A residential rehab program with a proven record of treating young people flown in from other states is now looking to replicate its success for adults in New Haven — despite the inherent challenge of maintaining sobriety in the same setting that triggered the initial drug use.
The Orange Street addiction treatment program, Turnbridge, added outpatient services to residential offerings. The new option provides a less-intensive alternative for those who don’t need a nine-month stint in rehab, maybe someone enrolled in college or employed in a full-time job.
The Orange Street location offers services for people who then live for nine months in a dozen other houses around town. Roughly 185 participants aged 18-25, from outside New Haven, are in the program. The new outpatient program will draw older participants from here in Greater New Haven.
“It’s a different patient that goes here,” said David Vieau, Turnbridge’s founder and president, “but a treatment provided by the same clinicians that are providing tremendous therapies.”
In the first month, 10 people have enrolled so far in the outpatient program, but there are many more spots available to meet the “tremendous need” in New Haven, Vieau said. He expects that local clinicians, including those at Yale-New Haven Hospital, will funnel patients their way, he said, as an Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in-network provider.
So far, participants in the outpatient program are split roughly between opioid addiction and addiction to other drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and alcohol, said Jack Britton, the program manager. A few come straight from 30-day rehab programs, a few have been sober for a while, and one’s an alumnus of Turnbridge’s rehab program, Britton said. They range in age from early 20s to late 50s. Some drive up to 25 minutes to meet at the Orange Street facilities, he added.
Up to three nights a week, after most of them finish their work day, the participants circle up for a group chat led by a therapist, where they work through evidence-based methods like cognitive behavioral treatments.
“We firmly believe that drugs and alcohol are a byproduct of a bigger problem. Ultimately, just like fixing any other problem, you have to get to the root of it, and that’s how people are feeling about themselves: how they’re responding to society, their family, their peers. If you really want to heal somebody and help them go through this transformative change process, that’s where you start,” Vieau said. “Because before the drugs and alcohol, there was the individual who didn’t use them. The question is why. That’s where we start.”
Those meetings also provide a chance to link up with Turnbridge’s residential programs. For instance, one lonely middle-aged man who’d lost most of his friends tapped into their extensive network to meet sober friends, Britton said.
Other coaches, drawn from a staff where close to 80 percent are in recovery, including Vieau, are able to provide specific advice about living with the disease of drug addiction. A student might get specific advice about how to manage coursework this semester or find a sponsor, Vieau suggested. In the case of a current student at Fairfield University, Turnbridge employees even drive the person to other group meetings, he added.
Prescribers are also on hand for any patients who need anti-depressants, but to avoid forming new habits, most clients avoid pills. If participations are on buprenorphine before they arrive, they can continue taking it, as long as the dosage isn’t too high to numb them out during the group meetings, Britton said.
Even with the support, those in the outpatient program still face the uphill battle of changing their life without being able to change their surroundings, Vieau said. Those in the residential program are encouraged to stay in New Haven after the program ends. About 70 percent do, he added.
“You reinvent yourself here. If you go into a program to change, hopefully you’ll change,” Vieau said. “What you feel like, who’ll you will be is different.” For those in outpatient, “that’s more challenging.” If an outpatient program doesn’t work out, his staff can direct them to an in-patient program. “This might be a gateway for someone [or] it might be a destination,” Vieau said.
How do they plan to handle the difficulties that locals will face? “It’s just going to require more supports,” he said.
Fifteen years ago, shortly after he quit using drugs, Vieau opened his a first sober house in the Annex. its arrival ticked off neighbors and ran afoul of zoning regulations. In 2005, the city took Vieau to court for housing too many people at 980 Townsend Ave.
But as city staffers reviewed his operation in court, they concluded that Turnbridge (then called Turning Point Foundation) was running a strong program, he said. Vieau eventually agreed to pay a $350,000 settlement to dismiss the suit.
Since then, the residential treatment program has grown to 187 beds at a dozen spots, including at 1212 Quinnipiac Ave. in Quinnipiac Meadows, 1 Grand Ave. in Fair Haven, 520 Whitney Ave. in Prospect Hill, and 20 Academy St. in Wooster Square. And along the way, Turnbridge and the city developed a more cooperative relationship, culminating with Mayor Toni Harp’s appearance at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting.
“To have a place that provides these services and gives people a sense of hope is really important for our city, our region and our state,” Harp said. “I’m so thrilled they’re here and that they opened their services to the people of New Haven.”
After the mayor applauded Turnbridge’s expansion, she said her staff are also working with APT Foundation, where a man was stabbed to death outside its Congress Avenue methadone clinic last October, to clear out the drug-dealing, prostitution and violence on its block. APT agreed to hire two extra-duty police officers, but the city is still discussing changes to APT’s practice model.
“I do believe the services they provide are important,” she said, but “they’ve got to provide them in a way that is positive and productive for both the clients and the community.”