Author: Dawn Belamarich CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Lighthouse
As I reflect on the five-year anniversary of RCA Lighthouse, I am overjoyed at the immense progress made during this time and honored to be part of this long-term endeavor.
While I recently celebrated my four-year anniversary of being on Lighthouse’s leadership team, it wasn’t until recently that I took on the role of CEO.
But our story begins five years ago, on March 8, 2016, when RCA acquired the Lighthouse location at Mays Landing.
My distinguished predecessor, David Dorschu, became CEO of Lighthouse in August 2016. Driven by RCA’s distinct mission to save one million lives from addiction, it was under David’s leadership that Lighthouse began to implement this vision. What this amounted to was a multi-tiered framework, combining affordable and accessible evidence-based treatment—holistically integrating mind, body and spirit—delivered by a world-class staff.
Here, then, is a reflection on some of our many milestones on this journey…
Clinical Program Development at Our Addiction Treatment Center
RCA at Lighthouse provides a full continuum of care. Treatment begins at any point of the continuum that is most appropriate to the individual’s needs and disease state. Many clients begin treatment with medically monitored detoxification and proceed to residential inpatient treatment. During this phase, individual and group counseling (inclusive of both patient and family), along with a host of specialized programs are reinforced with a bundled care package encompassing music and art therapy, mindfulness and wellness, nutrition and fitness, as well as immersion into 12-Step programs.
During February 2018, Lighthouse instituted the Breaking Free program, deploying a dual-aspect approach to treat addiction and trauma alongside each other—as an overwhelming number afflicted with the former also suffer from the latter.
In the spirit of treating the whole person, rather than a part or a symptom, we introduced holistic services in September 2018, in particular reiki, which now extends to mindfulness and meditation, art and music therapy, fitness and yoga, and more.
As we treat the person as a whole, so too do we attend to the special challenges posed by different stages of life’s development. With this in mind, February 2019 witnessed the launch of the Evolutions program, which caters to the struggles of older adults in treatment and recovery.
Rounding out the golden triangle of treatment, we address the needs of the spirit in conjunction with the needs of mind and body. For all of us, spiritual necessities involve repair of our sense of purpose in the world and pursuit of a spiritually rich and meaningful life. The Christian program, implemented in June 2019, provides one avenue for faith-based treatment, tailored particularly to those who wish to incorporate their faith—at any level—into their treatment.
Our comprehensive care could not be complete without reckoning with the reality of relapse.
As a number of people who have struggled with a substance use disorder face its recurrence, RCA’s PRISE (Promoting Recovery through Intensive Support and Education) program, added to Lighthouse’s programming in July 2019, recognizes the reality of relapse and is designed specifically to counteract discouragement and inspire the hope and commitment that comes from re-dedication to recovery.
Serving Our Addiction Treatment Patients during the Time of COVID-19
As the onset of COVID-19 created unprecedented obstacles for everyone, our own commitment to providing a path for recovery remained undeterred.
Beginning on April 1, 2020, every incoming patient was tested for COVID-19 through the PCR method, while quarantined in an observation unit, until a negative result was obtained. During an observation period of 24 to 72 hours, virtual programming was available to all patients. The entire staff was also tested, on a weekly basis, via the PCR method, starting in July 2020.
Since rapid diagnostic antigen testing has become available to patients and staff on January 27, 2021, all new patients are given an antigen test at the time they are admitted to our inpatient facilities, and re-tested regularly during the duration of their stay. All RCA staff also receive a rapid diagnostic antigen test twice a week.
In the face of the pandemic, our investment in our mission has been unwavering, as we have made the necessary adjustments to ensure the maximum safety of our patients and staff while maintaining continuity of care according to our highest standard.
Making Lighthouse the Best Addiction Treatment Center in New Jersey
I am happy to have been in a position to take part in this latter effort, as I took the helm as the CEO of Lighthouse on July 6, 2020. During this time, we have also brought in the most expert and seasoned leadership team. Having occupied a wide range of leadership roles in treatment—from therapist to supervisor to administrator—I came to this position deeply entrenched in the South Jersey recovery community. With the RCA infrastructure an ideal vehicle for continuing my commitment to helping individuals achieve lasting recovery, I have so far overseen the addition of programs and services such as the introduction of the Patient Engagement Specialist position and the RCA WorkFlex program.
In our continued efforts to motivate and engage our patients for continued treatment, the Patient Engagement Specialist (PES) position was launched at Lighthouse in August 2020. With the express purpose of identifying patients who are currently struggling or who indicate a potential later risk, the PES engages with the patients, sensitive to where they are in their time of struggle, to create a comfortable and supportive atmosphere for recovery. Since the implementation of the PES position, not only has there been a major reduction in patients leaving treatment unplanned, there has been a corresponding increase in the overall atmosphere of positivity and motivation in the community.
With an eye to removing yet another barrier to treatment and providing access to additional aspects of our patients’ lives, Lighthouse launched the RCA WorkFlex service in January 2021. Rather than having to set aside school and work obligations altogether, WorkFlex allows patients up to three hours a day to continue their engagement in these outside endeavors virtually.
As we face the future of RCA Lighthouse, I am filled with a thrilling mixture of pride, humility and excitement: pride at how much has been accomplished and how many lives have been saved as a result of these efforts; humility at being just one individual figure in this massive undertaking, made possible only through the enormous energy of many others; and excitement at the broader frontier we have yet to traverse together. As I like to say, “teamwork makes the dream work!”