Lindsay Danis remembers in the most hopeless era of her life calling and trying to find addiction treatment — in between using the narcotic drugs again.
Danis had state-sponsored insurance — TennCare. But finding a recovery facility that would take TennCare and had an open bed was daunting. Many facilities have a limited number of Medicaid beds, and it’s necessary to call daily to see if one has opened. Danis had more options if she looked out of town, but transportation was an issue — in her addiction, she’d pushed family and friends to the point of no longer being able to help her, and the friends she had left used drugs themselves.
“By the time I was to the point that I realized this was a serious problem and I needed help, putting in the kind of effort necessary to get that help was not plausible,” Danis said. “Every second of every day, my thought was, ‘How can I get my next fix?’ ”
'Gap' in services
That’s why Danis, 35, and now clean for two years later this month, was so happy to see Cornerstone of Recovery, where she works as a therapeutic assistant, open Stepping Stone, a lower-cost drug-alcohol recovery facility that accepts Medicaid, including TennCare.
“One of the mission statements of Cornerstone is to meet the needs of the community,” said Stepping Stone program director Rod Jackson. “We found it was a gap in services this community needed.”
Billed as a “sister” facility to Louisville, Tennessee-based Cornerstone, which now occupies a 23-acre campus on Alcoa Highway, Stepping Stone provides medical detox, intensive outpatient therapy, partial hospitalization/day programs, recovery coaching, support, after care — and, when necessary, residential care.
The facility, housed in Cornerstone’s original building at 1214 Topside Road in Louisville, has 46 residential treatment beds, in addition to 34 beds for people who need supported housing while moving to a lower level of care.
“What makes us unique is that we offer a full continuum of care, so we are able to provide not only a medical detox here, but we can also offer the residential treatment, the partial treatment, the intensive outpatient therapy and, definitely, a continuous care program” for a minimum of 18 months, though some people use it for five years or longer, Jackson said.
Residential inpatient treatment can be scarce
For people on TennCare, residential inpatient treatment is a bit scarce. The facilities offering it often have lengthy waiting lists — and when people decide they want help, Jackson and Danis said, it’s best to strike while the iron is hot. Before, Cornerstone had to refer those patients to other area facilities, which may not have had immediate openings.
“Some places would say, ‘Come to our detox, and then we’ll see what happens,’ ” Danis said. “But if I detoxed (and then didn’t go immediately into a recovery program), I knew I would go right back out and use again.”
Right now, Stepping Stone has no waiting list. It’s also unusual among facilities that accept TennCare because it doesn’t provide the medication-assisted therapy — such as buprenorphine, or Suboxone — that the state has lately pushed as its prime solution to what’s become labeled the “opioid crisis.” In Tennessee in 2016, more than 1,600 people died of drug overdoses, most of them from opioid drugs.
Instead, like Cornerstone, Stepping Stone uses different types of psychotherapy, also evidence-based, Jackson said.
Stepping Stone clients get “the very same services that Cornerstone is known for providing,” he said.
Focus on critical factors
The main difference may be length of stay, which different TennCare plans limit in different ways. That’s going to necessitate being “really focused” on the factors most crucial to subverting someone’s addiction, Jackson said.
“If you show up, and you’ve got five major problems … we’ve got to figure out which are the two critical that keep you using, and address those with everything we’ve got right off the bat,” he said. “Because if we don’t do that, we’ve only contributed to the problem. We’ve only interrupted it. We’ve put a Band-Aid on the cancer.”
The best treatment plans are always triage, he added.
That doesn’t mean people will be discharged from treatment before they have the tools to succeed at recovery, he said, just that Stepping Stone will work out treatment within the parameters of what TennCare requires.
“The longer a person stays engaged in active treatment, the better their chances of sustaining long-term recovery,” Jackson said. With Stepping Stone, “we have a decent enough length of engagement that we can have some real effect.”
Jackson said Cornerstone began looking at opening Stepping Stone at the end of last year. The site on Topside, the former main campus, was ideally suited, he said: “We’d maintained it all along, and it meets state and federal requirements. We have everything we need in that building.”
Danis said she became addicted to narcotics after being prescribed them after tonsil surgery in her early 20s.
“I remember taking them and thinking, ‘Man, this is amazing — I feel like normal people; this is what life should feel like,’ ” Danis said. “I had energy. … I remember taking the whole bottle and asking for more.
That was the beginning of the end for me.”
For a while, she was able to maintain her job and hide her addiction, she said, but she ultimately lost her job, marriage and children, going to jail six times. A three-month faith-based program made her feel “closer to God” but failed to give her the tools she needed to stay clean, she said. An intensive outpatient program gave her those tools, but she was homeless until being taken in by a friend in a sober living house.
Now reunited with her children and on good terms with her ex-husband, Danis finds purpose in helping other women experiencing what she did.
“There were many times when I reached out, sitting on the floor of friends’ apartments trying to get grant beds, trying to find help — and then the moment would pass, and I’d be off to the races again,” Danis said.
“Maybe if there would have been a program like this then, I wouldn’t have had to lose everything” before getting help.