Santa Cruz Residential Recovery: Evidence-based services for those with co-occuring disorders


Santa Cruz Residential Recovery: Evidence-based services for those with co-occurring disorders

By Molly Lautamo

Overcoming substance abuse in addition to managing a mental health disorder can be a long, uphill battle, and like any other chronic health condition, must be managed over a person’s lifetime. Santa Cruz Residential Recovery (SCRR) is one of the few programs in the county that effectively serves men and women facing co-occurring disorders. As a 30-bed co-ed facility, SCRR provides a home and intensive treatment for individuals in the early stages of recovery.

Since it first opened its doors 35 years ago as the Sunflower House, SCRR has evolved to provide the most effective and innovative services to help people overcome substance abuse and improve their mental health. In 2015, 81 residents graduated from the program with the skills, courage, and network of support to reenter the community and move from intensive treatment to a more moderate level of care coupled with independent living.

Relearning the skills for a healthy lifestyle   

Most residents stay at the facility between two to three months, spending more than 25 hours each week in structured group treatment activities and individual family counseling sessions.

Residents engage in treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders and relearn prosocial skills, such as personal responsibility and empathy, that help them live side by side with neighbors and contribute positively to their community.

Although no staff reside at the house, there is staffing 24 hours a day, consisting of treatment and life skills development – providing a truly holistic service that fully prepares residents for their new lives. Even though these men and women may need help to get back on their feet, it is the SCRR philosophy that they are still the experts of their own lives, and each staff member honors that in his or her counseling and treatment methods.

The power to change your life is in your hands 

Each resident has a unique past and is facing a unique set of challenges. When an individual first enters SCRR, he or she can be at any level of readiness for change, and the severity of substance abuse and condition of their mental health varies. Staff uses the American Society of Addiction Medicine assessment to provide an evaluation that determines the level of severity across six dimensions (from a client’s withdrawal potential to the state of their recovery environment) and measures readiness to change. This informs the individualized treatment plan for each client.

All counseling focuses on behavior and attitude change, providing residents with the tools to cope with their new responsibilities as a healthy member of society. Staff are trained in various approaches such as Motivational Interviewing, which teaches the counselor to put the power of change into the resident’s hands.

“It’s about trust, independence, power, autonomy,” says Julius Mills-Denti, SCRR counselor. “It’s not something we do to them. It’s a way of being with these individuals while they’re going through some hard stuff. We’re holding the compass for them while they move in a direction of change.”

Everyone deserves dignity and respect

SCRR is a model program of Encompass that strives to provide holistic services with a continuum of care, working to prevent relapse and encourage individuals to stay on the long, hard path of recovery. It’s not an easy job, for either SCRR staff or the residents, but even on the most difficult days, staff strives to treat each person with dignity and respect.

“When clients get angry, you have to understand that they lashed out because of where he or she was at that moment in his or her internal discord; it’s not personal,” explains SCRR counselor Christine Bassi.

The community of Santa Cruz is fortunate to have such a dedicated group of trained professionals, putting every effort into serving the whole person through treatments that are not only evidence-based but compassion-based as well. SCRR staff hopes that someday they will have the means to improve the facility, perhaps even offer gender-specific houses. They envision a space that truly honors the client and reflects the love, care, and compassion the staff holds for each individual that comes through their doors.

Do you know someone in need of the services offered by SCRR?

Contact Jason Whitt, SCRR Intake Coordinator, at 831-423-3890 or [email protected] for more information.

Interested in supporting SCRR or learning more about their services? Visit the Encompass website for more information.