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South Florida's Watershed Stays In Touch
December 2008

An Industry Ace Marketer, Alumni Program Revamping Gets Big Time Results

WatershedA major and highly key driver of the enormous success of South Florida's Watershed Treatment Programs has been its highvolume call center, Largely the brainchild and creation of now CEO Chris Crosby, the center is populated largely by employees culled from Delray Beach's deep pool of recovering alcoholics and addicts, who work in a high energy environment finding help for people answering tens of thousands of calls every month. So successful has the call center been at delivering census that the company's board has seemed content to rely almost solely on it as a marketing channel. But Crosby, whose industry experience spans decades, has seen quick, sudden often hard to explain, drying up of channels. Thus, he has counseled the board to find ways to diversify the sources of the center's client flow, a recent result of which has been a major alumni relations push.

Backed up by a couple of key Watershed empolyees, Jacquelyn Sherry and Rebecca Balko, Crosby has so far pumped about $300K into the new alumni program, which was put in place about a year ago and now employs eight people.

Of course, the Watershed is far from the only treament center to plumb its alumni network to help meet census. But highly developed alumni programs are relatively rare among the for-profits. The nonprofits, to a greater lesser extent, have traditionally been the ones to tap former clientele to help build census, as well as, of course, charitable giving. It is the prestige non-profits, players like Hazelden, Caron and Betty Ford, that are known for big alumni networks, with some of these centers getting up a third of their census, sometimes more, from the big alumni networks built up over the years.

WatershedWith over 200 beds at its campuses in South Florida and Texas, Watershed's results from its new alumni push, after almost a year in operation, is around 30-40 new clients. "We think that's outstanding,"says Crosby, adding that the new alumni program also allows the Watershed another measure to gauge the success of its treatment. “When you are comumicating with an alumni on a regular basis, you know that former client is staying clean," he says. "We also realized we could engage our alumni in more proactive ways." The big expansion of the alumni effort has been, at its heart and by its very nature, essentially a big investment in communications infrastructure and personnel. This infrastructure is now allowing Watershed to communicate with 1,300 former clients on a regular basis, a number that Crosby expects to grow exponentially now that the bugs have fully been worked out of the new systerm by which communication are maintained with Watershed alumni.

“We are now ready to take it to the next level by asking a select group of our alumni to act as recovery coaches to rookie alum walking out the door,” says Crosby, adding that these new recovery coach alumni will be called “Buddies” and he expects eventually to have 400 of them scattered around the nation. With the “Buddies,” the Watershed will have a hugely powerful network for recovery, one that Crosby fully expects could deliver the same one-third of census that alumni often deliver at the prestige non-profits, while also boosting outcomes.

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