Our People: Mike Frisbie
Authored by Vlad Grubyy
The Recovery Centers of America’s Mission Center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which means that director Mike Frisbie rarely gets a quiet moment. A typical day looks like this: wake up at 5 a.m., read logs and emails of overnight calls, head into the office by 6:30, go over reports of patient activity, and check to make sure everything is running smoothly. At 8, when most of his staff of 35 are in the office, the team huddles to outline what the day will bring, check in with his staff and remind them they’re all in this together.
“From there,” he says, “it takes off.”
The Mission Center is the central nervous system of RCA’s operations, the first point of contact for people calling in looking for help with addiction and mental health disorders. The staff fields 13,000 calls per month, and prides itself on picking up the phone in six seconds or less.
“When any person calls us, they’re calling us on what might be the worst day of their life,” Frisbie says. “The may have 100 million reasons not to go to treatment, and we have to help them find one reason to go.”
Frisbie, who’s 37, married, and has been with RCA since March of 2017, doesn’t usually don a headset himself, though he’s always ready to step in if one of his team members needs an emotional break, or if another voice might help a reluctant patient. By design, the Mission Center maintains a fluid structure, with everybody helping out everybody else, guided by well-tuned emotional antennae and a cooperative sense of teamwork.
“When you spend enough time dealing with people like we do, you just sorta know when you’re not getting through to a person,” Frisbie explains. “In this industry, it takes a village.”
Frisbie is well aware of the emotional impact of working in the Mission Center, so he cultivates a sense of camaraderie and joy—bringing in food, encouraging lighthearted jokes and laughter, and devoting at least an hour per day to one-on-one check-ins with care advocates and other leadership staff. Discussing his team, Frisbie easily slips into collective language—“we,” “us”—radiating a strong sense of community. It’s a one-for-all, all-for-one work environment.
“Everyone naturally bonds over the passion we have for this,” he says. “Even when we have our bad days, the way we can keep our spirits up is to look out for each other, care for each other.”
Frisbie and RCA also make sure to hire the right people. The Mission Center is staffed with many people in recovery and others who, like Frisbie, have been affected by addiction in their families. Frisbie’s grandfather and father both were longtime alcoholics who eventually succumbed to complications from the disease, and he has aunts and uncles who still struggle with it.
“Those are reminders of why you do what you do, what you’re here for,” Frisbie says. “The person that calls in—their family is my family. I know what that person is going through; I know the choices the people in my family made.”
But Frisbie looks to his family for inspiration, too—specifically to his cousin Richie, who struggled with substance abuse addiction throughout his teens before getting clean two years ago.
“It’s remarkably inspiring and motivating to me, every day,” he says. “It’s so important to remember those examples, to not let yourself slip into that mental trap of becoming jaded and thinking the world’s a terrible place. It’s not! The world’s a great place—there’s tons of hope and opportunity and positive things all around you.”
If you don’t believe him, just give him a call at 1-800-RECOVERY.