|Nothing Halfway About Florida House
Intent on Promoting Longer Term Care at Affordable Rates, A Unique Recovery Campus
Like so many treatment entrepreneurs in recovery, Sherief Abu- Moustafa has come to the realization, post recovery, that any success he may have had, pre-recovery, came pretty much in spite of himself, rather than because of himself. “I know now that God was doing for me,” Sherief says, adding that in the 1990s he had a strong entrepreneurial bent. A well paid, highly trained psychiatric nurse, Sherief says that on the side he made millions speculating in Boston real estate.
Fast forward several years, and Sherief, in recovery and married with a new life in South Florida, has partnered with investors to relaunch a well known halfway house, Florida House, into an ambitious experiment in affordable long-term addiction care, with a continuum that encompasses primary treatment all the way through lightly structured sober living.
All told, it’s an operation with 200 plus beds, backed, according to Sherief, by a $10 million investment that has transformed a group of downtown Deerfield Beach properties into what could turn out to be one of the most vibrant recovery campuses in the nation.
As Sherief did some touching up on the three acre campus – blacktop, landscaping, signage – he was justifiably proud: of what began as, frankly, a low rent halfway house. “We now have a fully integrated recovery campus, with a deep continuum of care from primary all the way through to threequarter way housing that is off campus and begins reintegration into society for the client.” There are few properties like Florida House in the Florida market, or, indeed in any of the top regions where private treatment has a big presence.
Sherief has painstakingly assembled three acres downtown in a South Florida sea side municipality, a major feat because of the difficulty of NIMBY opposition to treatment centers and sober living operations. And it’s large size creates uniqueness in and of itself for The Florida House.
But it is Sherief’s efforts to attract the outside recovery community into the Florida House, through JoJo’s Cafe restaurant and The Room, that, in many ways, sets the whole thing apart and creates what Sherief refers to as the “Florida House Experience.” Open just a couple of months, and set at streetside, JoJo’s Cafe is a “fully functioning restaurant where our clients eat, but that is also open to the public,” says Sherief, adding that, already, the restaurant is writing about 75 tickets a day from walk-ins. The Room is a quasi AA club in which a full panoply of daily meetings are held in a highly controlled environment in order to protect the client while they are in treatment.
Many therapeutic communities attempt to create strong links to the outside recovery community, but few are able to offer any thing beyond perhaps an AA meeting or two or AA program volunteers doing institution duty.
The importance of JoJo’s and The Room to Sherief’s vision of therapeutic effectiveness for Florida House – as well as being key attractions from a consumer marketing standpoint – is hard to underestimate. “These two elements – a street front, full fledged restaurant, JoJo’s, and The Room, AA meetings that are becoming a nexus of the recovery community in South Florida – are among the major underpinnings of what makes our program unique,” says Sherief. “Both these, especially The Room, provide strong avenues and examples of healthy societal reintegration and, from a therapeutic standpoint, offer outstanding and abundant socialization skill development opportunities.”
While there is little doubt that the recovery campus Sherief has developed presents an opportunity for him to transform Florida House into a nationally known treatment provider – and such features, properly marketed, could be a magnet on a directto- consumer level – Sherief knows he must deliver a consistantly high quality treatment product in order to survive long term. In other words, he must overcome the… “but they’re just a halfway house” reaction, the most common, whenever Florida House is mentioned.
Something that usually puts all quality mutterings by jealous competitors to rest is accreditation, which only a few centers pursue because of the cost of acquiring and maintaining it. That Sherief is serious about joining the pantheon of nationally known, high quality addiction treatment enterprises is evident by his decision to pursue a CARF accreditation. “We are on track to get our CARF certification by early summer,” he says. From, a program standpoint, Florida House is part of a growing number of centers who are pricing treatment to encourage longer stay lengths and, thus, begin to more fully realize on a chronic disease model of care.
A key part of the quality equation for Sherief, and every other industry CEO for that matter, is staffing. He admits it might be tougher for a former sober house to attract high quality talent if it weren’t for a steady stream of top counseling talent that, for one reason or another, recently become available from nearby Caron Renaissance. Renaissance founder Sid Goodman, a brilliant practicing theoretician, only hires top counselors, many of which are now at the Florida House.