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Treatment centers increasingly tapping into the value of their alumni

August 30, 2018

Addiction treatment programs that aggressively engage their former patients in alumni programming can end up seeing benefits from both a clinical and business standpoint, a new white paper from the national organization Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services (TPAS) states.

“How to Make Dollars and Sense of a Dynamic Alumni Program” is based on interviews with 21 alumni programming leaders and CEOs of organizations that are active in TPAS. Comments from the interviews led to the paper's conclusion that after their involvement with TPAS, treatment centers organized more activities for alumni, offered a more diversified base of activities, and saw more of their alumni choosing to participate.

An engaged alumni base can offer numerous other benefits for a treatment facility, in that it is estimated that as many as half of all referrals to an addiction treatment program come from the former patient base.

Moreover, the cost of acquiring a referral through alumni proves to be substantially less than the cost associated with other typical referral channels, the white paper states.

Since its founding at the beginning of the decade, TPAS has offered a national forum for mutual learning among alumni services professionals. This has helped to share the message across the field that activities and efforts organized on behalf of alumni can be more than the traditional picnics and other forms of sober fun alone.

The report, for example, points out the growing tendency for treatment organizations to schedule “renewal weekends” that are attracting a number of former patients from both the local community and afar. More than half of the survey respondents said their facilities offer this opportunity to alumni.

TPAS board president Gina Thorne, chief marketing officer at Harmony Foundation in Colorado, stated in an announcement about the white paper that the survey “is the first in looking at not only the impact TPAS, as an organization, has made to cultivating real and measurable alumni programs, but additionally what is the cost/benefit ratio of keeping your alumni 'sticky' to your treatment programs.”

A more professional approach

The white paper suggests several ways in which the role of professionals who are in charge of a facility's alumni programming can be enhanced:

  • It states that there is a need for formalized training and credentialing for alumni staff in treatment organizations.

  • Alumni programming leaders can play an integral role in the collection of the kind of long-term outcome data that are critical to demonstrating the value of substance use treatment and support services.

  • Alumni staff can be trained to serve as recovery coaches, with this ultimately seen as a billable service delivered to a program's alumni.

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