Benchmark Transitions — Supplement 1

Continuation of Bulleted Items Regarding Benchmark Transitions.


Some History and Overview:  

The heart of Benchmark is one of the oldest, and we think one of the finest, young adult transition programs available.  With recent expansion, Benchmark has become much more than just a transition program. It has become a full continuum of care. Its owner and founder, Jayne Longnecker Harper, is in our opinion one of the most skilled professionals we know of in addressing the needs of this population and their families -- probably the most competent. Over the quarter century we have interacted with Jayne we have observed other programs come and go with this population. Benchmark has remained stable.

A large part of the reason for that is the extraordinary skill Jayne has demonstrated in developing a partnership with families so that the young people who need the program will remain even when they might otherwise be inclined to assert their legal right to leave. We don't want to diminish her skill with the young adult population Benchmark serves directly: that, too, seems to us to be greater than many if not most of Benchmark's competitors, although on that point we see a lot of "close seconds." Her skill in working with parents to keep their energy in the matter focused in a positive direction is, in our experience, without a lot of close seconds. Many of the Benchmark staff have learned this from her, especially daughters Shelley and Joelle, who manage admissions and day to day operations (a third daughter manages business services and her son supports IT services).

Another part of Benchmark's stability is the openness of Benchmark to new ideas, and willingness to make changes and improvements as understandings of best practices and other conditions have necessitated. Understanding of the best ways to serve the population Benchmark has always served has progressed tremendously since Benchmark was founded. As this understanding progressed, Benchmark changed to keep up with the times, never letting go of its core skills with this population. One change over time is that Benchmark moved from having firm roots in the best of the "Emotional Growth" approach when Benchmark was founded, to a program that gradually and increasingly relied on skilled, well credentialed professional psychotherapists and addiction counselors. As the Emotional Growth approach began to fall out of favor and the culture of the mental health community began to learn from their own failures and the successes of others, Emotional Growth influence at Benchmark gradually lessened.

After Benchmark had incorporated traditional clinical mental health personnel and procedures, it then made a number of not so gradual changes to maximize client access to insurance to cover as much of Benchmark's cost as possible.  But Benchmark still has the "life coaches" that historically guided clients through the program. They never let go of the common sense that many clinical programs seem to lack.  Even with its flexibility, Benchmark has never just chased the latest fad.

Benchmark and FamilyLight agree that most people who have gotten off track either through addictions or failure to launch or other mental health or behavioral issues will need more more time with targeted supportive services than insurance plans, managed care organizations, and government supported programming are likely to provide. Benchmark and FamilyLight agree that this is not a venue for people who have tendency to violence or psychosis, or for people with severe intellectual disabilities.

As Benchmark has moved to position itself to maximize the recovery of charges to clients through insurance, terminology has changed as has some of the structuring some services and placing more of what Benchmark offers in the hands of credentialed clinicians. But the core of the program structure remains the intact.

Don't lose sight of the fact that Benchmark is a very appropriate and effective venue for "failure to launch" situations whether or not substance abuse is involved. A program doing both well is unusual but Benchmark has learned how to serve both of those populations well. Benchmark approaches these populations differently as is appropriate.

Even before the latest round of additions, Benchmark was far different from what it had been when it first opened. However all of the historic services at Benchmark are still in place.

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Historically, Benchmark has been focused on transition services for young adults. It has always had a great skill working with clients with substance abuse and addiction problems, but has never been exclusively for that population. Additionally, Benchmark did not claim to provide primary treatment for addictions until Wildwood Canyon and Panorama Ridge opened. Although they would consider each candidate for admission individually, they avoided new admissions of people whose addiction appeared to be at a level that would not be manageable in the structure of the Benchmark program. They did assist those people in accessing primary treatment intending to accept those same people after completing primary treatment. In so doing, they recommended primary treatment venues they knew would prepare a client to be able to take advantage of what Benchmark had to offer.

The Founder, Jayne Longnecker Harper, had directed a young adult program that was part of the Cedu organization in the early nineties.  She saw the need to do a number of things that were different from what the Cedu hierarchy would allow, so she left and started Benchmark. When founded in 1993, the Benchmark was largely a behavioral program, strongly influenced by the emotional growth movement and twelve step recovery.

At that time traditional, credentialed mental health professionals were perceived as being rescuers and enablers to the teenagers and young adults whose behaviors were "not mainstream." In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, traditional mental health services showed themselves to be completely ineffective responding to the counterculture of that time. By the 1990s, traditional mental health clinicians and emotional growth advocates were just beginning to becoming open to working with each other.  Private pay programs for the young people Benchmark served still needed to be very cautious about putting credentialed clinicians in charge.

In addition, twelve step recovery  was at odds with the most common mental health practices, especially psychiatric medications.  The attitude of too many mental health professionals was still based on past attitudes  that Alcoholics Anonymous should leave recovery to the real professionals. That latter point was changing; mental health professionals who would play ball with twelve step recovery groups were becoming more influential and their numbers were growing. But their influence was still from universal.

Clinical mental health services were available at Benchmark when requested, but that was not central to the program at that time. Benchmark had a panel of therapists in the area which their client families could engage. The therapists on that list were vetted by Benchmark to ensure compatibility with the way Benchmark did things. Families made separate financial arrangements with those therapists.

Although Benchmark was a very stable organization that did not impetuously adopt the latest fad, Benchmark has consistently sought out new methods and ways to improve. Although some positive aspects of the emotional growth movement can still be found, Benchmark has matured into a program that integrates the best of evidence based clinical work, best of educational services, and just plain common sense. Benchmark has demonstrated its ability to work effectively with people presenting major behavioral challenges while effectively challenging and supporting the best and the brightest as they seek to realize their potential.

Challenging young adults bring unique problems. Perhaps the most important ongoing characteristic of Benchmark is its ability to come up with creative approaches to challenges presented, that are tailor made for an individual client. Historically when we have had a client in the right age group who did not appear to us to fit "on the shelf" programming anywhere, our first call would be to Jayne. She always had something important to say that would lead to a better outcome that might have happened otherwise. More often than not, she would accept the client and we would move on to successful outcome.  But she was never hesitant to recommend another program, even a competitor, if she thought that was in the client's best interest.

From the very beginning, Benchmark had superior quality offerings in supporting education, job readiness, and other major life skills.  They were LGBT friendly long before that became a marketing necessity in this kind of programming.  They offered superior support for parents keeping families focused on recovery and stopping enabling negative behaviors.  They offered a superior environment to support addiction recovery, although they were not just a program for people with substance abuse issues.

As knowledge of how best to meet the needs of the population Benchmark serves, Benchmark gradually increased the role of licensed clinicians.  One of the very first obvious moves in that regard (although more subtle adjustments in that direction had been happening for a number of years) they hired a clinical director with strong credentials and experience working with programing with the hesitation we have described. Then gradually the clinicians working with Benchmark participants began to work directly for Benchmark. At the same time those clinicians were adapting to the culture of Benchmark, so that they could contribute even more to their clients' gains from the historic expertise of the Benchmark program.

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Service Expansion     

With the most recent changes, Benchmark has expanded to provide a much more comprehensive continuum of care for the kinds of clients who have long been those they serve best, but previously could serve their needs only in a part of their progression through services. Now they work provide service from entry point of getting help through final transition to independence. Simultaneously, Benchmark has taken bold and decisive steps to help families defray some of the cost of their services by making maximum effort to access insurance benefits, something that did not work well with Benchmark in the past. Even now (October 2107) a person taking advantage of all of Benchmark's services will not find all of them covered by insurance. If this may be problem for you, and if you think Benchmark might serve your needs well, we suggest you discuss your specific situation with Benchmark Admissions. See what they will do for you.

Benchmark now provides detoxification services and primary addiction treatment in its newly opened (Summer 2016) single gender Primary (Residential) treatment facilities in Yucaipa, about ten miles east of its traditional location in Redlands. These are Wildwood Canyon (males) and Panorama Ridge (females).  Services at those locations are billable to insurance as residential treatment. In some states this level of care would be known as "inpatient" and the facilities themselves called "hospitals" or "specialty hospitals." (You must determine independently, assisted by Benchmark Admission staff,  whether your insurance company will cover this service at this time)

Because of the need to keep services billable to insurance strictly within both legal guidelines and insurance requirements, Benchmark's service definitions have become more precise, albeit more confusing to many including us. People coming to Benchmark upon successful completion of some form of primary treatment typically go into what Benchmark now calls "Extended Care." This applies to those discharged from Panorama Ridge or Wildwood Canyon or from another residential treatment program or primary addiction treatment, a clinical wilderness program, or other venue that prepares the person for this level of service. In some cases it may apply to people entering directly from home; Especially, for a person with significant substance abuse history, this requires discussion with Benchmark admission staff and will not be the most common situation.

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Primary Treatment

Until the 2010 decade, Benchmark could not accept people with active substance abuse problems, although one of their strengths was their work with people with a history of substance abuse. They frequently referred people to detoxification services and/ or other primary treatment venues in anticipation of the person referred enrolling at Benchmark once the person was able to move to Benchmark and once they could be admitted drug and alcohol free. Now they offer Primary Treatment at their residential treatment facilities in Yucaipa, about ten miles east of its traditional location in Redlands. These are Wildwood Canyon (males) and Panorama Ridge (females).  Services at those locations are billable to insurance as residential treatment, although your insurance plan may or may not cover them and may or may not agree to medical necessity in your case.

California licensing designates this level of care as Residential Treatment. In many states these would be considered inpatient hospital or inpatient specialty hospital. From the point of view of the insurance companies, these are standard residential alcohol and drug treatment programs.  From the point of view of the client families, these are treatment programs that many insurance companies will fund, while designed for seamless continuity with the services to follow, which for many people make the difference between success and failure." You must determine independently, assisted by Benchmark Admission staff, whether your insurance company will cover this service at this time for you.

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Extended Care   

The confusion over terminology at Benchmark is probably at its greatest as we distinguish "Extended Care" and "Transition." Prior to the need to conform to state regulations regarding outpatient services and insurance definitions of billable services, what Benchmark now calls "Extended Care" and "Transition" blended into each other. Currently, Benchmark focuses three insurance billable clinical services into the first three months of what had been the core program at Benchmark and the program for which they took the name "Benchmark Transitions." These services are explained on the main page of this review. Coverage of these services is coverage as outpatient services. Therefore insurance is not likely to cover living accommodations provided by Benchmark (except in Primary Treatment).

Extended Care is currently the entry point for people who do not require primary care for substance abuse prior to Benchmark's traditional services. For several years prior to reorganizing services to facilitate insurance payments, the initial phase of the program, usually lasting three months, was very tightly structured, with remaining programming much more relaxed. So the changes to the historic program are not as radical as they may seem, even in this phase, but are more pronounced for these three months than at any other point. In the past the entire program was known as "Transitional." Now the approximately three months of structured clinical work is identified as "Extended Care." What happens after Extended Care is still known as "Transitional" or other words including some form of the word "transition."

What we now call Extended Care continues to be the entry point for a person seeking admission to Benchmark who has been clean and sober for a month, whether or not that person had a substance abuse problem in the past. It is also a likely entry point for a person who has successfully completed primary care somewhere else, and is going immediately from his/ her primary treatment venue to Benchmark. We would not be surprised to learn that on an individual case by case basis, Benchmark might accept a bit less sober time than a month. However, Benchmark will not admit directly to this part of the program unless they have reason for confidence that the person will be clean and sober in the structure of Benchmark.

Names have been changed to conform to what insurance requires. What was the transition program on which Benchmark built its reputation, is now "Extended Care." In the pre-insurance days the building housing most daytime activities was known as the "Education Center." It is now  the "Outpatient Center" or the "Outpatient and Learning Center." "Students"/ "clients" in extended care  live in apartments provided by Benchmark, as has always been the case at Benchmark. Students/ clients accessing clinical and/ or other transition services are transported daily to the Outpatient Center from Benchmark's nearby apartments. Clinical services provided at the Outpatient Center include both substance abuse and mental health tracks (separate from each other) at three different levels of care.

Typically, the Benchmark Extended Care students/ clients receive approximately one month of clinical service at each level.  These clinical services at Benchmark, are managed consistently with what have been the principles of Benchmark's approach to meeting needs and within California regulations on what each level of service must include. Benchmark's other traditional services come into play as the time in the clinical services diminishes.  PH (Benchmark calls this level of service "PHP") services are really a near full time occupation, so there is little time for other services. As the students move into IOP, then later OP levels of care, educational services and help to develop independent living skills, as offered in the Transitional Living or Transitional Care phase ramp up.  More about those services and the living accommodations as we describe Transitional Living.

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Last updated November 3, 2017

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