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Posted: Jul 29, 2009 12:15


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Houston, TX

Visit by Londa May, June 2009

The Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recovery Center (PaRC) is a comprehensive residential program for adolescents ages 13-18 that treats substance dependence (including detoxification) and co-occurring disorders. Referred to as the PaRC, the campus is located in Houston, TX, which is a direct flight from many cities. Memorial Hermann has been providing quality health care services for the Houston and TX areas, as advertised, for over 100 years. Established in 2008, the adolescent program offers individualized treatment plans and recovery programs. The PaRC has contracts with most insurance companies and accepts private pay.
My visit consisted of several different several days in June, I had permission to drop by and evaluate the program at my leisure which proved to be very helpful. There were times I stopped by in the morning and others in the afternoon. They were always open and receptive, allowing me to just be there and interact with staff and kids. On occasion they would ask my feedback on what I thought they might do differently to make it a more effective program. Seeing little room for improvement. I did suggest follow up data on the adolescents.

PaRC is a family centered program that teaches families and adolescents to establish sobriety in their lives and engage in the important work of recovery. Once you attend the PaRC you basically become a lifetime member of the PaRC family: alumni participate in Aftercare for up to one year at no cost. Alumni are also encouraged to attend the many support groups that meet on a daily or weekly basis for no additional charge.

The facility is an impressive two story red brick building with white columns and flowers blooming throughout the grounds. It is a very tranquil setting with a lot of shade trees and numerous outdoor sitting areas. It is complete with a gazebo, meandering sidewalks and recreation areas such as basketball and volleyball.

The relaxing feel of the outdoors is carried into the building with a well-regulated schedule for the adolescents. The large facility is always in use for numerous meetings throughout the day, yet it still has a quiet serene feeling even with groups going on in various rooms.

A different section of the campus houses the Young Adults ages 18-25.

A state of the art security system assures a safe campus. It monitors all the hallways, major meeting areas, grounds and parking lots. Security personnel review the monitors from several video screens around the building along with additional monitoring by the adolescent staff. The PaRC is a secure, restricted access facility.

The PaRC will accept an adolescent that is a runaway risk or brought in by an escort service. After 24 hours of being in the warm friendly environment, most adolescents buy into the program and seem relieved to relax and begin an honest journey toward recovery.

Jim Williams, the director and heart of the adolescent program, is constantly on the go giving tours, talking with staff or adolescents, and always doing what he can to make the PaRC adolescent program the "Best of the Best," the theme they have adopted is to achieve excellence in recovery care.

The staff supports the adolescents with a caring attitude that is evident, but the impressive part is that they are all there to support each other. "We are family" is what one of the staff told me. At staff meetings they lift each other up and acknowledge good things they have seen others do to help the kids and the program.

The staff is licensed in their respective fields either as social workers, licensed chemical dependency counselors, registered nurses or physicians who specialize in addiction medicine and psychiatry. They all have extensive backgrounds working in behavioral health and with adolescents. They love what they do, who they work for and with, and most of all they respect and love the adolescent population they serve.

The PaRC is a 12-step abstinence-based program, with a focus on replacing unhealthy habits and behaviors through a healthy life style change, developing positive alternative peer group associations, and becoming aware of how their problems affect all their relationships. The program teaches adolescents to look inward and take care of their needs, form meaningful relationships, create structure in their life, and develop who they are and who they want to become to create an independent identity. Their focus is to balance mind, body, and spirit for the adolescent and for their family.

It begins at 6:00 am with a shower, breakfast, room inspections, medication time, morning process group, school and lunch, followed by school again until 2:00 pm. There are also individual meetings with counselors, therapists and physicians during this time. Then come chemical dependency education, stress management and dinner, followed by Big Book study and journaling. They finish the evening with groups, structured activities and APG (alternative peer group) 12 step Meetings. Lights are out at 9:30pm.

Weekends are structured and relaxed, but active with group process meetings and physical activities such as a movie, trip to the YMCA, field trip or community service, with several other off-site therapeutic activities being considered and developed. There is a minimum of 20 hours of chemical dependency education per week, including individual and family sessions.

Family services include counseling sessions, chemical dependency education, support groups, aftercare and twelve step meetings. Although much of the support listed is in the Houston area, the clinical team will connect with organizations in the resident city of the adolescent to seek support or refer back to the referring educational consultant or program for assistance in placement or support.

I found the adolescents to be average kids who had made some poor choices. Some had dual diagnoses, while all had substance issues and knew they had made mistakes. They were interactive and bright eyed. The only sad student I saw was a new student from El Paso who had been brought in by escort. By the next day he smiled and me and said he knew he needed to be there.

When not in school the kids play board games or talk with each other and the staff. All tried to make new kids feel welcome. I watched the kids put together a play one day and on another, they had a variety show with some very talented skits and musical performances. They were never disrespectful or out of line, did as asked, and voiced their opinions respectfully if they wanted to be heard.

I had several opportunities to have lunch with the kids. They were mannerly and talked among themselves at tables seating four. Asking the proverbial educational consultant questions "What do you like about the PaRC and What would you change?" The answers came with a pause:

Things they liked:

  • I like the staff they are nice

  • The food is good

  • I like the other kids here

  • They are helping me restore some of my credits so I do not have to repeat 9th grade

  • The teacher is spending time showing me how to do my math-something I never got in my old school.

  • I am learning you can have fun with out being high.

Things they would change:

  • More free time

  • Cooler weather (we have been in the 100's in Houston)

  • I wish it could be like this at home

  • To get to sleep more

  • My parents

After lunch, they lined up to go back to school. It could have been any boarding school lunchroom in the country: The food was good, the noise level was not loud and students were polite. They had 21 adolescents, a good number for everyone to feel like a family.

Southwest Schools, a state accredited charter school, operates within the PaRC and uses instructor-led and computer based classroom instruction. They have the ability to individualize each student's curriculum to meet his/her needs, whether for credit recovery or credit advancement. There is academic support and college prep curriculum offered depending on a student's situation. The school will partner with the adolescent's current school district to make sure the student can complete credits needed to graduate. All teachers in the classroom are certified by the state to teach, including special education support.

In evaluating a program, I often ask "Is it safe, professional, clinically effective, caring and clean, and most importantly, would I send my own child there?" The answer to all of these at the PaRC is "yes."

About the author: Londa May, MEd, is a Certified Education Planner and a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association. Her business is Campus Selection, Inc. in The Woodlands, TX. She can be contacted at 281-364-9700, Fax 281-292-0449 or through her website at if you have further questions about PaRC or how they can help.

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