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Features
Professionals Programs Offer Steady Clientele
July 2007

It’s a Market Where Clients Must Go to Treatment, or Face Losing Their Professional Licenses

Palmetto Addiction Recovery CenterBack in the early 1990s, Dr. Douglas Cook was working as medical director of an addiction treatment program at Woodland Hills Hospital in Louisiana. And he was not at all happy with what was happening there.

“It was immensely disheartening,” says Dr. Cook. “The program was what I call a CPA type program, run strictly on the basis of how little could be spent on care and still have what they offered be called treatment.”

Dr. Cook warned hospital management that the program would fail if it kept operating on that basis, and that’s exactly what eventually happened, the program went of business.

But the experience at Woodland Hills Hospital was critical for Dr. Cook in that it sharpened his resolve to one day offer treatment where treatment considerations always came first, over and above financial considerations. And it was thus that, not too long afterward, Dr. Cook opened Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center near Monroe, LA. After over fifteen years in operation, the center is thriving, operating at capacity, with a major capital expansion under way that will bring the bed count to over 90 and drive annual revenues past $7 million. “I believe that quality is closely tied with the ability of any program to achieve longterm financial success,” says Dr. Cook. And while Palmetto has indeed achieved financial success, it was not always apparent that it would get to where it is today. When Dr. Cook launched Palmetto, it was during the depths of the managed care induced depression that struck the treatment industry during the early 1990s, a very difficult time in which to launch a new program.

But Dr. Cook decided early on to concentrate on what was then, and still is today to some extent, an underserved niche in the addictions market, the part of the market that serves professionals. The decision was a smart one for Dr Cook on a number of levels. First off, Dr. Cook had served on the state and regional bodies that oversaw the treatment of impaired physicians. So Dr. Cook had the contacts that could help get the local referrals of doctors in need of assistance. But apart from the local contact base, the impaired professionals market was a good choice generally in tough market.

Dr. Jay Weiss, Palmetto's Medical DirectorDr. Jay Weiss, Palmetto’s medical director, explains why: “The professional organizations hold their impaired members’ feet to the fire when it comes to going to treatment.

A professional with an addictive problem has a lot to lose, essentially his or her livelihood, if they do not comply with treatment recommendations. And while the motivation of the client may not be pure under these circumstances, the marketing job is made easier by the threat, and then a quality program turns any unwilling professional into one who eventually seeks out recovery.” And Palmetto has delivered on the quality, eventually achieving a national reputation among the networks of impaired professionals bodies accross the country, not just with physicians, but with lawyers, judges, nurses, pilots and other groups.

Thus Palmetto has joined the ranks of the relatively few centers, perhaps about a half dozen or so, with professionals programs that have a national referral base, a list that includes other leading players like Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta and COPAC outside of Jackson, MS. And stay lengths are typically much longer with impaired professionals, lasting usually at least three months, but sometimes much longer than that, according to Dr. Weiss. “The high success rates of professionals programs, and they are typically much higher than others, is related to the more lengthy treatment stays,” says Dr. Cook. JW

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