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Tori Degroote

Tori Degroote is the Sovereign Health Group Alumni Services manager. Degroote is in recovery — come February, she will celebrate seven years sober. Her experience with addiction is what set her on her current career path.

Alumni Services sounds too innocuous for what Degroote and her staff do at Sovereign. As Degroote says, “The industry standard for recidivism in a 30-60-90 day program is around 70% percent. The odds are against everybody.”

A person is most vulnerable to relapse within 30 to 60 days of completing treatment. As someone in recovery, Degroote understands it is imperative that a newly sober individual receive support and remain connected to the sober community. She notes, “For every month a person stays in a recovery community, the odds for staying sober go up 20 percent.”

With this in mind, Degroote and Alumni Services are rolling out Sovereign’s continuing care program. Unlike other post-treatment programs which provide services for up to one year, Sovereign’s continuing care program offers free services for up to five years. This is one of the many ways Sovereign goes above and beyond industry standards.

For 2016, Degroote says she wants Sovereign’s Technology Enhanced Aftercare and Monitoring — T.E.A.M. — software to go mobile. Originally designed for desktops, the free software is the closest thing to e-therapy available. According to Degroote, most recovery apps are nothing more than calendars. They offer nothing in the way of genuine therapeutic value. TEAM is a robust tool which embodies the principles of treatment. The technology allows an individual to remain connected to the sober community wherever they are.

Sustained connectivity is necessary because of the changing recovery demographic. Degroote says the Affordable Care Act has extended insurance coverage to more people. As a result, a younger populace is seeking treatment — but they’re not ready for it. “They come in on the mommy card, the daddy card, the grandma card.” They arrive full of a false sense of entitlement. Says Degroote, “Anyone who comes in with a sense of entitlement is destined for failure.”

According to Degroote, seeing someone the same age who walks the walk and talks the talk resonates. “Peer-to-peer recovery is huge. Adolescent-to-adolescent; adult-to-adult.” In addition, education — particularly educating parents — is paramount. Degroote says it happens all too frequently in affluent communities. Parents need to see what’s going on in the lives of their teenagers. As long as they don’t see any trouble, trouble does not exist.

Degroote liaisons with community leaders to spread Sovereign’s message. Alumni Services conducts patient panels monthly and alums are asked to lead these panels. Sovereign has parent toolkits that provide resources on recognizing alcohol and drug abuse. Degroote’s team conducts webinars and forums to educate the population on the dangers of today’s drugs. Heroin is stronger and the THC content of medical marijuana is up to 7 times more potent than the marijuana of the 70s. Degroote acknowledges what she’s up against. “If we don’t lose them to overdose, we have to educate them. Our clients have little understanding of the disease of addiction. It’s a brain disorder; it’s not a character disorder.”

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