By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Brett Koshkin
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Riverfront Times
By Danny Wicentowski
By Pete Kotz
Though Crossroads' intensive outpatient program generally lasts six weeks, there's no set time limit. Discharge is based on progress, and many clients stay in treatment longer. The price tag is high by local standards -- a six-week intensive treatment at Booneville Valley Hope costs $2,500, while two weeks at Highland Behavioral Health runs about the same -- but insurance occasionally picks up part of the tab. (Representatives from other treatment centers say their programs' costs are routinely covered by insurance.)
Parents who have enrolled a kid in Crossroads' intensive outpatient treatment report a rapid and remarkable turnaround in behavior: Teens go from fighting with their parents on a regular basis to frequently reminding them that they love them.
"After his initial weekend [at Crossroads], my son came to me and he said, 'Mom, I've made a commitment to being sober,'" recounts Jennifer Philippe, whose son entered the program at age thirteen in October of 2003. "It was a complete turnaround: 'I love you, Mom' -- all of that. Of course, I cried like a baby."
Philippe, a pleasant, zaftig woman who wears her auburn hair pulled dramatically back from her face, says that after months of having other counselors throw up their hands in despair, she felt she finally had her son back. Before entering the program, the teen was busted for stealing a bike. He threw tantrums and punched holes in her walls. Though she'd long suspected he was using drugs, she had no proof. But where other counselors had foundered on her son's evasions and dissembling, Crossroads counselors got him to open up.
"We'd meet separately with the counselors, and then they'd say: 'Oh my God, your son is far gone. You need to get him in here now,'" Philippe recalls. "Soon he was asking when he was going to go to outpatient."
So impressed was Philippe with her son's progress that she scaled back his schooling to three hours a day so he could attend intensive outpatient treatment. To cover the costs, she borrowed money from her father. What she didn't know was that the improved behavior was due to the "Parent Game."
"The Parent Game is: You've got to learn what parents want to hear. Parents won't care if you stay out till three o'clock in the morning if your room's clean, so clean your room," says former counselor Van Pelt. "All of a sudden their kid is starting to act better. It becomes pretty easy to get [parents] to stroke a $7,000 check."
Former Crossroads parent Jack Bader begs to differ. "We never spent a dime," counters Bader, whose teen "dabbled" in marijuana and alcohol before attending Crossroads meetings all through high school. "What the program offers a lot of kids is community. They see something there that they like: They're all smoking cigarettes. They're all staying out late. They're all roughhousing, having a good time, and it's fun. However, to stay in that fun program, they have to work a [twelve step] program. They've got to get honest with their parents."
Szachta uses two acronyms to describe the Parent Game: P.I.S.S. and C.R.A.P. (Properly Interpreting Social Situations and Communication Resolves All Problems). "I've heard them talk about that in a jaded kind of cynical way, but it's not a conspiracy to get you to b.s. your parents," he says. "It's really a way to understand where [your parents] are at, and, 'How can I communicate with them and have a better relationship with them?'"
The intensive outpatient program for school-age kids meets weekdays from one o'clock until five -- an impossible conflict with regular school hours. Jennifer Philippe says she was ultimately persuaded to place her son in an alternative school with reduced hours, an experience echoed by other Crossroads parents.
While many drug counselors say withdrawing from school for a short period can be beneficial, they're skeptical about the practice. "I've made that recommendation myself, but it's usually kids that are in college," says Dr. James Mulligan, medical director for the Seabrook House, a drug-recovery center in New Jersey. "They come in for three or four weeks, and they want to get back out so they can finish their semester. I think they should go to school. Taking them out doesn't make any sense to me."
Says Szachta: "People say we're anti-school. It's not true. We do care about school, and we do push kids on school. Is it always perfect? Is it always on time? Is it always everything you would want for your kid to be a high achiever? Well, no. But there's only so much you can make somebody do."
Philippe didn't like having to scale back on schooling. Nor did she like the smoking and the late hours. But Crossroads had succeeded where she had failed, and she was convinced the counselors knew more about her son than she did: "It got to the point where I was questioning everything I'd been doing as a parent. I almost felt like I needed to ask the counselors what I should do about everything."