Kids & Drugs & Rock & Roll

At the Crossroads Program in Chesterfield, teen sobriety is supposed to be fun. It's also expensive -- and not everyone's buying.


At the end of the intensive treatment program, Beth Roussel flew to Phoenix for a "significant other" meeting with her daughter, an emotional encounter during which Moreland copped to the extent of her past drug use. "It was everything you ever wanted to hear," Roussel says. "Everybody hugs. Then they have other kids come out and say how great your kid is."

In retrospect, Moreland isn't impressed with the Phoenix regimen. "A lot of it is them telling you how messed up you are," she recounts. "One time I was freaking out and they were telling me how other people see you better than you see yourself. They're, like, 'Here, do this,'" she says, placing a splayed palm over her face. "'How many fingers do you see?' And I'm, like, 'I don't know. I see two.' And they're, like, 'I see five.'"

The eye of the storm: Some say Crossroads owner 
Frank Szachta is a godsend; others say he's made a 
deal with the devil.
Anthony Camera
The eye of the storm: Some say Crossroads owner Frank Szachta is a godsend; others say he's made a deal with the devil.
Within weeks of entering the program, Aimee 
Moreland had moved in with another Crossroads 
family.
Becca Young
Within weeks of entering the program, Aimee Moreland had moved in with another Crossroads family.

When Moreland returned to St. Louis, she resumed outpatient treatment at Crossroads. She was talkative and loving for about two weeks, Roussel says, but soon it was back to the old routine: She'd see her daughter only on Fridays, when she'd turn up at the parents' meeting to ask for her weekly allotment of money and cigarettes. Occasionally they'd make plans to meet for dinner, but Moreland either wouldn't show up or would appear with two or three Crossroads kids in tow.

"I felt like she was going in the other direction," Roussel says. "I'd talk to her counselor, telling them what she'd done or that she wasn't returning my calls. All of a sudden I'd get a phone call and everything would be really fine for one night."

Having invested about $20,000 in her daughter's recovery, Roussel was beginning to doubt she'd ever see lasting results. "She'd gone through outpatient, she'd gone [to Arizona], she's gone through outpatient again -- let's start talking about going back to school or getting a job," Roussel says. "Your life cannot be just 'hanging out.' They told me she wasn't ready for that. They told me she needed more time sober, she needed to get stronger."

When Roussel's aunt died this past June, matters came to a head. "The counselors called me and said they didn't think Aimee should come [to the funeral]," says Roussel. "I said, 'No, that is not acceptable.' [Then] they were trying to bargain with me on how much time she would have to come for. They were, like, 'Well, you know if she goes back over there into such an emotional situation, that's going to make her want to use.' I said, 'That's bullshit. After all of the money and time she's spent in treatment -- if she can't even come to be with her family during a funeral, then apparently what you've taught her isn't shit.' But they just kept calling me, telling me I was making a wrong decision."

Moreland attended the funeral but left early to get to a Crossroads meeting. "I didn't think they were putting her in a direction to deal with everyday life," Roussel says. "Because you know what? In everyday life you might run into somebody you knew. You might pass that place in the park where you got high. Those things happen; you have to learn to deal with it. But they don't teach you that."

Then Roussel heard about www.ontheemmis.com, the Web site created by former ICECAP counselors. "It was like light bulbs going on in my head," she says. "There were so many people who had been in that program. They all had the same experiences. It was overwhelming."

Moreland left Crossroads, never to return. She says she hasn't spoken with a single Crossroads friend or counselor since dropping out. "When I stopped going to meetings, nobody called me from the group. No one," she says.


In his spacious office in Chesterfield, Frank Szachta has hung a pole between two windows that overlook a parking lot. It's ten feet long, with each foot marked off in black marker. "That's the ten-foot pole that I won't touch things with," Szachta explains. "Some of those situations, we have to go: 'I'm not touching that with a ten-foot pole.'"

The pole seems perfect for the controversy in which Szachta has found himself.

"It's a serious disease we deal with," he says, "and I think some of that" -- meaning the recriminations -- "is at least in part due to the disease. A symptom of denial is not wanting to take ownership. So sometimes people won't make it, or if they go back to using drugs and alcohol they won't say, 'I chose to go back to using drugs and alcohol.'

"They'll say the treatment center was bad, or this was bad, or that was bad. One of the things I always wrestle with is: Do we do enough, or do we do too much? Have there been those situations that somebody did not handle well? Probably," he concedes. "I'm concerned about it -- I'm concerned about all of it."

Szachta says his detractors have prompted him to reassess his program -- and to initiate some changes. Last month Szachta created a Web site, www.thecrossroadsprogram.com, and ushered in a less-intense outpatient program that meets three days a week and after school. He says he plans to scale back the program from two and a half years to 18 to 24 months. And he now requires that intensive outpatient clients attend at least one support group outside the program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. And he has banned smoking inside the Chesterfield facility.

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