Podcast Series: Northstar Transitions

Located in Boulder, CO, Northstar Transitions is a licensed and Joint Commission-accredited facility that serves men, women and families seeking a robust continuum of care for drug and alcohol use disorders.

Gina:   Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Mike [Ferrell 00:00:05] and Bre [Walt 00:00:05] with Northstar Transitions out of Boulder, Colorado. Welcome.

Mike:   Thank you.

Bre:      Thank you.

Gina:   Good to have you both here. Before we dive into who Northstar is, lets talk a little bit about your backgrounds and what got you into the field of addiction treatment. We’ll start with you first, Mike.

Mike:   Okay. Yeah, so I got into the field of addiction treatment after college. I had gotten sober when I was 21, so that’s what got me interested. Throughout college, I worked on my own personal recovery, I went to 12-step meetings, and when I graduated college, I started working for another treatment center as a tech. I really enjoyed my work, and it was kind of a natural transition into starting my own program, trying to help people. I’ve been doing that for the past six years or so now.

Gina:   That’s great.

Mike:   Yeah.

Gina:   Giving back. How about you, Bre?

Bre:      I’ve always been fascinated in psychology. I majored in psychology at CSU, and I also have struggled through my own recovery with an eating disorder. My brother is in recovery from substances. The addiction part of this field was always kind of where I wanted to end up. I made my way through working with psych hospitals and other treatment centers, and now I’m here with Northstar.

Gina:   That’s great.

Bre:      Yeah.

Gina:   Well, we’re glad you’re both here. So, let’s talk a little bit about Northstar. Northstar has this really great continuum care. It starts off with a social detox and soon residential. We’re going to be talking for a few minutes about that. But you currently have day treatment and IOP. Bre, can you tell us a little bit about the services? If someone were interested in treatment at Northstar, what would they expect when they would come into your program?

Bre:     Sure. We are going to be expanding the residential program. Currently, we have seven beds for men, which they can have the social detox, as well as the residential level there. The residential level is really kind of a stabilization period to get re-acclimated to being a sober person. It’s a lot of grounding skills. They spend about 30 days in that level of care, and then they transition into our day program, which is 30 hours a week. They can either live in our sober living. We have currently four men, hopefully soon to be women as well. Or they can live at home and commute. But a big piece of our programming is experiential, so we try and incorporate a lot of hands-on experiences, as well as the CBT, DBT, and trauma processing that we’re doing in group.

Gina:   You guys are obviously primed to be in a great location in Boulder, where you can take advantage of a lot of the outdoor experiential. Have you taken advantage of that and used it?

Bre:     Yes. Our PHP clinician, Robin, she is a former wilderness therapist, so she uses the outdoors as much as possible. That’s really great for our clients as they move through their journey to be able to have those familiar places with sober experiences there too.

Gina:   Great, great.

Bre:     Yes.

Gina:   So, we had the pleasure last year of having [Fatina Cannon 00:03:04], who’s the clinical director for the Northstar IOP program here, and she spent time talking about working with young adults. Obviously, with her experience, it seems to me that you all lean into working with young adults. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like?

Mike:   Sure, yeah. Being that we’re in a college town in Boulder, we naturally had a younger clientele. We decided in our early years that we were going to focus on young adults, so we initially limited the age range to 18 to 30 years old. We recently kind of expanded into treating anyone over the age of 18 that has a substance abuse disorder, but we remain focused and have a track essentially that treats young adults, where young adults are primarily the ones that are in our sober living homes. We have a morning IOP that tends to still be the 18-to-30-year-old range. A lot of our clients that are taking a leave of absence from CU Boulder or from another college, they tend to be in our PHP programming, whereas our evening IOP, which is on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30, tends to skew a little bit older. It’s people that are in school full-time, have full-time jobs, are parents, and have childcare responsibilities during the day. They’re able to come in the evening and do IOP in the evening.

Gina:   That’s great that you have that flexibility for clients because there are some programs that don’t have that as a resource. So, you have something coming up that’s pretty exciting. This spring, you’re going to be opening up a new residential program. It’s called the Lodge.

Mike:   Yeah.

Gina:   Tell us a little bit more about that.

Mike:   The Lodge at Northstar is something that we’re very, very excited about. It’s a 6,000-square-foot lodge facility. It’s located on 53 acres. It’s about, I think, 10 miles west of Boulder, near a town called Jamestown. Like I said, it’s on 53 acres. It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of national forest.

The types of things that we hope to offer there are equine therapy, ropes course, sweat lodge. We hope to be able to use the landscape to do snow-shoeing and hikes during the day and be able to hold group outside on nice days. On cold and snowy days, we hope to be able to hold group inside by the fireplace. We’re going to have a full gym there. We’re going to have a massage therapist come in, acupuncturist. We really hope to provide just a safe container for people to get away from the city, to get away from distractions and thinking about jobs and other responsibilities that they’re going to have, so that they can just focus solely on their recovery for a 28 or 30-day period before they come down into our transitional housing.

Gina:   It’s great to have additional resources because there’s such a need out there.

Mike:   Yeah.

Gina:   We’re happy that you guys are going to be doing that.

Mike:   Oh, thank you.

Gina:   It helps with some of the pressure. So, Bre, Northstar is a friend of Harmony. Can you share a little bit about your experiences in working with Harmony?

Bre:     Yeah. Harmony’s been wonderful for us because … well, for many reasons. But we need to refer out frequently for medical detox because the social sub-acute detox is what we offer, so you guys have been wonderful for us to refer up to that level of care. Also, right now, while we’re in transition to opening a women’s residential, to have people come up here and be in that residential level of care has been phenomenal. And we’re not that far away, so even better.

Gina:   No, we’re almost neighbors, which is great.

Bre:     Yes.

Gina:   If someone were listening today, and they wanted to access services at Northstar Transitions, how could they get in touch with you?

Bre:     You would call our admissions team: 303-558-6400. You can also call me personally to talk through the programming, ask questions. We can talk through insurance as well. My cell phone number is 720-422-2998.

Gina:   Great. Well, thank you both for taking the time to visit with us.

Mike:   Thank you.

Bre:      Thank you.

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