Moore says.

Randy McClain is business editor of The Tennessean. Reach him at ramcclain@tennessean.com or 615-259-8882.

When we think of heroin, most of us think of it as a seamy, urban drug, used by people who live under bridges, are chronically unemployed, and use by injection.

While Tennessee is certainly not alone in this trend, it is disturbing to realize that heroin is moving into areas of every community that we previously thought wholesome and affluent. Communities like Plano, Texas; Westchester, N.Y.; and Brentwood, Tenn., are not places you might associate with such a disgusting substance.

Heroin is experiencing epidemic growth in upper-middle class neighborhoods previously known more for soccer moms, private schools and white-collar lifestyles.

The reason behind this sudden shift is part accessibility, part economics and partly a change in the way the drug is presented.

In just about every home, there are “stashes” of pain-killing drugs like Percocet, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, and Darvocet. These are typically left over in modest quantities from a previous outpatient surgery or a tooth extraction.

Young people hear about these drugs and often take the leftovers from their parents’ medicine cabinet and experiment with them. “It’s not a big deal,” they reason. “These drugs are legal and the doctor prescribed them so they can’t be addictive.” Those who have the disease of addiction say the drugs make them feel normal for the first time in their lives.

The next thing they know, the legal and free supply has run out. They are hooked and looking for the next opportunity to get high. These pills aren’t cheap – $30-$80 a pill. That’s where the economic factor comes in. Today, the individuals and organizations in the business of peddling illegal drugs do what marketers typically do to generate trial in any business: They leverage trial by discounting or simply giving the product away, in effect “sampling” the drug.

Dangerous mixes with cold medications

Alarming is the fact that heroin is mixed with other substances even more common and seemingly even less harmless than leftover painkillers – substances nowhere near as seamy-sounding as heroin. The old image of heroin is cleaned up and renamed.
Recently, I moved to Nashville from the suburbs of Dallas, where authorities have, for the past three to five years, been battling the popularity among teens of a highly addictive substance known as “Cheese.”

Cheese is a cheap and highly addictive recreational drug made with very common and easy to get over-the-counter cold medications (Benadryl) and heroin. With products so easy to get, the experience starts harmlessly in the mind of the young person. It is usually smoked or snorted early on with the belief that “if I don’t inject, I am not an addict.” The progression to addiction and co-addiction is swift and can easily ruin a life and a lifetime of accomplishment for those affected.

Awareness of the problem is the first step toward solving it. Recognizing there is help for addiction, even specialized help for adolescents and their families, is critical. Cumberland Heights is eager to be a resource for families. If you want more information, visit our website or call us at 615-352-1757.

Terrence L. Alley, M.D., FASAM, is medical director of the Healthcare Professional Program at Cumberland Heights in Nashville, one of the oldest and most respected alcohol and drug treatment facilities in the Southeast.

Prescription Drug Addiction on Nashville News Channel 5.

Duke Kennedy was recognized at the 2010 National Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon as the “Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year” for the 13 years of volunteer service he has given Cumberland Heights.   He helps in the development department to promote the Patient Assistance Fund for which he has raised over a million dollars.   We are really proud of Duke and grateful for his efforts. Pictured left to right: Rob Kennedy, Rob Crichton, Duke Kennedy. Photo by Andrea Wall Photography.  

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