SUMMARY: In this edition of “It’s Just Coffee”, hosts Phillip Crum and Kathleen Mills talk with Psychotherapist and social worker Ron Nevelow about the new Second Chance Texas intervention for adolescent drug users offered through Phoenix House in Dallas.
Episode #10 |Psychotherapist Ron Nevelow talks with Kathleen Mills about adolescent drug intervention
Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
PHILLIP CRUM: It’s time once again for another edition of Kathleen Mills’ “It’s Just Coffee”. That would be Kathleen over there. How are you this morning, Kathleen?
KATHLEEN MILLS: I’m fine.
PHILLIP CRUM: Do you want to tell everyone what’s got you so tickled?
KATHLEEN MILLS: I can’t wait to interview our guest because he totally….
PHILLIP CRUM: He rocks.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Good morning, Phillip. How are you?
PHILLIP CRUM: I’m fine.
KATHLEEN MILLS: You have something to brag about.
PHILLIP CRUM: We do, actually. We’ve been in this facility here for about seven months now and finally got around to doing an open house, which is why more work than it ought to be.
KATHLEEN MILLS: There you go. It was fun.
PHILLIP CRUM: It was, and we actually had a pretty good crowd. We were hoping for about 150 people, but we only had about 62 registrations, which made me fearful but there were a lot of people that showed up who didn’t bother to register; we ended up with about 75 people. We may do it once a year, I don’t know. It’ll be easier next year.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Well, congratulations. It was something to be proud of.
PHILLIP CRUM: By the way, I am Phillip Crum, the content marketing coach, and you can find me at contentmarketingcoach.us. Now, tell me about Lifetree Counseling and what you do, please.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Well, I do a lot. Lifetree Counseling Center is an outpatient mental health counseling group center. We’re an outpatient treatment – well, we’re not a treatment – we’re just a counseling center group and we’re open Monday through Saturday and we’ve got a great group of people.
RON NEVELOW: You work with adults, also.
KATHLEEN MILLS: We’ve been around for 22 years. July 1st is our birthday and we see lots of clients through employee assistance programs, insurance companies, and self-pay.
RON NEVELOW: And they’re a good practice. There are so many people out there. This is one of the places I feel comfortable sending people to.
PHILLIP CRUM: So who do we have in the room here?
KATHLEEN MILLS: We have Ron Nevelow. How long have we known each other? Not very long.
RON NEVELOW: Not very long but it seems like forever, it seems like.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Ron, introduce yourself to our listeners. Tell me about you.
RON NEVELOW: Tell you about me. My name is Ron Nevelow. I’m a clinical social worker. I’m a native Dallasite. I’ve been in the mental health field for over two decades now. I have spent 18 ½ years of those 20-plus years working in high schools. Eight-and-a-half years I spent working at Allen High School, ten years I spent working at Greenhill, over in Addison. I’ve also been in private practice for over a decade, and I am now the new program director at a brand-new innovative program out of Phoenix House called Second Chance Texas.
KATHLEEN MILLS: That’s a lot.
RON NEVELOW: That’s just the professional side of me. I’m not talking about all the personal stuff I can throw in.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Tell me a little bit about your clinical background. Are you licensed professional counselor, social worker?
RON NEVELOW: I’m a licensed clinical social worker.
KATHLEEN MILLS: You are at Phoenix House. Can you tell me a little bit about what the Phoenix House is?
RON NEVELOW: Phoenix House is the largest provider of substance abuse treatment programs in the nation. It is a non-profit organization. They’re all around the country, based out of New York. They came to Texas in 1995. We have locations in Dallas, Austin, and Houston. In Dallas area, we have a residential treatment program at what we call our Fineberg Academy, which is for adolescents, both male and female. We have outpatient services at that location for adolescents and adults. And then we have a treatment facility in Wilmer, Texas outside of Dallas, which is at the Judge Creuzot Treatment facility, which is for adults that have been incarcerated, that are ordered in for treatment. So it’s a drug treatment facility for people that are incarcerated.
KATHLEEN MILLS: So it takes place while they’re incarcerated?
RON NEVELOW: They are moved to the Wilmer facility and expected to stay on that campus. They’re not locked up in that campus, but they are arrested if they leave that campus because they’re ordered in for drug treatment. But I have nothing to do with that program, but that is something that we provide. And I’ve seen it out there and it’s a pretty good program.
KATHLEEN MILLS: When I visited you at the Phoenix House, you’re doing the campus…
RON NEVELOW: That was Fineberg Academy that you were at.
KATHLEEN MILLS: And that’s where you are.
RON NEVELOW: That’s where I office out of currently, but as a regional employee, once our regional office expands, which we plan to do in another three or four months, I’ll probably be moved out of that location.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Do you know where you guys are going to set up shop?
RON NEVELOW: Probably somewhere near Fineberg Academy, and Fineberg is right around Market Center, that area of town.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Downtown.
RON NEVELOW: Just outside of downtown.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Tell me about the program that you’re spearheading.
RON NEVELOW: Second Chance Texas is the name of it. It’s based on the Second Chance curriculum and program curriculum that was developed and is still running in Arlington. Some years back, in Arlington, Virginia, they developed this program and curriculum to address a substance abuse problem with their teens where teen substance use was just getting out of hand. What they saw was that they had plenty of prevention programming in the area, which is talking to kids about not using in the first place before they start to use. And then they had plenty of treatment programs there – Phoenix House was one of the programs there. But what they didn’t have was the in-between – intervention programming. The intervention program is when a kid starts to use, but before it gets out of control, they’re trying to get them to stop using or curtail their use, preferably to stop using so it never gets out of hand. They developed this curriculum there which was incredibly effective. For court referrals, they had a 9.3 recidivism rate, which for juveniles, is unheard of. They had a 92% completion rate. The school district got behind them and helped fund them, and in addition, the county did for a while. Everything they were hearing from the parents, from the kids, from the referral sources was all very positive. What Phoenix House decided to do was, “Why are we keeping this here? Let’s spread this. We have a national network. Let’s look around where else we can look.” When they looked to Dallas, they found someone on the board at Phoenix House that was willing to get behind it and fund it initially, and then they looked at the situation in Dallas, since it’s very similar to Virginia. We have a lot of prevention programming, we have a lot of treatment programs, but we’re limited in intervention programming. While there is intervention programming, nothing like what this program is about. This is really just a different program.
KATHLEEN MILLS: You’re really very excited about this.
RON NEVELOW: I’m very excited. I love startup programs. I have a history of starting up programs from scratch and when I get to see their success, when I walk away from them, or leave them behind and see them continuing, it’s like you’re leaving a legacy behind that’s making a difference. I’m a Dallasite, so I want the place to be a better place.
KATHLEEN MILLS: So you basically started this up here from the ground up.
RON NEVELOW: Yeah.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Where are you now with what’s happening here in Dallas?
RON NEVELOW: Where we’re at now, and I actually wasn’t the very first program director, but I got in so early on, it almost seems like I started this thing. We developed an advisory council because one of the things with this program is that you get buy-in from the leadership of that city. We’ve had representatives on the council that include people from the mayor’s office, Dallas police, Dallas fire and rescue, Children’s Medical Center, UT-Southwestern, Boys and Girls Club, and various other agencies and organizations, and individuals, too. That’s using them to help guide us where we want to be. You have the next step was developing a network of referral sources. This is a program where people refer in to us, and primarily what we’re looking for us schools referring in to us, and courts and legal entities referring in to us because I think this program works best when we take teenagers who have gotten into trouble for substance use, preferably for the first time, and instead of punishing them, we look to address the issue as a problem. It requires that they have to come to us or they come to us in lieu of a certain punishment and as long as they complete our program, they can either lessen the trouble or at least continue along a path of expectations. We’re trying to develop that network. We spent a lot of time doing that.
PHILLIP CRUM: I would imagine, to a teenager, the program itself might tend to be the punishment, or feel like the punishment because they’ve lost their freedom for a short period of time.
RON NEVELOW: Absolutely, and we recognize that, but what we find is that, once they get into our program and hang out with us for a little while, it’s not nearly what they think it’s going to be. Second Chance is very non-judgmental. It’s very non-directive. What we’re trying to do is, unlike some programs where they would be very tempted to tell kids what to do, I think teenagers get tuned out. They tune you out when an adult tells them what to do. They’re in a developmental phase where they’re trying to establish who they are, what they are, and what they think and when an adult starts to tell them what to do, they buck from it. So what we do instead is we spent a lot of time educating them, and teaching them and giving them information. What I explain to them is they’ll come into our program knowing certain amount about addictions and about substance abuse and what led them there, and where they’re heading, and when they leave, they’re going to know a lot more. Our hope is that, with a lot more knowledge, they’ll make better choices, or at least, what we think are better choices for them. But what they choose to do, that’s going to be up to them.
Let me tell you some other things that we’ve done, also. In addition, we’ve found locations where we’re going to meet because we don’t meet at Phoenix House. We don’t want to bring kids in an intervention program and put them around a treatment facility, because we’re giving the wrong message. We’re trying to get them to not think that, and instead, to look going backwards in their use rather than continuing along this path. We try to meet in places that are very non-threatening.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Kind of neutral.
RON NEVELOW: Very neutral. In any startup program, I’m hiring people, I’m getting supplies. We’re figuring out how to do our program that might be different than the way they do it in Virginia. We have to develop forms, we have to get agreements and partnerships with people, and so we’ve done a really pretty good job in developing partnerships and referral sources. We recently got a notice that Dallas Independent School District is going to start using us, which is a big coup for us, and what we really wanted. So if we’re going to make a difference in Dallas, we need that.
KATHLEEN MILLS: You’re in the heart of Dallas. It makes total sense.
RON NEVELOW: Dallas County Juvenile Probation is on board with this, the City of Dallas court system is on board. We’re trying to get approval right now with the truancy courts in Dallas County. Most of the major private schools are on board with us, too.
KATHLEEN MILLS: If I’m a parent, and I have a teenager and they’re meeting your criteria, do they have to be incarcerated or in trouble with the law before they get to you, or can I just call you and say, “Hey, I need you guys to”
PHILLIP CRUM: What are the prerequisites?
RON NEVELOW: There really isn’t a prerequisite other than the program is designed for sixth through 12th graders. One prerequisite is that you have to be in school and somewhere between sixth and 12th grades. Another one is that you have to have started using. We’re not a prevention program, and the other thing is that they can’t have done treatment before, because if they’re that far along, they’re not appropriate for our program, either.
KATHLEEN MILLS: So parents can call you directly?
RON NEVELOW: Parents can refer. Kids can self-refer if they know about our program. Other people can send them our way other than the major sources, which are going to be schools and courts and juvenile probation.
PHILLIP CRUM: That’ll be a nice little segue, because we’re out of time, believe it or not. Mr. Ron, if you would like to tell everybody that, if they might like to get a hold of you for your program, how would they do that?
PHILLIP CRUM: Is there a website?
RON NEVELOW: Not at this point.
PHILLIP CRUM: It’s been fun having you here, by the way.
RON NEVELOW: It’s been fun being here.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Will you come back?
RON NEVELOW: Absolutely.
PHILLIP CRUM: Why don’t you tell me how people can find you, Miss Kathleen?
KATHLEEN MILLS: Probably our website would be the best. It’s lifetreecounseling.com, or they can call me at 972-234-6634, extension 104. Happy to visit.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Phillip, it’s a pleasure. Ron, it’s good to have you.
PHILLIP CRUM: We appreciate everyone listening, and we’ll see you next week. On we go.