Early next year, nationally prominent addiction interventionist Brad Lamm will introduce to Detroit a treatment alternative for substance use disorders (SUDs) that integrates day treatment with “spiritual healing” and that appears more insurance-friendly than standard residential care. The Breathe Life Healing Centers program in Detroit will resemble a pioneering program that Lamm founded under the same name in Los Angeles.

Under the anticipated payment model, around 80 percent of clients will have their outpatient treatment services covered by insurance, billed under a partial hospitalization/intensive outpatient level of care. They will receive these services off-site from the “spiritual retreat” that will serve as their home for around 90 days, with a base cost of $1,500 a month charged according to their ability to pay.

The retreat center will be housed in a 15-bedroom mansion that Lamm purchased last summer for $1.6 million in the historic Palmer Woods section of Detroit; Lamm plans to make the home his own primary residence and to house around 20 men and women there.

“The days of reliance on residential treatment centers are over,” Lamm told ADAW. “And 30 days [of treatment] isn’t enough.”

He emphasized that the businesses in Los Angeles and Detroit (and one in New York City that has not yet fulfilled his vision because of a bogged-down licensing process) are not directly linked to the intervention work for which he is best known. Lamm says he has not referred any of his intervention clients this year to Breathe Life because those individuals generally need a more intensive level of care than what the Breathe Life concept is geared to provide.

Typical schedule

Clients living at a Breathe Life retreat generally are off the property by 7 a.m. each day to attend 12-Step meetings followed by their day treatment. Lamm says the most prominent techniques used in the daily treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and psychodrama. Equine therapy is offered up to two times a week, and clients regularly visit a gym before returning home at day’s end for dinner and for evening groups in spiritual development.

Each Breathe Life center is structured to have a campus pastor; in the Detroit program, that role will be filled by Lamm’s brother, who is a minister. Lamm, the son of a minister, who also has another brother in the ministry, says his personal background shaped his vision for a program that would seek to “reignite the flame” spiritually for persons with substance or process addictions.

“The campus is ministerial, as individuals connect with their inner life and issues of faith and spirituality,” Lamm said. “For some, all of that is a concrete notion, while for others it’s a real conflict,” particularly if their past experience with religion has not been a welcoming one.

“The work we do is very ‘out, loud and proud’ spiritual development,” he said. On the clinical side, Tian Dayton, Ph.D., serves as Breathe Life’s director of clinical programming.

Lamm’s vision involves having clients stay for around 90 days before moving to a sober living environment. The 26,000-square-foot mansion where the Detroit program’s clients will live will offer the kind of serenity Lamm believes all treatment clients deserve.

“If you’re in middle-class treatment that’s insurance-driven, it’s often not in the nicest place,” he said. “If you have the creature comforts — a nice bed, good hygiene, good lighting — it’s easier to stay if you’re in a place where you feel safe.”

Because Breathe Life is not seeking a residential treatment use for the house and essentially will be operating as a spiritual center, it will not have to clear any regulatory hurdles before opening in the first quarter of next year. Winning over local neighbors may take longer.

“They’re not thrilled that I’m there,” said Lamm, who added, “We’ll be fine there — we hope time will help some people identify us as a good neighbor.”

Dual roles

It is not uncommon for an interventionist also to have a role in a primary treatment program or in some other segment of the continuum of care. Phil Scherer, who chairs the board of the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), offers an example of this: He conducts interventions and is also administrative director of the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery. He says while there are still a number of completely independent interventionists practicing, around half of AIS members serve some other role in the treatment field.

Like Lamm, who is also an AIS board member, Scherer has avoided referring his intervention clients to the treatment programs where he has worked. “There has been a movement in AIS that if you work in a center and also do interventions, there is an inherent conflict of interest,” he told ADAW. “The perception is there. One guy said to me once, ‘You can’t tell me that if on Monday morning your program’s census is low, you’re not getting pressured to refer.’ I said to him, ‘I don't look at the census when I do an intervention.’”

Scherer added that in his intervention work with individuals and families, he always fully discloses his philosophy about intervention and all of his professional affiliations.

Lamm believes the Detroit program will serve an important need in a state where residential centers are operating above capacity and many individuals’ insurance coverage will not allow an out-of-state placement. As he sees with his intervention clients, about eight of ten people needing treatment face payment barriers that he believes Breathe Life can avoid.

Bottom Line…

Brad Lamm’s Breathe Life Healing Centers concept combines an intensive outpatient level of treatment with an extended period residing in a “spiritual healing” center, thereby skirting the problem of seeking insurance reimbursement for a residential level of care.