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Working in Recovery: Running residential programs

Comprehensive treatment with wraparound medical, educational, vocational, and housing supports
By Justin Mitchell, Vice President & Director of Adult Residential Services

From our humble beginningsof 17 individuals coming together to form a community focused on living drug free, Odyssey House has developed into a multi-service entity providing a safe haven for the neediest New Yorkers. From the newborn child to the elderly man or woman, Odyssey House is equipped to meet the specific needs of a wide range of clientele struggling with substance use disorders, mental illness and homelessness.
Today’s Odyssey House has adopted an increased focus on evidence-based services, including parenting and trauma interventions; licensed early educational services such as Early Head Start; adult basic education; on-site medical and dental clinics; and an ever-expanding supportive housing portfolio. 
I joined Odyssey House in 2002 as a rehabilitation counselor with the goal of assisting clients in developing the skills necessary to reintegrate into their community and become productive members of society. Over the past 10 years I have had the chance to work in various positions and departments within Odyssey House, providing me with a unique opportunity to affect change on a client, a staff, and an organizational level.

Today, I am responsible for the residential treatment programs that are core to Odyssey House’s 46 year history. It is my job to ensure that the 500 adults and children we serve every day receive the best quality treatment; maintain compliance with various city, state and federal regulations; and develop methods to enhance our treatment programs to meet the changing needs of our clientele. 

During my years at Odyssey House, I have learned that the clients most successful at staying clean are the ones who are most committed to the treatment process. Odyssey House, at its foundation, remains a self-help program that encourages individuals to maximize their time in treatment to address a wide range of social, physical and spiritual needs. I expect, and encourage, clients to take an active role in their recovery, creating individualized treatment goals that include abstinence from drugs and alcohol, educational and vocational milestones, employment, financial self-sufficiency, and independent housing.  
But my job at Odyssey House is not merely an administrative one. I have a central belief that our role as models for right living can have the greatest impact on clients. As staff we are here to inspire hope in our clients: hope that by making a commitment to honest reflection and meaningful change, one can regain control and redirect the path of their lives. By demonstrating patience, positive communication skills, a strong work ethic, and genuine care and concern, we provide an example of how to be good family members, parents and citizens. Every day, we demonstrate how to give back to our community. 
In treatment, every day provides a new opportunity to be successful. As we continue to think about how long-term residential treatment fits into a changing health care environment, it is important to remember that for our clients, success may come slowly and can take many forms. For our young adults it may be achieving their GEDs; for clients struggling with mental illness it can mean the independence of community-based housing; for our mothers it can mean family reunification; and for our elderly it can be gaining a sense of integrity as they recover from a lifelong addiction.  

Working in Recovery is an occasional series of guest blog posts by Odyssey House clinical, administrative, and research experts.

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