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Oasis Offers Top Treatment in Rustic Resort Setting

The Oasis Renewal Center, an up-scale treatment facility on 48 wooded acres in west Little Rock, is now accepting applications from up to 24 guests — men and women 18 and over — for its 30 day program and follow up.

With its log cabin cottages, main lodge, private dining facilities and scenic walking trails threading through three pristine lakes, it looks more like a rustic resort than a treatment facility.

And that’s fine with Carole Baxter, executive director of Recovery Centers of Arkansas (RCA) which purchased the site from The Arc Arkansas for $1.6 million.

Priced at $15,000 for a month of treatment with follow up, Oasis is designed to appeal especially to a young, fairly well to do clientele, but it is still well below the cost of a Hazelden in Minnesota or a Betty Ford in California.

RCA has roots going back to the 1950’s and a rich history with the central Arkansas recovery community. This is the company’s fourth facility. Its first, Riverbend, on the banks of the Arkansas River in North Little Rock, has served thousands of individuals seeking recovery.

There are also two “transition” facilities under the RCA umbrella — Williamsburg and Steeple Chase Apartments, which serve the needs of patients who have been through treatment but are not quite ready to be on their own and Williamsburg, which offers an outpatient program and chemical-free living services. Steeplechase provides private chemical-free apartments to those individuals who have successfully completed treatment.

Baxter is well qualified to handle the task at hand. She has worked both as a direct service provider and as an administrator in the behavioral health treatment field for the past 36 years. And she is optimistic about the future of recovery.

“People with addictive disorders,” she says, “now have the realistic expectation of living a full and productive life in recovery. And family members now have access to so much more information about how to provide healthy support for a loved one with alcohol or other drug problems.”

Oasis, which has a staff of nine headed by a clinical director emphasizes 12-Step concepts in its recovery model enhanced by a strong emphasis on family involvement, life skills training and other resources focusing on recovery.

Where there are “co-occurring” mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, Oasis will provide the necessary psychiatric care except for those severe cases which require more intensive care.

Similarly, where substance abusers have secondary addictions such as eating disorders, counselors will address them along with the primary addiction or in severe cases refer them to treatment facilities specializing in these addictions.

The criterion for admission to Oasis is that the individual be medically and psychiatrically stable. If detoxification is needed, Oasis will assist in arranging these services at a local hospital.

The Oasis Medical Director meets with each person during the initial phase of treatment to review medication. All medication will be locked in a secured place and may be taken as prescribed and observed by a member of the staff.

Oasis can also help with interventions by families and employers aimed at getting help for the family member or employee who is struggling. Family members are strongly encouraged to participate in the member’s recovery, and Oasis has programs during and after treatment to make that happen.

Treatment services include both individual sessions with a licensed behavioral health professional and process group sessions daily. The groups provide an opportunity for peer interaction in working the first five steps of the 12-Step program and the individual sessions provide an opportunity for work privately in more depth.

In the first five steps, as those familiar with AA know, the subject acknowledges his or her powerlessness over alcohol, indicates a willingness to surrender to a higher power, prepares a detailed moral inventory and admits to God and others the exact nature of these wrongs.

Oasis offers a variety of speaker meetings, assignments and skill-building exercises and also taps in to an interactive, computer-based system providing behavioral training to individuals in its recovery program.

Developed at Yale by psychiatry professor Dr. Warren Bickel, who did further work on it with Dr. Lisa Marsh at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), the computer system includes over 70 programs including effective problem solving, drug refusal skills, identifying and managing triggers for risky drug use and managing thoughts about using.

Also included on the list are programs on decision-making skills, increasing self-confidence, healthy alternatives to drug use, time management, sharing feelings, attentive listening, drug use and communication skills, giving and receiving compliments and giving and receiving criticism.

There are also programs on nonverbal communication, anger management, coping with anger, relaxation training, relaxation generalization, managing negative thinking, insomnia, financial management, relationship counseling, vocational counseling and treatment termination.

Dr. Bickel has observed that computers “have the virtue of being infinitely patient, a significant benefit when treating someone in deep denial. The computer doesn’t give up”

Another subject that interests him is that “drug dependent people don’t think much about the future. Studies show that heroin addicts think ahead an average of 9 days, he says, while the time horizon for the general population is four and a half to seven years hence.

“If you are only thinking a day ahead,” Dr. Bickel says, “It allows you to make choices that completely ignore the consequences of some of your decisions.”

Studies of the brain, Bickel says, also show that the cerebral cortex, which provides the capacity to plan and think abstractly among other things, “goes offline with addicts, and they go back to the more primitive part of the brain dealing mostly with emotions–the limbic.”

The findings confirm, no doubt, what the average citizen believes about the behavior of alcoholics and other drug users. It also suggests that getting the cortex back on line and toning down the limbic are worthy goals in substance abuse treatment.

One other point Bickel makes is that “abstinence works.” Researchers, he says, use “contingency management” which is a motivational technique designed to promote abstinence.

“We find something that addicts value and give it to them when they are abstinent, and that helps to move them to continue to be abstinent,” Bickel says.

“The opportunity for a good life is what Oasis offers and when the patients find it the rest takes care of itself,” Baxter says.