Podcast: Hilltop Mediation

Gina T.:                 Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Amber Hill with Hilltop Mediation, and we’re going to be talking a little bit more about mediation services. It’s one of those things that people only hear about, usually, when there’s big conflict that’s going on and, usually, it’s family conflict and so I’m sure some folks are probably curious about mediators, and why Harmony.

So excited to talk with you a little bit more about what you do. You are a certified mediator. Most people think of mediators as those working with divorce, that’s what they typically think of, as an alternative to having an attorney. What does a mediator actually do?

Amber Hill:         Thank you for having me, this has been really fun. I am a mediator, so I specialize in families and neighbors. Like you said, that can often be divorce. Attorneys may or may not be present, both are fine. That can also mean child support, it can mean spousal support, parenting time. It can be HOA disputes, property management disputes, noise disputes, all of those types of things.

The advantage of mediation is that people are self determining their own outcome. So, it’s a problem-solving approach that allows people to be the crafters of whatever they would sign, whatever that agreement may be. The alternative is court, of course, and so in court the judge makes the decision for you whether you’re happy with that decision or not. In mediation, it’s whatever both parties can agree too and live with.

Gina T.:                 It’s a little bit like you actually have a little bit more control over the outcome in some cases.

Amber Hill:         Yeah, and so the mediator’s not enforcing anything, the mediator’s not providing legal recommendations. The mediator’s there really to help facilitate a process where people are defining exactly what it is that they want to define.

Gina T.:                 I can understand then why people would pick it because it just seemed like when you think of attorneys people get real anxious and nervous, and think about thousands and thousands of dollars, but using a mediator does feel like you have a little bit more freedom and control, and probably not nearly as expensive.

Amber Hill:         Correct. It can be a much more cost-effective and more efficient process. Again, with court it’s whatever is on the docket, whatever has been coming across the judge’s plate. In mediation, it’s as soon as you can schedule it with a mediator and the other party. Again, attorneys may or may not be present, but the way that most mediation fees work, and the way my fees work is both parties are splitting the fee, and part of that is to ensure the neutrality of the mediator and not favoring one side or the other.

Gina T.:                 That’s a big part of that. You don’t want to look like you’re taking sides and being more like Switzerland, and being neutral, so that’s good.

Amber Hill:         Right, yeah. Attorneys would be the advocates and then the mediator is the neutral, like you said, so they’re not taking either side.

Gina T.:                 How and why do you decide … how did you decide to pursue mediation? Did you wake up one day and go, “This seems like a really good thing to do?” Were you good at work resolving conflict? I would imagine you have to be really good at listening and looking at being in tense situations, and so what made you wake up one day and say, “I think I’d like to do this”?

Amber Hill:         So, I think I’ve always been good at exploring deeper all sides of an issue. I don’t want to just see things from one lens. It’s more helpful to see things from multiple lenses, so my natural curiosity, I think, lent me to be an effective mediator in that sense. Then, I have a Master’s degree in conflict resolution, so that gives me the academic background to be relevant and skilled in the particular service that I offer.

In Colorado, there’s the Mediation Association of Colorado, is the overarching party. It’s an unregulated field in the sense that there’s no Bar Association, but the MAC is the closest that mediators have, and so I’m a professional of the MAC meaning I’ve achieved enough mediation hours to be counted as a professional.

Gina T.:                 So, you’re like a guru of mediation.

Amber Hill:         That might be a little lofty for what I think of myself as, but I certainly have some skills to be effective.

Gina T.:                 Wonderful.

So,can you share more about Hilltop Mediation, and what would somebody get if they walked into your office? What kind of services would they expect to receive from you?

Amber Hill:         Sure. So, part of what I offer is the education piece about what mediation can and cannot offer because there are a wide variety of ways that people can resolve conflict. Mediation’s one, court is another, you can also do arbitration, you can do settlement dispute. There’s a wide variety of options and so I think part of my role is to make sure people get the option that’s going to work best for them.

Then, if they hire me for my services, from there I work with both parties to schedule a time. Both parties put down a down payment in order to ensure the slot, so that one party doesn’t show up and the other doesn’t. We want to be sure that everyone is serious who’s involved. Then, from there, we schedule the mediation itself.

Gina T.:                 Then, it could last how long, typically? One session, multiple sessions?

Amber Hill:         Depends on the nature of the dispute. So, if it’s neighbor to neighbor probably two hours. If it’s a divorce that can be a multiple sessions, multiple hours, but a divorce can be a multiple issues as well versus if it’s a single issue dispute it’s a quicker process.

Gina T.:                 I see. Well, we always like to get to know the person behind the program, and so I’m going to ask you a couple of interesting questions.

Amber Hill:         Sure.

Gina T.:                 The first is, is if you had a giant billboard and you can put any phrase or saying on it to advertise to the world what would that phrase be?

Amber Hill:         About Hilltop Mediation?

Gina T.:                 Anything you want it to be. It doesn’t just have to be about Hilltop. It could be about your life, your life mission, whatever that looks like. If you could advertise a saying to the world, what would that be?

Amber Hill:         Sure. Well, that would be a fabulous marketing. So, for Hilltop I’d probably say mediation services for neighbors and families. Trying to keep it focused on the people in our lives who we’re likely going to have to see again. So, when we solve conflicts with them it might as well be a collaborative process, and one that we can live with for when we see them again. Versus if it’s more combative that’s harder to see that person again and it, certainly, damages the relationship.

For me, myself I’m not sure. I think I’d have a picture of the mountains.

Gina T.:                 Nice.

Amber Hill:         It’s always good to get that refresher view of nature and the calming …

Gina T.:                 I’m with you.

Amber Hill:         Presence. Yeah.

Gina T.:                 Then, if I were to give you the word ‘harmony’ what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Amber Hill:         So, for me, harmony would mean living with wellness, with clarity, and with intentionality, and so that can go into all aspects of life, I think. Go into the financial, the relational, the health aspect.

Gina T.:                 That’s great. Well, thanks for sharing that Amber, it’s been really great having you here at Harmony today. If somebody were listening and wanted to access your mediation services how could they get in touch with you?

Amber Hill:         My phone number is 720-893-2332. I also answer my emails at hilltopmediationllc@gmail.com. Or they can look me up and learn more about me at hilltopmediation.com.

Gina T.:                 Perfect. It was so nice to meet you.

Amber Hill:         Yeah, thank you so much. I appreciate it Gina.

Harmony Fights Opioid Epidemic with HOPE

More than two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, escalating an epidemic the CDC says “continues to worsen and evolve.” From 2016 to 2017, opioid-related overdose deaths increased 12 percent overall, surging among all age groups 15 and older.

The CDC report’s recommendations for curbing opioid-related overdose deaths include “increasing naloxone availability, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, enhancing public health and public safety partnerships, and maximizing the ability of health systems to link persons to treatment and harm-reduction services.”

Naloxone is a medication often used by first responders because it can rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain relievers.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used to decrease opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission. Medications used for the treatment of opioid use disorder are buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex), methadone, and extended release naltrexone (Vivitrol). Some of these drugs are controversial in the recovery community because they are themselves opioids.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US government research institute, clarifies that contrary to what some critics say, “methadone and buprenorphine DO NOT substitute one addiction for another. When someone is treated for an opioid addiction, the dosage of medication used does not get them high–it helps reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal. These medications restore balance to the brain circuits affected by addiction, allowing the patient’s brain to heal while working toward recovery.”

The use of these medications should always be combined with behavioral counseling with the ultimate aim of ceasing all substance misuse.

HOPE – Harmony’s Opioid Programming Experience

Harmony has provided all clients with medication-assisted treatment for many years. This combination of education, counseling, and the use of medication in early recovery is part of the Harmony philosophy. HOPE expands MAT to include medications that alter the physical response to opioids, reduce cravings, and give the patient time to heal from the psychological, social, and spiritual wounds of addiction.

“It’s important to remember that MAT is only a small part of the picture,” says Harmony’s medical director Christopher Reveley. “That is why we call it ‘medication-assisted’ treatment, because by itself it is not the treatment. Used alone it has a low probability of being successful.”

At Harmony, HOPE begins with thorough medical and psychological evaluations. Collaboration with the patient, members of the interdisciplinary team and, when appropriate, family and referral sources, determine the most effective treatment plan. All HOPE clients are invited to participate in weekly support groups led by a professional addiction counselor. These groups address the unique challenges of early opioid recovery, including uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, cravings, and strategies to avoid relapse. In this setting, clients support each other and are educated about the process of recovery.

Medication-assisted therapy may help stabilize the patient for these challenges in early recovery. “It gives people an opportunity to step out of the chaos of addiction and consider other ways of being,” says Dr. Reveley. “I never felt that buprenorphine was meant as a lifelong or even long-term solution.” Although there may be exceptions. It all depends on the individual needs of the patient. Reveley remembers a patient who had been on methadone for 46 years. “He tried to taper off a dozen times and relapsed to heroin use every single time. His family was initially very opposed to him being on methadone but eventually they told him ‘this is working, your life depends on it.’ So there are people on either end of the bell curve but in most cases buprenorphine is only a small but important part of the solution.”

Buprenorphine can be an important tool, especially in early recovery from opioid use disorder. The medication offers patients the opportunity to start living a “normal” life, far removed from the drug culture lifestyle they may have been immersed in while using heroin and other opioids. People are dying every day from opioid overdoses, especially in the age of the fentanyl scourge. Buprenorphine may provide the buffer that enables them to launch into sustained recovery. It is a buffer that can save people with addiction from a potentially lethal overdose.

Harmony has been treating addiction for 49 years and HOPE is now offered to all Harmony clients with opioid use disorders. The program involves enhanced medical, counseling, and case management services specifically tailored to meet these clients’ unique needs.

The Harmony care team works closely with clients who choose to include buprenorphine in their treatment strategy. This will typically involve full participation in HOPE and a recommendation for participation in Harmony’s Transitional Care Program (TCP), an intensive, 90 day intensive outpatient program coupled with monitored sober living and medication management by Harmony providers. When clinically indicated or to accommodate client preference, Harmony’s case managers may refer clients to other programs with similar services.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid use disorder and needs help, call Harmony at 970-432-8075 and one of our admissions specialists can discuss next steps.

Podcast: A Healing Journey

Gina T.:               Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Amber Herring with Healing Journey of Counseling out of Denver, Colorado. Welcome Amber.

Amber H.:          Thank you.

Gina T.:                So good to have you here at [inaudible 00:00:11].

Amber H.:           Yeah, glad to be here.

Gina T.:                Well, we’re here to talk a little bit about your practice and to learn a little bit about your background. Let’s first start out with who you are. You’re a licensed marriage and family therapist. What made you decide to pursue that path of going into that kind of a career?

Amber H.:          I think I was working with my undergraduate in psychology and connected with a therapist who was doing some work. I was working at a corrections facility, community corrections, and there was a therapist there that I really admired. Realized that if I wanted to make a career with my undergraduate in psychology, I needed to get a Master’s degree, I needed to advance my education and was really inspired by this therapist.

At the time, the program that I ended up getting my Master’s degree through came to my place of employment and presented on their program and went from there. I knew I wanted to be in therapy, didn’t quite know where I wanted to land, whether that was individual or family work. Met with an admissions director there and really fell in love with the idea of supporting families and couples and supporting people relationally. Have since been doing that.

Gina T.:                How long has that been going on? How long have you been a therapist?

Amber H.:           Been in the mental health field a little over 10 years. As a therapist for the last six years.

Gina T.:                 Okay. Have you seen a lot of changes that have happened in the field since you’ve come in?

Amber H.:           Yeah, totally.

Gina T.:                 Good stuff, bad stuff?

Amber H.:           Yeah, good stuff. I think we’re on the precipice of another big change in terms of how we look at treating co-occurring illnesses. I think that’s certainly where my passion is. I think the field has advanced a lot in terms of honoring trauma work and the things that we’re learning about trauma and the things that keep eating disorders, substance use and processed addictions going. I think now it will turn next, my hope is, is that we’re supporting people, in looking at the whole person and treating all of those things, integratively, co-occuringly.

Gina T.:                  How does that look when you say that? Because for folks that are listening, there’s always been these two schools of thought that for example, the substance abuse is always going to live on this side, the mental health is going to live on this side, then you’ll have the process disorders, eating disorders and gambling addiction, sex addiction that play a part in their … But you’re talking about integrating all of that together. So, how does somebody look at that and think, how do you capture that?

Amber H.:           Totally. I do a lot of ACT work; Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, really looking at what’s the function of those behaviors? Typically, if somebody is overspending or shopping and restricting their meal plan or binging and purging, and using a substance, typically those things are in an effort to quiet something underneath. Whether that be trauma memories, or shame or a not good enough story or too much story, anxiety, depression, things like that. If we can look at what’s underneath that and help you accept and practice some distress tolerance skills around those things, then you might not need the shopping, the gambling, the sex, the binging and purging or whatever might come next.

I think ACT is a way to really get at the root of what’s happening, what’s maintaining those behaviors, and is also preventative, if we can work with folks to come to terms with or accept these pieces of themselves and move forward in a values driven direction, then we won’t need the things that tend to become compulsive or addictive.

Gina T.:                Always very unhealthy coping skills that oftentimes, we see pop up here is people utilizing drugs because they have an undiagnosed disorder of ADHD or depression or anxiety and they hit that wall. That totally makes sense. You deal with a lot of different things with both individuals and families; anxiety and depression, you talked about addiction and eating disorders? What do you think is the most common issue that you find yourself treating these days?

Amber H.:           I think it’s in general, communication. I work a lot with families recovering from eating disorders and substance use. Look at this through a lens of it’s a relational thing. We don’t get to this place in a vacuum. Those that struggle with addictions and eating disorders, that we get to this place in the context of relationships.

I see a lot of the work that I do really is about helping people communicate, helping people recover through communication. I think of these behaviors serve a function individually, but they also serve an inner personal function. They’re helping us communicate something, whether that be, I’m in pain, I need some help, I need to be seen, please notice that I’m struggling. I work a lot with families. How do we put words to that so you don’t need that behaviors to communicate that?

Gina T.:                 I like that. I’ve never heard it from that perspective before. It’s so true, because it really is the most fundamental piece of what we need to understand. Most of the time it’s broken, most of the time the communication has been, what is it, you raised in a culture, in a family where it’s never been fully functional.

Amber H.:           Right.

Gina T.:                 That’s interesting. We always like to get to know the person behind the program. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months or at least in recent memory?

Amber H.:            I have a 13 year old step daughter. For Christmas this year, she asked for a record player.

Gina T.:                  Really?

Amber H.:           Yes.

Gina T.:                  Were you able to find one?

Amber H.:            Yes, Amazon.

Gina T.:                   There they go. That’s crazy.

Amber H.:            But I think that’s the, when I think about the most meaningful gift, just she’s an old soul like me. I think of myself as an old soul. It just warmed my heart she would want this, old, record player, something that says speaks to my heart.

Gina T.:                   That’s so neat. Does she have records now?

Amber H.:           She does.

Gina T.:                   What kind of records does she have?

Amber H.:            All sorts. I think her most recent one was Crystal Gayle.

Gina T.:                  Really?

Amber H.:           Yes.

Gina T.:                  My goodness, she is an old soul.

Amber H.:           She is an old soul.

Gina T.:                   Well, speaking of old souls, I noticed on your site, on your Facebook page that you’re a big Elvis fan.

Amber H.:            Yes, I am.

Gina T.:                  I remember growing up, I loved Blue Hawaii. That was my favorite movie by him. I’m just curious, number one, while Elvis and what’s your favorite song and your favorite movie?

Amber H.:           Beautiful. Why Elvis? Certainly, a values driven thing for me. It was a family thing. I think it got passed down to me from my dad. This is a connection that we have. Music has always always been healing for me to tap into the creative song has been super healing. Elvis is just passion. He’s passion reincarnate. He gets on stage and he is just true to who he is, and people are drawn to him.

Favorite song would probably be, If I Can Dream. Is that the name of the song, If I Can Dream?

Gina T.:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative) Okay.

Amber H.:          Favorite movie would be tough, maybe Clambake.

Gina T.:                  Okay.

Amber H.:           Or Viva Las Vegas?

Gina T.:                  Viva Las Vegas.

Amber H.:           That’s a good one too.

Gina T.:                   That’s a good one. I have to say growing up I loved watching him on TV when I was a little girl. He really was, he was just so charismatic. I just thought that was really neat when I saw that about you. Well, if we were to play off the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Amber H.:           I think, again, consistent with the ACT work that I do, I think helping folks find a way to bring some acceptance to their internal selves. I think we do a lot of detaching from that, or trying to make sense of that in ways that we put that in a box. I think living in harmony is tapping into those things and becoming friendly with the pieces of us that we want to detach from so that we can live a sustaining, meaningful, genuine life.

Gina T.:                   I really like that. Thank you for sharing that. Well, if someone wanted to reach out to you and access your services, how could they get in touch with you?

Amber H.:           My website would be the best way. So, www.ajourneytowardhealing.com. I’m also on Facebook, Healing Journey Counseling, Instagram and also YouTube. I do just a little segments to keep people-

Gina T.:                  From the couch, right?

Amber H.:           From the catch, yep. Little segments to talk about things that you may talk about and explore in therapy, keep people connected to the process between sessions, things like that.

Gina T.:                  Very cool. Well, it was really a pleasure to meet you Amber, thanks for visiting with us today.

Amber H.:            You as well. Thank you.

Why Recovery Needs Healing Space

Addiction is a family disease. The Recovery Book advises family members of people in recovery that “Everyone in your family, as well as other people in your lives, has been affected by addiction in some way. Now you all need to work on getting your lives back to some kind of normal.”

Michael Arnold is a recovering alcoholic who now works as an alumni relations manager at the Harmony Foundation. In a recent Facebook Live with her twin sister, Michael and Casey talked about the impact Michael’s addiction and recovery had on their relationship. Both siblings demonstrated how important clear and honest communication is for the family dynamic.

Michael talked about the need to share with “brutal honesty what addiction can do to your family.” Casey talked about how hard it was for her to watch Michael decline in active addiction, realizing there was nothing she could do, that Michael had to save herself.

Michael recalls doing things to her family that “just weren’t nice.” Casey remembers all too well. Seven years ago Michael helped to put her twin sister briefly in jail—just to hurt her. Michael was in such a bad place that to hurt her sister made her feel better.

“I never thought I could be close with Michael again, never thought I could trust her again,” Casey said. But change can happen. Recovery can work miracles. “Michael has changed. She is not the person she was seven years ago,” Casey said. “She is not that selfish person that put me in jail. She’s working very hard at it every day.”

For desperate family members the trick is to be patient and supportive. “Don’t hammer people in recovery about all the mistakes they made in active addiction” all the time. “Show your love,” Casey said. “You need to have grace and patience with them. As family members you have to give them space to recover, the harder you are on them the worse it’s going to be.”

Appealing to people in the audience who have family members with addiction, Casey said, “You have to choose either to be there and support them or walk away. You can’t live in the middle and hold their past wrongdoings against them—that doesn’t help them recover. I have nothing but complete love for Michael now and I’m just so proud of her. It’s been a journey for both of us.”

Michael shared her side of that journey. Only “when I went through rehab did I get the tools to tell myself everyday to have that patience, to be so grateful that I’m sober. I have to know that my family will trust me; that they should realize that I’m a changed person but time is not on my side.”

It’s important to remember that recovery is a process. “I thought simply that Casey and I would be okay now that I’m sober. The relationship would be fine but it wasn’t,” Michael remembers. “Casey gave me that space for about a year to recover, but then she said ‘we need to talk about what happened’ so that we can move forward.”

Casey had to tell Michael what she had done to her and “she took it hard. I love you, I forgive you, but you have to earn the trust back.” That shook Michael, “but now our relationship is even stronger because you have to be able to open up about these things or they will simply fester.”

Making amends is an ongoing process for Michael now and Casey knows it. “Michael is ruthless and relentless about her recovery—she has even written a book about it. She is working hard every single day and that is all you can ask.”

Podcast: Sondermind – Jolene Conway

Gina Thorne:                      Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Jolene Conway out of SonderMind in … Is it Denver? You guys are in Denver?

Jolene Conway:                Yes, our headquarters is in Denver, yep.

Gina Thorne:                      Okay, great. We’re excited to hear more about SonderMind, but first we’d like to get to know you a little bit better. So can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the field of behavioral health?

Jolene Conway:                Yeah, so I am actually a licensed professional counselor. I moved out to Colorado about 13 years ago, and went to school to get my master’s in counseling psychology. Since I’ve gotten my licensure, and have worked in a lot of different atmospheres, from for-profit, nonprofit, community mental health centers, insurance companies, definitely a lot of variety in behavioral health. I’ve seen a lot of angles of what that looks like and have always continued my clinical practice.

Gina Thorne:                      What got you interested in doing behavioral health work? What specifically made you say “I want to go to school and do this for a living”?

Jolene Conway:                Yeah, great question, it’s one of those things that honestly looking back even to high school, we had some psychology courses that I always was really drawn to. Took some extra classes in it, had a professor I think that really just jived with me. And I was determined when I went to college, and just continued that lay of the land. Luckily it stuck for me, it always continued to feel passionate, I always found atmospheres that I felt my services were needed and I felt connected to.

Gina Thorne:                      Good, well it’s nice that it sounds like it’s a good blend for what you’re doing today. So that’s a good segue into our second question, which is talking about SonderMind. Based on what I’ve read on your website, SonderMind is about connection. Can you share more how the services work to help those needing help with mental health issues?

Jolene Conway:                Yeah, I love that you mentioned that word “connection”, that’s such a big part of why we started and our continued mission today.

SonderMind started about five years ago, our co-founders, I think the story of where we started is important, Sean is a clinical therapist by trade, and really came out of some agency work finding that himself and some fellow colleagues wanted to be in private practice, but there’s a lot of administrative aspects that are challenging. You’re really not taught how to be a businessperson. So he wanted to find ways to connect those dots from a professional counselor/therapist level.

And then Mark, our other co-founder, from more of the business lens, at that time from a personal level was finding therapy work for his family, and just was quick taken aback by how challenging it was, despite having insurance, to get to the right person who took his benefits. It was really an astonishing moment for him, despite being in healthcare and business healthcare for some time.

So they came together to really address both ends of that, wanting to support therapists from an administrative, taking that burden off of their shoulders so they can continue their clinical work and still remain private practice, and then also from an access area.

Knowing, unfortunately, not just in Colorado but really across the country, that people are unable to use their benefits, really unable to get connected even down to an out-patient level of care, for services such as therapy. Our continued drive and motivation is to redesign behavioral health to become more accessible, approachable, and utilized.

So at this point, we are a network, a behavioral health network, of about 150 different therapists, largely located at this moment in Denver and Boulder and surrounding areas, although we have really expanded to Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, and really continuing that across Colorado, and hopefully this year in our action plan to other states.

Anyone in our network under SonderMind is going to be under all of our contracts. It allows the access piece to be very able to be used for clients calling in, and when a client calls in our matching team is able to pinpoint the right match of a provider for them based on the things that are most important, payment type, location, schedule, what specialty areas they’re looking for, down to any other preferences such as gender that would be really helpful in logistically getting them to the right person. Because we know that therapeutic relationship is key to the outcomes that they’re looking to achieve.

Gina Thorne:                      It sounds great, and when you think about so many people who call their insurance companies, or they call their primary care doctor, they just feel like they’re caught in a quagmire and can’t really identify who is the right person for me, what’s the best person for me. But to have a central location of people who know how to vet, I’m guessing that you do a great job of vetting the type of providers that you’re gonna have as a part of this network, to make sure that they’re ethical, that they’re doing the right thing, that they’re providing the right kind of care, really does help the consumer.

Because so many people are in criss, and they don’t know what they’re looking for, and oftentimes insurance companies can serve a great purpose, but sometimes they may not have the right answer for those consumers.

Jolene Conway:                Absolutely. We’re very thankful to be truly partnered with insurance companies because we’re under contracts with them, so we’re very thankful to be part of that. But we also know, like you shared, there’s some roadblocks there. To get an exhaustive list of random names on a piece of paper, call 20, get one call back just to kindly let you know they’re not taking new patients, is a setback, and for a lot of people will prevent them from getting care. To try to take that burden off of the client is such an important piece of that.

And then also to continue that benefit back to the therapist, because we’re directing those referrals to the therapist’s provider in a way that is really congruent to the work that they want to do, and not just because they feel like they have to take any referral coming through. They’re going to get that business from us in a way that’s still rewarding and in line with their expertise.

Gina Thorne:                      Nice, very nice. Great service. I’m gonna throw something out, totally subjective of course, but what’s your prediction of mental health services and accessibility of care in Colorado today?

Jolene Conway:                Well, I think from a few standpoints I know that a general statement is it’s challenging still. I would love to think that we at SonderMind have solved it all. We can’t take that all on ourselves, but I think we are changing that, just like I shared, with our mission to redesign behavioral health.

But I think from a lot of different angles, from people looking to get connected via their medical doctor, it’s still challenging. Medical doctors don’t know where to turn to always, we talked already about insurance panels. Employers even, having benefits for their employees, employee assistance programs, medical benefits, and employees not knowing or not really understanding how they get connected in a way that’s meaningful.

So I think the combination of the access problem and, in my opinion, I think research shows this, there’s still stigma. So how do we really combat that? I think it’s gonna have to take a whole community effort, it can’t just be from a provider level or from a consumer level, it really has to be all forces coming together to challenge that.

And Colorado is ranked 43rd in the country for behavioral health, that really concludes from a lot of different ways that survey works. But from my opinion, looking at all of that, the conclusion is because of high prevalence of mental health conditions, including suicide rates, as well as that access piece that I keep going back to. Forty-third is not great.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s not a good number, and it’s one of those things where we of course see that here, where you can’t treat addiction in a vacuum. Mental health is always going to somehow play a part in addressing the addiction issues that come in here at Harmony. I think for years there were too many people that were trying to treat them separately, and of course that can’t be done.

Jolene Conway:                Absolutely, the whole person. We hear that terminology, but to really practice that work, and to be okay with that, might not always be in our sector. To go back to the community to find that connection is going to allow everybody to win, whatever “winning” means. Ultimately, equal a better state and a better country in terms of health.

Gina Thorne:                      So true, so true. So we like to get to know the person behind the program, so we’re gonna ask you a couple personal questions if you’re okay with that.

Jolene Conway:                Sure, shoot.

Gina Thorne:                      What new belief, behaviors, or habits have you adopted within the last five years that have most positively impacted your life?

Jolene Conway:                Oh gosh. I love that question, and it’s also one of those digging deep. I think there’s a couple different things. I think for me, it really aligns with work to be honest, from a professional and a personal level. Being able to really recognize that I can live a life that is rewarding, there’s always going to be sacrifices, but to feel that the work I do and the way I’m living can be congruent to my beliefs.

I think for a long time the hustle and what’s next, the constant growth-minded personality type, can be amazing, but also can be a challenge. So taking a little bit of a step back, that will always be my personality, but I’ve found a little bit more peace in the storm of that.

Gina Thorne:                      I like that, that’s really nice. And if I were to show or throw out the word “harmony”, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Jolene Conway:                I think it’s gonna ultimately be very personal. For me, I think that would really align physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I think those are areas that have been compartmentalized, in the way that we talk, the way that we think about the person. Until, again in my opinion, those are all really being addressed in a way that we can feel connected to ourselves, we’re not gonna live a life of feeling connected to others or fulfilled or joyful.

Gina Thorne:                      Nice, thank you. I like to hear that too. And if someone wanted to access services at SonderMind, how could they get in touch with you?

Jolene Conway:                There’s two different ways that this can happen. Really easily, going onto our website, www.sondermind.com, that’s S-O-N-D-E-R-M-I-N-D, .com. And in the upper righthand corner, pretty easy to see, there’s a Match With Therapist button. What that allows someone to do is walk through some basic yet meaningful questions that will help our matching team specifically find a therapist, or multiple therapists, that would meet what appears to be the right fit of a service for them.

The same process would happen over the phone, it’s 720-330-3713, and we have an amazing team of matching specialists that personally answer the call. They’re the most lovely people, and they work through those same questions. Within usually 10 minutes, it’s a phone call, trying to address the most important areas without getting into the depths of the clinical information, to then go back to our network and find the right match without the client having to do that back and forth on their own.

Gina Thorne:                      Very nice. Well I really appreciate the time that you’ve taken to come up and visit us at Harmony, thank you Jolene. And for those of you that are interested in learning more about SonderMind, we invite you to visit them at their website. We look forward to you moving that needle from 43, and getting us hopefully farther down that list, or farther up that list I guess is how they say it, so that we’re better at taking care of mental health issues here in Colorado.

Jolene Conway:                Well thank you so much, thanks for having me out here today.

Gina Thorne:                      Thanks.

Jolene Conway:                Thank you.


Podcast: Simons Therapy

Gina Thorne:                      Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Helene Simons, Dr. Helene Simons, with Helene Simons Therapy out of Denver, Colorado. Good to have you here.

Dr. Simons:                        Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah, we’re so glad that you took the time to come up and visit with us, especially, you know, on a non-snow day, here in Colorado because you never know what we’re going to have up here in Estes Park. It’s been great to have you here, and to learn a little bit more about your practice, and what you’re doing here. But before we get into the specific area of where you work in eating disorders, can you talk about how you got into the field, and what was it that sort of motivated you to say I really want to work with this type of population and this type of specialty?

Dr. Simons:                        Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, so I’ve been interested in psychology for a long time. I remember taking a psychology class in high school and just being intrigued with all of it and fascinated by the human mind. As far as the eating disorder aspect goes, you know, I grew up like a lot of people in America with a lot of pressure and ideas that are sort of pushed pretty strongly about society and what it means to look good, and how you have to kind of fit a very specific mold, and it frustrates me. It really, really aggravates me, and I really, really enjoy helping people realize that there is so much more to the world and to life than what you look like, and how you fit into somebody else’s idea of who you should be. And so, yeah, so that’s what really drove my passion for working with people with eating disorders.

Gina Thorne:                      I love that because I think that, you know, as a woman in this culture, I can completely relate to what you’re talking about because, as a young person, you know, it’s even more prevalent now, today, than it was when we were younger, as far as this pressure to conform, and to be a certain size, and to look a certain way, instead of just respecting everybody’s individuality, and being unique to who they are. So, I commend you on taking that path and, hopefully, making that change that’s so needed, so people aren’t struggling with that body identity issue that they so struggle with.

Dr. Simons:                        Right. Yeah. Absolutely, I mean, it’s even worse now than it was before with social media. There’s just so much pressure out there. And these issues affect everybody, you know? Women, men, all people of all shapes and sizes. You know, I just love doing whatever I can to really help that.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great.

Dr. Simons:                        Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      So, on your website, you talk about empowerment, that that’s an approach that you use in working with clients. Can you talk a little bit more about how you use the empowerment approach?

Dr. Simons:                        Yes, absolutely. You know, so, I believe that for people to come to therapy, or to make a change in your life, it really takes a lot of courage and a lot of dedication. It’s not easy to make changes. It’s really hard. Even after you’ve decided that you want to make a change, it can be hard to stick with it. So, my belief is that if you’re working with somebody who really believes in you, you feel more empowered to actually make those changes for yourself. So I use all strength-based techniques. I really help by meeting people where they are, at the level of motivation that they’re at, and help them find what’s already in them that they can utilize to make those changes. So, really helping people believe in themselves and notice the strengths that they’ve had all along.

Gina Thorne:                      Is it a positive psychology approach as well?

Dr. Simons:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      Okay. Great.

Dr. Simons:                        Definitely a lot of positive psychology and really strength-based, yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      And that makes a big difference because people are focusing on the positive versus the negative. They’re more reinforced to continue moving forward.

Dr. Simons:                        Absolutely. You’re recognizing the potential that you already have within you, and you’re just building on that and really creating the self-esteem and confidence that you need to carry it into motion.

Gina Thorne:                      I think that’s why you see so many people who are successful because they’re not always looking at the setbacks. They’re looking at, “Okay, how can I tweak things to make it better the next time?”

Dr. Simons:                        Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:                      Versus looking at “I’m a failure, I’m a failure,” to “Okay, that didn’t work. What can I do differently?”

Dr. Simons:                        Right. There’s a big difference between this mindset of “I’m flawed, and I’m a failure, and I can’t move on,” as opposed to “I’m human, and I’m not perfect, and that means that I have strengths and I have weaknesses. And how do I use the strength to take the weaknesses and push them along?”

Gina Thorne:                      I love it. That’s fantastic.

Gina Thorne:                      How do you see, because I know that you do both, and we talked about this briefly at lunch today in regards to this idea of the addiction treatment world and the eating disorder world, and how they always felt like they played a separate role. There almost seems to be a level of fear on both sides on how to dive deep into the other.

Dr. Simons:                        Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:                      You have learned how to kind of co, or interplay the two in your practice. And so, what does that look like when we’re talking about the nature of addiction treatment with substances, which, of course, we know food can be a form of substance or a type of addiction for food is like a substance abuse issue, what would that look like for you in working with a client who’s struggling with both the addictions issue and the eating disorder issue?

Dr. Simons:                        Yes, absolutely. Yeah, so, like you said, I have experience. My background is in both eating disorders and addiction. I’ve previously worked in a number of different programs doing both, and you’re right. A lot of the care that we have right now, people are specialized in this field. Right? So you’re specialized in one thing. We don’t have a lot of overlap to see both. What we notice in both is that there’s a high comorbidity. There’s a high correlation of having both an addiction and an eating disorder at the same time. And so, that means that you really have to be able to address both of those, and what we find is that if you go to treatment for one, you’re not getting support for the other. Right? They’re both ways that you’re coping with distressing situations, and if we take away your substances, we take away that ability to cope with some of the underlying issues, that eating disorder is going to come up. You’re going to rely on it more as a coping skill because your other substance coping skill is out the window. And vice versa. We see that happening. If we start to work on the eating disorder, that substance use will come up.

Dr. Simons:                        And so, I feel that one of the strong benefits that I’ve been able, you know, to use with my clients is to be able to address both of those. Is how do we come up with a foundational set of coping skills and look at the factors that are underlying both of these issues so that we can work at them at the same time? And not, you know, get a handle on one, and see the other one pop up.

Gina Thorne:                      Makes sense. So, it’s really looking globally at what are the most appropriate coping skills so that they’re not substituting one poor decision or one bad addiction for another, I guess.

Dr. Simons:                        Absolutely. You know, so instead of triaging an issue, dealing with one and then the other, that doesn’t work. Right? Instead, it’s looking at the whole person. Right? So, we’re really looking at everything that’s going on and trying to help in the best way that we can, rather than just doing one thing at a time because it’s not always effective.

Gina Thorne:                      You’re right. And we actually see some of that happening here in residential. When you take away the most common form of coping for them, which in many cases is use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, then they start to substitute it with other things. Whether that’s relationship issues or even smoking or eating or anything to stuff because they don’t have to address the emotions that are starting to percolate because they’ve been so numb for so long, and now, they’re starting to feel again. It’s good to have someone like you who’s had the exposure of working with both so that it’s not an either-or scenario.

Dr. Simons:                        Exactly.

Gina Thorne:                      But it has to go in tandem together.

Dr. Simons:                        Exactly. We don’t want to get a handle on one issue and then bring up a whole new issue that we have to deal with later. Let’s deal with both things at the same time, and really get back into life in the best way possible.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great. Well, we need more people like you in the field-

Dr. Simons:                        Thank you.

Gina Thorne:                      … that’s building the bridge because I think we’re still a little far behind on that. I think we have some work to do there.

Gina Thorne:                      So, we like to get to know the person behind the program.

Dr. Simons:                        Sure.

Gina Thorne:                      And so, I’m going to ask you a couple personal questions.

Dr. Simons:                        Okay.

Gina Thorne:                      If you had a giant billboard and you could put any phrase or saying on it that could be advertised to the world, what would that be?

Dr. Simons:                        That’s an amazing question. I would say, “It’s good to be weird.”

Gina Thorne:                      I like that.

Dr. Simons:                        I do. I think that that’s true. I think we, again, kind of going back to the beginning of how I got started in this, is we live in a society that comes up with some pretty straight-edge, very, very challenging expectations of what it means to be a good person, what it means to be attractive, what it means to be smart, what it means to be any kind of person in America or in the world. I think it does it a disservice because, you know, it leaves everybody, everybody struggles with insecurities in their lives, different parts of themselves, whether it’s your inner-self our your outer-self. And I think that if we can say, you know, forget that. Like, let’s embrace what makes us weird. Let’s embrace what makes us unique and really put that forward. And when you can do that, when you can stop pushing against the things that you’re coming up against, stop pushing up against what makes you insecure and embrace it as the unique pieces of your personality, you can really have the confidence that you need to go through your life.

Gina Thorne:                      I love it. I hope we can get that billboard up soon because that would be terrific.

Dr. Simons:                        It’d be amazing, wouldn’t it?

Gina Thorne:                      It would be so great. Yeah. I love it.

Gina Thorne:                      And if somebody were to ask you, like me, if you could play off the idea of the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Dr. Simons:                        I think that’s a great question, too. You know, I think it means being at peace, and being in the moment. Again, we live in a world where we’re always thinking about what we could be doing or what we should have been doing. We’re either upset or disappointed about the past, or we’re anxious and nervous about the future. I think that when we’re in harmony, we’re really able to be present and in the moment, and be intentional, and grateful for what we have around us. It doesn’t mean that everything’s perfect all the time, but it means we’re okay with it, and we can take it in for what it is.

Gina Thorne:                      Nice. I love that, too. Thank you.

Dr. Simons:                        Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      As we wrap up, today, if somebody was listening to the podcast and wanted to learn more about your services, how could they get in touch with you?

Dr. Simons:                        Yeah. You can go to my website, www.simonstherapy.com. You can also call me, 720-772-6915. My office is in Cherry Creek in Denver, but I also do telehealth video appointments for all around Colorado. So, please, feel free to reach out.

Gina Thorne:                      Awesome. Thank you, Dr. Simons. So nice to meet you.

Dr. Simons:                        Thank you so much for having me.

Podcast: Katie Markley

Gina Thorne:                      Hi, everyone. Welcome to The Harmony Foundation Podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Katie Markley with Resilience Therapy out of Boulder, Colorado. Welcome.

Katie Markley:                  Thank you.

Gina Thorne:                      So good to have you here. Really excited to learn more about resilience therapy and the program itself, but we want to learn a little bit about you first. You have a unique path to working in the field. On your website, when I was checking it out, you spend a lot of time talking about this idea of resiliency and trauma. One thing that I thought was really fascinating is that you have found yourself at the base of Mount Everest. How does that experience contribute to the work that you’re doing today around resiliency and trauma?

Katie Markley:                  That’s a great question, and I appreciate you doing that research and knowing a little bit more about me. I think that, for me, I had to really, and at a young age, discover how to find my own resilience and to build that up as a life resource for myself. I had a traumatic event happen when I was in high school still and had to work through a lot of grief very early on, so that made me interested in spirituality, finding my own relationship to a higher power. For me, I found that in nature, in looking at other cultures and understanding some of the big questions about life by really observing and also learning from different wisdom traditions. I went to Naropa University, and what compelled me to go there was the way that they integrate Buddhist philosophy into psychotherapy and how they make that actually really practical.

Working through some of my own struggles, also having a lot of addiction in my own family history and seeing how important it is to in being a psychotherapist relate to all the things that are really relevant for the most amount of people that are going to be coming through the door. I was like, “Wow, addiction is so prevalent in almost everyone’s life,” whether you’re talking about substances or process addictions, and similarly, trauma. Trauma is just everywhere. Some people might not consider themselves to be traumatized because they might not have big “T” traumas in their life. They might have a lot of small “t” traumas, things that continually happen to them that inform their belief about themselves.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s so true, and I think that that’s where the field is really changing is people are seeing that more and more, that you can’t really address addiction, similarly to the mental health. You can’t address the addiction without looking at the mental health the same with trauma. You really can’t, and however people define it, whether it’s a significant traumatic even by some people’s standards could be equally so for someone else who might’ve had something that wasn’t as big. I completely agree with you. Very exciting to hear that you spent some time at Mount Everest. That must’ve been … On another time, I’d love to hear more about the specifics around-

Katie Markley:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      … that experience. That must’ve been very cool.

Katie Markley:                  I think it helped me to understand, like I needed to understand for myself what I was made of and how deep I could dig, and so that helped me to be in touch with my own resilience and also know what it was like to go through hard times and learn to rely on myself.

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah.

Katie Markley:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      Exciting. You’ve focused your training on trauma because you believe it’s the source of much of our suffering based on what you’ve shared on your website. How does this play out in the work that you do with clients? What specifically are you doing with your clients around trauma that’s helping them really look at that issue?

Katie Markley:                  Yeah, I’m basically helping them in a couple ways that I can think of now. One would be identify the core beliefs that they’ve developed about themselves or the world based on what’s happened to them. If somebody grew up and in a small “t” trauma kind of way was always told they weren’t worthwhile, then they might not even realize that that’s a story running in the background, and even though we call that a small “t” trauma, it is so pervasive in their worldview and their personal view that you really have to dismantle that to get at some deep healing.

We’re looking at those. We’re working to desensitize any triggers that they have around some of those beliefs. I work with EMDR and somatic experiencing, and so when I’m helping clients to work with addictions and trauma, I’m also helping them to get in touch with their bodies and really to identify what they’re feeling. We just live in this very cognitive world, I believe, where we’re so used to talking about things, but we’re actually not used to knowing how to relate to our emotions. Learning the tools for sincerely relating to our emotions, unpacking that, and unloading it so that we’re not walking around feeling so much and not knowing how to manage it.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great because I think we all have become very numb. I think we’ve allowed outside influences to really affect the ability to feel to the core from a cellular level. I agree with that.

Katie Markley:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      In addition to the many hats that you wear, you also are a young adult mentor. Obviously, you like to do a lot of things. Why is that important to today for young people to have mentors? Why is that important do you think?

Katie Markley:                  That’s a great question too, I mean, so I worked for many years in young adult transitional living program and I think found that passion for working with young adults there because I just saw, I mean, how malleable they still were and how much there was still so much potential for change and empowerment. I think that you have to, well, one, when you’re being helped, you have to not feel like there is a huge difference between the helper and the one that is being helped. You don’t want to feel like you’re just a client or you’re just a patient. You want to feel like you’re really being with someone. I think that people need mentors so that they can feel like they’re being related to, that they can have someone that says, “I’ve lived this experience, and here’s what I found,” someone that can drop the professionalism and just be very real with people. I think that having a mentor gives somebody support, it gives somebody a sense of direction and hope and a role model.

Gina Thorne:                      They certainly need more of those good ones, I think-

Katie Markley:                  Totally.

Gina Thorne:                      … as I have a budding young adult in my home. I feel that’s probably more and more imperative. Interesting though, when I ask him about mentors, he doesn’t feel like he needs one, and I don’t know if he’s still in that adolescence stage where he feels like he can handle it on his own, but I see that more and more young adults are seeking out people that they can really call to for insight and support in a different way than your parents or your teachers.

Katie Markley:                  Yeah. I also have a 16-year-old stepdaughter, and I can see how that might for young adults that it’s actually just not something that’s culturally, it’s not in the norm, and how cool would it be if it was, that we all had to seek out mentors and value that importance because, in my intake, I always ask clients, “Who were your mentors when you were young? Do you feel like you had somebody that really shaped your life besides your parents?” I often find people get actually emotional when I ask that question because they either didn’t, which is emotional, or they really did, and those people were so important to them. I actually feel kind of teary even talking about it, so yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      Well, and the truth is, sometimes we don’t think about them in that capacity. We don’t think about them that way, and they really are instrumental in helping us, for sure. I agree with that. That’s very interesting.

I really like to get to know about the person behind the program, and so I’m going to ask you an unorthodox question. If you had a billboard and you could put any phrase or slogan on it for the world to see, what would it say?

Katie Markley:                  Oh, that’s really interesting. I was actually, I just had this thing happen the other day. I was driving, and … Let me see if I can remember what it was. Actually, can I look it up real quick. Can we pause?

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah. Go ahead. Absolutely. We’ve had all sorts of interesting responses from people over the years, so yeah.

Katie Markley:                  I actually, I made a little Canva. It’s like a resource you have online to make your own meme. I made a Canva about it the other day because I was like, “Oh, I gotta capture that.” The Internet here’s not so great.

Gina Thorne:                      I’m going to pause here.

Katie Markley:                  I guess the billboard for me personally would have to be something about how healing is not something that happens to us but that it’s a relationship that we have to actively participate in. I think that that “actively participating” part is so important because we have to believe in the fact that healing is possible for us, which I think is a big hurdle for a lot of people because they’ve been suffering for so long, so that you have to believe it, and then that belief becomes a source of determination and inspiration that carries you forward in the hard times.

I think that I really see a clear distinction in the people I work with sometimes, those that believe healing is possible and those that don’t. I think sometimes people are looking for that silver bullet. They’re looking for someone to come tell them what’s wrong with them and guide them through it, and I think you definitely do need people to be your allies in healing, but you have to feel empowered that you can get healing because you’re engaged with a process that you-

Gina Thorne:                      That you own it, right?

Katie Markley:                  Yeah, but it’s an alchemy that actually, that you can impact yourself, so.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s interesting. I was just on the phone with somebody having that very conversation, and we talked just about how it’s important to be able to own the process because it’s yours and not have somebody just dictate to you what the problem is but to know-

Katie Markley:                  Right.

Gina Thorne:                      … that your healing is part of your journey. I like that. I like a lot.

Katie Markley:                  I think a lot of times when people come out of a program like Harmony, they might feel really inspired and start to have that spark, but the aftercare and how they’re engaged in their life after a program is about catching them in that phase of inspiration and how things guide them through.

Gina Thorne:                      I like that slogan a lot. Thank you for sharing that. If you were to play out the idea of the word of harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Katie Markley:                  I think it’s a life where you’re at peace with yourself, where you can accept where you’ve been, who you are, where you come from, and own your own unique path, your unique identity and sort of in that working with any shame that we might’ve internalized, any sense of isolation in the world and come to find that our own unique path is what makes us us and own it.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great. Thank you. Katie, if someone wanted to access services at your program at Resilience Therapy, how could they get in touch with you?

Katie Markley:                  The best thing to do is to check out my website. I think that there’s a lot of information on there, and you really get a sense of what working with me might be like. My website is katiemarkley.com, K-A-T-I-E M-A-R-K-L-E-Y. You can also call me. My number’s on the site, but it’s also 541-513-7769.

Gina Thorne:                      Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to visit us up here at Harmony. Congratulations on your new baby.

Katie Markley:                  Thank you.

Gina Thorne:                      It’s so great.

Katie Markley:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      Oh, my goodness. We are looking forward to partnering with you and all the great work that you do for our clients who are leaving Harmony who need access to your services, so thanks again.

Katie Markley:                  Thanks so much.

The Insurance Dance with Recovery in Mind by Jim Geckler


We recently received a Facebook post regarding frustration over Harmony’s handling of payments made through insurance. I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss questions and concerns about our partnerships with insurance partners and how we believe it helps benefit access to treatment.

First and foremost, insurance companies make it easier for us to cover some of the cost of treatment, a service that many of us do not plan for when the time requires it. When we consider our personal relationships with insurance partners, how many of us would be able to have yearly physicals, emergency procedures, or access to treatment? As a provider, Harmony works with our insurance partners to provide the appropriate level of care for the appropriate period of time.

Harmony has a 49 year history of providing a residential level of care; this is the highest level of care for people suffering from substance use disorder. We have a responsibility to our clients to stabilize them medically, assess their conditions, provide them with a diagnosis, work with them to create a foundation for sustained recovery, and construct a comprehensive continuing care plan which will support their recovery. The relationships we have fostered with insurance partners has allowed us to work collaboratively to support access to care along the continuum. Under the umbrella of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), together, insurance companies and treatment providers alike are held to the highest standards of care for addiction treatment. This common language, reviewed in tandem with insurance providers determines what level of care an individual requires.

Sometimes there is disagreement.  For example, when Harmony feels that a client would be better served by remaining at a residential level of care and an insurance provider feels they would be successful at the next level.  Other times, a client would like to remain in treatment, however our expert clinical and medical staff believe they are ready to move toward self-management of their own recovery at a level of care which empowers them to practice the early skills of recovery they learned here. In most cases, to arrive at a decision to move a client to the next level of care, involves a conversation with our Medical Director and a physician reviewing the case for the insurance company. We work to keep people at the appropriate level of care indicated by our clinical staff recommendations based on the client’s progress.

Harmony has a dedicated utilization review team, clinical professionals who work with our insurance partners, staff, and clients to keep people at the level of care which will provide them the greatest opportunities for success. When it is determined that funding for residential care has ended, we work to inform the client as quickly as we are able. Unfortunately in this situation the determination for a shift in levels of care is immediate, funding ceases that day. In order to ease the transition for clients and families, Harmony is committed to absorbing the expense of an additional night’s stay for clients. This is not common practice and comes at a fair cost. For example, in the month of July, we provided $28,000 in housing and care at no additional expense to clients. We are able to continue to do this through the generosity of our donors. We recognize the challenge and frustration of learning at 4 pm that one no longer has financing for treatment, however we are dedicated to continue to support our clients during this transition period.

There is nothing magical about 28 days of treatment. We have heard the 28 day timeframe used for many years, growing in public awareness with the Sandra Bullock film. The reality is that proven success is driven by long term engagement in treatment within a full continuum of care, at multiple levels  increasing the opportunity  for self-management.

We will always remain committed to providing access to treatment whenever possible, using all means necessary to help individuals receive treatment that can build an early foundation of recovery.  This could look like something as short as a few days or as long as 4 months.  Either way, our partnerships with insurance and our recommendations for treatment will always be the focus in providing individualized care for clients.

Jim Geckler is the Chief Executive Officer for Harmony Foundation.

Podcast: Lotus Lodge Sober Living

Gina Thorne:                      Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m please today to be joined with Scott Lister and Gene Shiling with Lotus Lodge out of Denver, Colorado. Welcome.

Scott Lister:                        Thank you.

Gene Shiling:                     Thanks for having us.

Scott Lister:                        Thanks for having us.

Gina Thorne:                      Really great to have you here on campus, and, fortunately, the weather was corporative. It was a little touch and go for some people driving up this morning with the snow, but it sounds like you guys were able to get through it okay.

Scott Lister:                        Yep. We made it.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great. That’s great.

Well, we’re interested in hearing more about the Lotus Lodge. I’ll tell you I had a chance to go online, and see the pictures of this most beautiful place that I think a lot of people are going to be very curious about after we have a chance to chat. But before we do that I want to get to know a little bit about both of you, and kind of what got you into working in transitional living.

And so, first lets start with you Scott. Can you share a little bit about your background, and how you got into the field of addiction treatment?

Scott Lister:                        Yeah, absolutely. 10 years ago I was suffering from my own crisis in addiction, and entered the treatment world to get healthy. It certainly wasn’t my intention to give back to the community right away, but it’s kind of an organic process for me. Part of my own recovery process was being of service and helping addicts. So, it kind of happened organically.

Before I landed in treatment I was in business, and was invited to come back to the treatment center I went through to get healthy on my own, and started small doing some milli managements and counseling work. And a few years ago went to nursing school, and decided to run with it, and there just profession.

And then Gene and I collaborated recently on this idea of opening up a sober living home to extend our services to help as many people as we could.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great. Great story.

And so, Gene the Lotus Lodge it works with women 23 and over-

Gene Shiling:                     That’s right.

Gina Thorne:                      It’s transitional living, or sober living. Can you share a little bit more about what a woman would experience when they come to Lotus Lodge?

Gene Shiling:                     Absolutely. So, I think the most important expectation for women and people in recovery, in general, is safety, and the sense of community, and the sense of belonging. So, those are expectations that are pretty standard. And women entering Lotus Lodge can definitely have that expectation that they will feel safe, we’ll definitely work with them on many different aspects of community service and giving back, and reintegrating back into society. We feel that it’s important for women …

This is kind of the last step after they’ve completed treatment episodes, and after they’ve done some extended care. This is the step down where women can expect assistance with reintegrating back into society, and finding work, and finding meaningful relationships, and we definitely help them foster that aspect of their lives.

It’s very critical for women to find spirituality, and it’s a really important aspect of what we do as well. Spirituality is a big part of what we offer at Lotus Lodge, and definitely something that women entering Lotus Lodge can expect as part of their recovery with us.

Gina Thorne:                      It’s interesting because I have the pleasure of helping open a women’s program, and when you go online and look at your website what you’ve all created, from a facility standpoint, it’s not just your traditional sober living for women. I mean, it really is, from a female perspective, I responded very strongly to it, because what it said to me was you are very mindful of self care, and the ability for women to feel worthy. And a lot of times when women are walking into a treatment program, or if they’re coming out of a treatment program they may struggle with this idea of do I have the right to be in a place that makes me feel worthy, and makes me feel like I can take care of myself. And when you look at your website you clearly have created a space for women to feel that way in addition to that feeling of safety. And that’s not common. I mean, we don’t see that very often. So, that’s great that you’ve created that.

Gene Shiling:                     Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:                      And with that, I guess, Gene why is it important to create this kind of transitional living experience do you think?

Gene Shiling:                     I think it’s important for this treatment modality to exist, because women coming out of treatment there needs to be this step down place for women to experience a community setting in a safe place where they can start kind of getting their feet wet, and relationship with family is important, and women are still very new in recovery. And some of the services that we provide are making sure … Not really making sure, but helping women with their medication management. We’re medication assisted treatment friendly. Scott and I are both nurses, and we sit down with the women, and we go through their medications, we collaborate with the physicians.

Gene Shiling:                     So, when they’re ready to enter the workforce, and when they’re ready to go back home, a lot of these women have families … So, it’s a really important piece of treatment that needs to exist to promote well being, and recovery, and just, in general, humanity for women.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s exactly what I sensed from it, and I know several of my colleagues have gone out to visit your place, and it does feel like its very much what you’re saying. Not just what you see online, but also what people have experienced when they come into your facility, which is great.

So, we always like to get to know the people behind the program. And so, Scott I’m going to ask you what purchases of less than a 100 dollars have you made recently that have most improved your life?

Scott Lister:                        I didn’t notice recently when I first read that, but-

Gina Thorne:                      It doesn’t have to be recent. It can be whenever.

Scott Lister:                        This is an easy for me, though. ‘Cause 10 years ago I rolled into treatment totally broke, and, man, so disconnected from humanity and my own soul. And 10 years ago I rolled into my first meeting, and brought in 10 dollars to purchase a big book of alcoholics anonymous, and I actually never even purchased it they guy ended up giving me the book. Ever since I cracked open that book the trajectory of my life has just been amazing, and, since then, so full of hope, and capacity for love, and fellowship, and understanding, and giving back to people.

Unfortunately, last time we moved I lost that old tattered written up book, so someone’s probably out there reading that book right now wondering-

Gina Thorne:                      I’m sure they are. I’m sure they are.

Scott Lister:                        But that really was a game changer for me, and showing me a life I never thought was possible. And because of that I’m able to give that back to people who are starting off-

Gina Thorne:                      That is so great

Scott Lister:                        Themselves.

Gina Thorne:                      That is so great. You’re right that message, and that gift that keeps on giving, right?

Scott Lister:                        Right.

Gina Thorne:                      So, that’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that.

And Gene if I were to throw out the idea of the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Gene Shiling:                     For me living in harmony … Well, harmony and recovery, for me, is all about relationships. And I look at harmony as a relationship with myself, relationship with God of my understanding, relationship with community with society, and relationship with service. How am I being of service? How do I fit it into my immediate family? How do I fit it into my community and society in general?

So, living in harmony, for me, is all about those relationships. And the way that I see it is in order for me to be successful, and to be happy I need to have all four of those things in my life. I can’t exist in harmony if I don’t have a higher power in my life. I can’t exist in harmony if I’m not being of service to my community and society. There is no harmony if I’m not a part of my family. There’s no harmony if I beat myself up over little things, and if I don’t respect myself, if I can’t look in the mirror and see a person that I respect.

So, in general, harmony is all about relationships for me.

Gina Thorne:                      I like that answer. That’s a great answer.

And if someone wanted to access the recovery services that you all are offering at Lotus Lodge how can they get in touch with you Steve, Scott?

Scott Lister:                        Yeah. You can call us at 303-551-1610, you can e-mail us at info@lotuslodgesoberliving.com, or visit our website at www.lotuslodgesoberliving.com. We also have a Facebook page you can find us at lotuslodgesoberliving

Scott Lister:                        And you call us at any time whether it’s to inquire about our services, or our program, or just chat about recovery, or if you need referrals, or resources to get the help you need. Gene and I are an open book. We’re open and willing to talk to anybody.

Gina Thorne:                      Outstanding. Well, thank you both for taking the time to visit with us. We’re excited about building that relationship with you all. And thank you for making women a priority in transitional living and sober living, ’cause there’s enough of it out there. It means a great deal.

Gene Shiling:                     Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:                      Thanks.

Gene Shiling:                     Thanks for having us.

Scott Lister:                        Thanks for having us.

Podcast: Summitstone Health Partners

Gina Thorne:                      Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series. And I’m pleased today to be joined with Austin Johnson and Caroline Bunn with SummitStone Health. Welcome.

Austin Johnson:                Hi.

Caroline Bunn:                  Hi

Gina Thorne:                      Its good to have you both here. I’m really excited that you’re on campus today.

Austin Johnson:                Great to be here.

Caroline Bunn:                  Thanks for having us.

Gina Thorne:                      Of course. And you know, on a beautiful day today, I mean, Sunday we had lots of snow and people still tried to brave the elements to come up. So, it’s nice that you guys did that, which is good.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yes. In my little Prius too.

Gina Thorne:                      That would have been fun. That would’ve been fun. You know, those car … they’re hearty cars, I mean, you probably could make it work.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      So, before we get into the specifics about SummitStone, we’d love to get a little background on both of you first, just talking a little bit about how you got into the field. And so, Austin, let’s start with you first.

Austin Johnson:                Okay.

Gina Thorne:                      So, what kind of put you in the field of working with addiction?

Austin Johnson:                So, I mean I have a long history of addiction within my family and then I struggled with addiction for a long time. So, in January, I’ll be celebrating my 9th year. And so-

Gina Thorne:                      Nice.

Caroline Bunn:                  Woo.

Gina Thorne:                      Good job.

Austin Johnson:                Yeah so, when I initially got clean and sober I really wanted to work with people that struggled with some of the things that I struggled with, and in a field that I knew a lot about, but didn’t necessarily have the education. And then, I went back to school and got my bachelors in social work with a minor in criminology. So I, you know, this is a field that I hold near and dear to my heart because I truly believe that there is hope and there’s recovery. And that there’s different ways to establish that. So.

Gina Thorne:                      Nice. Thank you for sharing that.

Austin Johnson:                Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      And how about you Caroline?

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah. I have a slightly different path. So, when I was in my bachelors, I really thought I was gonna be a teacher and then it turned out that I wasn’t all that great at classroom management. And so … But what I also realized is that, like I would see these kids within a class of 30 where there were, always, at least one or two, maybe three or four kids who really seemed to be struggling more than other kids in the classroom. And I felt really drawn to help those few children ’cause they very clearly were not getting what they needed in that larger environment. So, I really went to grad school thinking I was gonna be a school counselor, and then got pulled to the more community health end of things. So, my background is in working with kids recovering from trauma.

                                                And then have done a number of other things, like working in hospital settings and schools, and then made the jump out of clinical work to do outreach for SummitStone about two months ago, and it’s been a really fun and really great fit.

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah. I mean I really see the work that you’re doing and what a lot of other people do as well, as far as being ambassadors and helping usher people to the right place, is vital.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      I mean, there’s a valuable role in everybody playing and working within the behavioral health space. And so … Well, thank you both for the work that you do I this field ’cause it’s not easy work.

Austin Johnson:                Nope.

Gina Thorne:                      So, we appreciate that. So, let’s talk a little bit about SummitStone Health Partners, it’s got 50 years of service, almost similar to Harmony, we’re celebrating our 50 years.

Austin Johnson:                Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      So, I think we’re almost, you know, I don’t know, when did you guys open, do you remember, specifically? I wonder who’s older.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah, we’ve … We’re older.

Gina Thorne:                      You’re older.

Austin Johnson:                ‘Cause we just celebrated [crosstalk 00:03:17] years.

Caroline Bunn:                  We’re looking good, though.

Gina Thorne:                      Okay.

Austin Johnson:                60 years.

Caroline Bunn:                  We’re over 60 years. 60 years.

Gina Thorne:                      Over 60?

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      Oh, okay.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      Over 60. Well then, you definitely are. I don’t know where I got the 50 from, but that’s great. Okay.

Caroline Bunn:                  I think it’s over 50 services. So, there are a number of different numbers we’ve got.

Gina Thorne:                      Oh, gotcha. Okay.

Caroline Bunn:                  All of our offices and then all of the … We’re in over 24 offices.

Austin Johnson:                We did just celebrate our 60 year anniversary.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      So, 60 years with 50 services.

Caroline Bunn:                  Over 50 services. Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah. And you treat people with substance use and mental health disorders.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      You’re actually the largest behavioral health provider of Medicaid in Larimer County, which is really impressive. What do you think sets your program apart from other programs?

Austin Johnson:                I mean, we really do provide, I wouldn’t say 50, I mean, I imagine there’s probably more services than 50. But, we just really try to fit the needs of the individual clients that walks in our door. From the moment that they come in for their intake, we are trying to fit their needs, whether they’re here for mental health services or there for substance use disorder, or both. So, we’re really trying to facilitate all the needs of this client, while … because their financial … I don’t know how to explain that, but. Oh shoot.

Caroline Bunn:                  Well, I’ll just in there. I mean, what I really love is that we treat people across the life span. So, we have a really robust, early childhood program here we go into daycare settings and support in that way. And then also offer parenting classes for parents with kids as young as a few months old, all the way up to older adults who are struggling with their … with whatever it is in their life that they’re struggling with. And then also, what I think is amazing is that, not only do we have our different offices throughout the county, but we’re in the jail, we’re in several different community health care clinics, we are in four different schools in the Thompson School District. I mean, we are really meeting people where they’re at, just across the county no matter where that is.

Gina Thorne:                      And it sounds like hitting every demographic as well.

Austin Johnson:                Right.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah.

Austin Johnson:                Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      Which is really not normal. Most people are very specific to one audience and it sounds like you all are really making yourselves available to everybody across the spectrum, which is terrific.

Female:                                Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      So, one thing, I feel I’d be remiss if we didn’t talk a little about your new position as MAT Administrator. Can you talk a little bit about what that means and what people would get from that if they were to come through your program?

Austin Johnson:                Yeah. So, our program, we have a medication assisted therapy, which we treat opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder with those medications. And we’ve been doing that for the past two years, is when we started our Suboxone program in Loveland. And then our Vivitrol programs are both in Fort Collins and Loveland. And so, really with this new position, the grant administrator, we’re looking to expand our services to our Fort Collins area. And also, we are expanding our services to a jail based pilot, so that when people come into the jail they are either be … you know, continue their MAT services or they are being induced within the walls. So, then they … When they leave, when they are released, they are connected with services, whether it’s with SummitStone or with other agencies, we’re making sure that they’re connected and hopefully reducing … definitely reducing overdoses and reducing recidivism.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great.

Austin Johnson:                So, it’s a big deal for us. And we’re really, really proud of the work that we’re doing right now with the MAT work.

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah, we’re really fortunate to have that grant, ’cause I think communities across the country need it. I mean, we’re all facing this opiate crisis and so it’s really important to have that.

Austin Johnson:                Yes. Yes.

Caroline Bunn:                  Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:                      So, Caroline.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      What purchase, of $100 or less, has most positively impacted your life in the last six months?

Caroline Bunn:                  I’m gonna go with my dog. And we actually got him for free ’cause he was abandoned with us.

Gina Thorne:                      That is a great price.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      So, tell us about that, who’s your dog?

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah. So, we … He came out of a tough situation. It was a couple that was divorcing and couple … Nobody could agree to keep the dog and so … Just it was actually at a dinner party my husband and I met him. And it’s funny, because I’m more the dog person in our dynamic and my husband, Ryan, walked in and saw this dog and I’m surprised that we didn’t leave with him that night. And so, now we have a 105-pound St. Bernard/German Short Hair Pointer mix who …

Gina Thorne:                      Oh my goodness. Oh, my gosh.

Caroline Bunn:                  And that’s why I’m covered in dog hair 99.9% of the time.

Austin Johnson:                Me too ’cause I rode in your car.

Gina Thorne:                      That is a great … I mean, that’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yes. And Austin ’cause she was in my car. Yes, absolutely. So, that is the best, best purchase under $100 [inaudible 00:08:40], probably the best purchase, period. But, yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s fantastic. Oh, nice. Yeah. That’s great. Well congratulations on being a pet owner.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.

Gina Thorne:                      So … And then, for you, Austin, if I were to play off the idea of the world “Harmony”, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Austin Johnson:                I mean, that’s a large, that’s a very large question, I think. But, I think that being able to live in an environment where you have community support, and you have family support, and you just have this cohesive environment that supports a healthy living style. I don’t know, that’s … When I come up here I feel like this place is harmony to me. I mean, if I were to … you know, it’s a breath of fresh air and being able to just take in … I don’t know. Positivity. That’s a hard question.

Caroline Bunn:                  Well, I think it’s being at peace. Like, being at peace with yourself.

Austin Johnson:                Right.

Caroline Bunn:                  Being at peace with the world around you.

Austin Johnson:                Right.

Caroline Bunn:                  And, yeah, ’cause I mean, we live in a really chaotic world and not being pulled into that chaos and being able to be. Just have some calm somewhere.

Austin Johnson:                Right.

Gina Thorne:                      Great answer.

Austin Johnson:                The calm within the storm.

Gina Thorne:                      Yes.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yes.

Austin Johnson:                I think that’s a hard place to be at a lot of times, especially with working all the time, our families, and just being able to just be, just be. And so, I think that’s my idea of harmony.

Gina Thorne:                      Right.

Caroline Bunn:                  Yeah.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s a good answer. Thank you for that.

Caroline Bunn:                  I remember one time when I was working with kid, I said to this seven year old, “How do you know when you’re gonna be done with therapy? How will you know when we’re done?” And she’s like, “When I don’t have problems anymore.” And I’m like, “Well, that sounds great, but that’s not gonna happen.” And so, I think what harmony, where harmony comes in, is like being able to whether those storms ’cause we’re not gonna stop having problems, we’re not gonna stop having whatever comes up. And being able to be at peace or being able to have some sort of …

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah.

Austin Johnson:                Yeah. And move through that with grace [crosstalk 00:10:54].

Caroline Bunn:                  Yes. Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      Wonderful. Thank you for that. And so, Caroline, if someone wanted to access services at SummitStone, how could they get in touch with you?

Caroline Bunn:                  There are a lot of different ways for people to access services. So, the best, first step is to call our primarily line, and that is 970-494-4200. That’s gonna be a great number to get connected with services. It’s also the number to reach for crisis services. So, we also house the Larimer County … or the crisis center or Larimer County and that’s at 1217 Riverside Avenue in Fort Collins. And anybody can walk-in there, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to get support with a mental health or substance use crisis. But they can also call the 970-494-4200 number to get connected with somebody there, as well. And then, we also have walk-in services Monday through Thursday at our Bristlecone and Wilson offices. So, that’s in Fort Collins and Loveland.

Gina Thorne:                      Great. So, you’re making it very accessible for folks, which is what they need.

Caroline Bunn:                  Absolutely.

Austin Johnson:                Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      Really appreciate it. Well, both of you, thank you so much for taking the time to come up for the day. It’s a real pleasure to meet both of you and we look forward to sharing SummitStone’s work with the word and looking forward to continued partnership. Thank you.

Austin Johnson:                Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Caroline Bunn:                  Thank you. Yeah it was fun.

Summitstone Health Partners