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Published March 23, 2013, 11:30 PM

Center’s drug treatment model unique in region

Leaders looking for increased funding to expand facility, staff
FARGO – After years of experimenting with different drugs – marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol – Tim tried opiate painkillers, and he was hooked.

By: Charly Haley, INFORUM

FARGO – After years of experimenting with different drugs – marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol – Tim tried opiate painkillers, and he was hooked.

“That’s what grabbed a hold of me,” said the 36-year-old from Devils Lake. “It’s taken everything that I’ve owned, everything that I’ve worked hard for. It’s taken my self-esteem, my self-worth, my confidence. It’s taken basically everything from me.

“That’s why this place saved my life,” he said, sitting in the Robinson Recovery Center office at 4215 9th Ave. S. in Fargo.

The Robinson center, which is part of the ShareHouse Inc. drug treatment facilities in Fargo, focuses on education and family involvement. As long as patients are moving toward recovery, they can stay as long as needed.

It’s unique in the region because of its drug treatment model. Because of that, center leaders are looking for increased funding to expand the facility and staff.

A $296,000 funding increase for the Robinson center is included in the state Department of Human Services budget being considered in the Legislature, said state Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City.

The center is named after Robinson, who sponsored a bill passed by the 2005 Legislature that allocated funding to establish the center.

If the $296,000 increase is approved this year, it would pay for five more beds for women and a psychiatric nurse for mentally unstable patients, Robinson said Friday.

The Robinson Recovery Center now has 10 beds for women and 30 beds for men, because historically there was a higher need for men’s rehabilitation, he said.

The budget increase would also go toward covering the center’s projected budget deficit.

Robinson said that without the increased funding, the facility would experience a $200,000 to $250,000 shortfall during the 2013-15 biennium. It had a deficit of $85,000 in 2012.

Legislative committees are expected to discuss the Human Services budget this week.

Treatment strategies

Treatment at Robinson focused on methamphetamine addiction when it opened in 2006. Treatment expanded to other drug addictions and alcoholism in 2009.

Robinson receives funding from the state, grants and ShareHouse Inc., which makes its treatment free to patients without insurance.

The required minimum stay at Robinson is four months, and the average patient’s stay is seven months, said Bill Sparke, director of the Robinson center. The longest time a patient has stayed was a little more than a year, he said.

Robinson uses a variation of “the Matrix model,” which was developed at the Matrix Institute on Addictions in southern California.

The Matrix model is “very heavy on education” and “heavy on family involvement,” Sparke said. Robinson adapted this outpatient model for its residential program.

“I don’t know of any other place in the country that uses the Matrix model residentially,” Sparke said.

While in treatment, patients participate in group counseling sessions for issues such as mental health awareness, grief, anger, stress and relationship management, Sparke said.

Robinson gradually transitions its patients from the center by helping them find employment and stable housing, and putting them on transition status, which means they live at Robinson part time. For most people, transition status lasts between two and three weeks, Sparke said.

After they transition, Robinson patients go through a graduation ceremony and can participate in a continuous care group directed by a counselor.

The center suggests patients stay in the care group for at least eight weeks, but there’s no mandatory stopping point. Sparke said a couple of people have participated in continuous care for more than a year.

Don Wright, assistant director of mental health and substance abuse with the North Dakota Department of Human Services, said there are more than 80 treatment centers in the state, including private providers and North Dakota’s eight human service centers.

He said most providers don’t offer residential treatment like the Robinson center.

Human service centers, including Southeast Human Service Center in Fargo, do offer residential treatment, as well as outpatient programs.

“The two treatments (Robinson and Human Services) will be similar, but Robinson will likely keep them there longer,” Wright said.

The patients

Robinson center patients must be North Dakota residents who are chemically dependent and able to stay long term, Sparke said.

People can apply for treatment, but most patients are referred from local hospitals, the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown or state Human Service Centers.

Robinson also frequently gets referrals from North Dakota Parole and Probation services, when a judge makes successful completion of treatment a condition of parole or probation, Sparke said. Robinson does not accept sex offenders or people with a history of violent crimes.

Since the Robinson Recovery Center opened its doors in 2006, it has had 552 unique admissions, Sparke said. “About 100 people have gone through a second time, and about 40 percent of admissions successfully complete.”

Robinson patients are considered successful when they leave the center with a source of income and stable housing, he said.

Tim, the patient, said he knows he still has a long way to go in treatment.

“But so far, in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve learned a lot of things on how to identify my problems and work past them,” he said.

He particularly wants to get better so he can see his 3-year-old son again, who still lives in Devils Lake with his mother.

“I’ve found contentment,” Tim said. “I’ve found a better way to live.”

Robinson Recovery Center

Robinson Recovery Center started in 2006 after State Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City, whom the center is named after, sponsored a Senate bill in the 2005 legislative session.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311