AlcoCare looks to future
JANESVILLE A Janesville alcohol and drug treatment center is in recovery itself after a series of ethical and financial improprieties prompted its largest customer, Rock County, to send clients to other facilities.
AlcoCare has a new director, new staff members and aggressive plans to expand its services to recovering alcoholics and other chemically dependent individuals.
"Not a lot of people are aware that there's a residential treatment facility in Janesville," said Tom Bolan, who signed on as AlcoCare's new director in February. "We have something right here in the community that's doing a damned good job.
"We have a vision that won't be deterred."
The state-licensed community based residential facility opened in Janesville in the mid 1970s as Alcohab. At its peak, it filled as many as 35 beds with people who didn't have the means to pay for their treatment and who were primarily referred to the facility by county human services agencies.
As late as last year, AlcoCare had been operating in two leased houses on South Main Street and South Jackson Street.
One operated as a primary care facility with eight beds to house clients participating in a 30-day inpatient treatment program that included classes, assignments and group therapy and then moved on to employability and long-term housing issues. The cost of a 30-day stay is about $3,300, Bolan said.
The second house was for secondary care, a less intensive step-down program that if preceded by primary care would offer clients up to 60 days of treatment.
"Residential treatment is important because it's designed to do a couple of things," said Bolan said, a Janesville resident for the last 18 years who has his own history of addiction and recovery. "It provides a safe, secure environment for intensive treatment and therapy, and it also acts as a screen to keep the client away from his or her drinking or drug buddies."
AlcoCare lost its lease on one of the properties when its owner fell into foreclosure proceedings.
At about the same time, board members learned of improprieties among staff.
"Up until then, the board was kind of kept in the dark about a lot of things," said Sue Schumacher, the board's treasurer. "We decided to do an internal investigation and got help from an outside accountant and a lawyer."
The allegations of ethical wrongdoings stemmed from dual relationships between staff and clients that violated a strict code of ethics, Schumacher said.
The financial allegations centered on bookkeeping discrepancies that Schumacher said were eventually turned over to the Rock County District Attorney's Office. Prosecutors reviewed the case and decided against filing criminal charges, determining that an allegation over an excessive salary paid to one employee could not be proven because there was no documentation regarding what the person's salary was supposed to be.
AlcoCare's board terminated some employees, developed a "plan of correction" and approached officials at the Rock County Human Services Department.
"As the acting president, I advised the county of what we were doing and the allegations of improper behavior," Schumacher said. "The county decided it couldn't keep sending people our way, and rightfully so."
Historically, the nonprofit AlcoCare has drawn the vast majority of its revenue from contracts with county human services departments, which refer clients based in part on their financial situations.
Kate Flanagan, Rock County's division manager for mental, alcohol and other drug addiction services, said the county did not suspend or decrease referrals to AlcoCare over any concerns on quality of care.
"We became aware of some of the other problems they were having, and we're impressed with the changes they've made to move forward," she said, adding that Rock County will continue to use AlcoCare as a contracted provider for residential treatment services.
Change in direction
Schumacher and Bolan said AlcoCare is working to implement the board's plan and rebuild trust in the Janesville facility.
It also is changing its business model.
With the foreclosure proceedings resolved, AlcoCare will leave Main Street and move back to Jackson Street, where it will operate a primary care facility with eight beds.
The timing for such a move is good because it comes at a point when AlcoCare's census is low. Its second-to-last client was discharged Thursday, and the last will be discharged Saturday.
"For us to be successful in the future, a couple of things must happen," Bolan said, noting that public sector funding is increasingly difficult to attract.
AlcoCare will work to increase awareness of its presence in the community, he said. It will reach out to the business and private sectors for fundraising and scholarship help.
It will start with just one house with eight beds, and over time add houses rather than beds to existing houses.
"We will expand but not have larger houses," he said. "That just doesn't work.
"We will have more houses, including separate houses for men and women and secondary care, not more beds. We will offer a niche level of care as small residential facilities for eight people at a time."
Bolan, who has a long list of industry credentials and certifications, said AlcoCare also would apply for licenses to operate outpatient and day treatment facilities. Those treatment options are generally covered by insurance and BadgerCare, the state's Medicaid program. Neither typically covers residential treatment.
"We will continue to be small and flexible and charge reasonable rates that are well below others in the area," said Bolan, who earned his GED at 35, entered college at age 40 and earned a master's degree in social work in 2010. "I don't expect what we plan to do will create any problems in the competitive marketplace.
"The need is certainly there, and we'll be another option."
Schumacher said she is proud of AlcoCare's programming and looks forward to a bright future.
"Historically, AlcoCare didn't have much of a presence in the community, in part because it was always trying to hide things," she said. "The board did its due diligence and has taken the steps necessary to right the ship and chart a new course.
"There is a great need in our community. Now, we have to rebuild that relationship to address the need."