By Jill Draper
Empathy for their clients comes easily to staff at the Midwest Recovery Centers because many of them have personal experience with addiction. That includes founder and CEO Jeff Howard, who says he’s been in recovery for 16 years.
“I absolutely understand what my clients are going through,” he says. “But my experience also makes it harder for them to manipulate me when they’re seeking help. We talk about compassion and kindness and being accountable. We also talk about self-defeating negative patterns.”
He emphasizes that being an addict is not a moral deficiency, but often it does spiral down into shame. “When you intervene, there’s a place where you can pause and find other strategies.”
“The goal is to act your way into better thinking, rather than think your way into better acting.”
Beyond intervention, Midwest Recovery Centers helps clients and families reach realistic long-term goals, Howard says. The facility, a comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment facility located in south Kansas City at 13350 Holmes Rd., has housing only for men at this time, although that may change in the future.
“The disease of addiction is non-discriminatory, but at MRC we’ve created an environment where addicts can focus on their issues without distraction,” he says, noting that clients usually range in age from 18 to 55 years with the largest group in their late 20s through mid-30s.
“Some contact us because they’re no longer willing or able to live life the same way. Others come because their families have given them an ultimatum: ‘You can keep living the way you have been, but you can’t do it here anymore.’”
The program starts with a suggested 90-day treatment process where clients live a structured schedule in transitional housing located throughout Johnson County, including Overland Park and Leawood. During this phase the men must attend group therapy 25 hours per week and an Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meeting every day. There is also a weekly one-on-one counseling session and a required weekly urinalysis to ensure compliance with MRC’s drug-free environment.
During the second phase, which can last up to a year, clients are slowly integrated back into the workforce while still attending group sessions. “If they can keep clean for one year, they have an 85 percent shot at five years or greater recovery,” says Howard.
A separate outpatient program is co-ed and meets for three hours in the evening every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The goal of these meetings is to support men and women in the community who cannot attend an inpatient program or who have finished one and need additional support.
The process of recovery is not easy or instantaneous. Howard describes it like this: “The goal is to act your way into better thinking, rather than think your way into better acting. You can think about going to the gym, for example, but you won’t get any benefits without actually going.”
Howard has been a licensed practical nurse and a certified assisted living facility manager for more than 20 years. He decided to establish an extended care recovery center after a period of self-reflection following the death of his mother.
“I wanted a place where I was a principal of the agency, one where I could be part of setting the format I desired,” he says. The program he designed and now runs is accredited by both the Missouri Department of Behavioral Health and the Joint Commission of National Behavioral Health Care.
A client’s health insurance policy often will help pay for treatment, but because the program is long-term, Howard suggests meeting with a staff member for a free assessment of what the cost will be.
Regardless of whether an individual decides to sign up, he has plenty of company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 23 million Americans suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. And while that number is astounding, another unfortunate statistic is that only 11 percent of them are currently receiving treatment for their addiction.
“Drug and alcohol abuse are both life-threatening illnesses…that can eventually kill you and harm everyone you love,” Howard says. “There is no cure for this, but we can help you achieve a daily reprieve. We can help you navigate into recovery and find a new way to live.”