Center Eagerly Embraces a Mission to Serve Women
Organizations with a mission to treat the highest-need patients wear the responsibility proudly. They consider the effort to help individuals reach their potential to be always an honor, never a burden. Tennessee-based The Next Door exemplifies this in its work with women facing substance use and co-occurring mental health challenges.
As its nears its 20th anniversary serving women in Tennessee, The Next Door remains committed to continually strengthening a clinical program rooted in the 12 Steps and reinforced with a whole-person approach toward the patient and her family.
“We started small, with a mission to help women coming out of incarceration, offering transitional living and life skills,” said executive director Rachel Morris. “We then found that a lot of the women needed treatment services to support their recovery.”
The organization became licensed to provide detox services and residential treatment in 2012, initially serving uninsured individuals only. It later would add outpatient care and begin accepting commercial insurance. Today around three-quarters of its patient population is covered by the state’s TennCare Medicaid managed care program. The Next Door operates treatment services in Nashville and re-entry programming for justice-involved clients in Chattanooga.
The clinical model is similarly diverse. “Starting from day one, we were always about co-occurring; there was a big focus on mental health,” said clinical executive director Amanda Dunlap. The 12 Steps and patients’ spiritual health have remained central, with cognitive-behavioral therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy also having a significant role. The organization’s leaders also point out that the efforts of state-certified peer recovery specialists on staff have been a game-changer for patients.
As medication treatments for substance use disorders gained momentum in the industry, The Next Door found the evidence compelling. “Our medical director recognized the impact of this intervention and equipped our team with the tools and education needed to provide MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment),” Dunlap said. For many patients, medication treatments such as buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone help maintain engagement as they move through the process of acquiring critical life skills for recovery.
Around 87% of the women served by The Next Door are mothers, and about 200 of the 1,500 women treated each year are pregnant while in treatment. Dunlap said the program, which has an obstetrician on staff, is equipped to admit women late in their pregnancy even if they have had little prenatal care up to then.
As patient needs have grown increasingly complex and the clinical program has diversified in response, staff has needed to depend on sound data to guide treatment and recovery planning and to measure progress. “We needed to professionalize documentation,” Morris said.
A contribution from a forward-thinking donor helped the organization proceed with developing a workflow solution that gives staff access to reliable numbers. Leaders say their working partnership with Sigmund Software has built a system that is easily navigable without requiring hours of staff training.
The Next Door’s executive team remains committed to acting on the hopes and expectations of its clients, and this came through recently when it considered a name change for the organization. Some brand confusion had developed because of the emergence of the popular Nextdoor neighborhood network app, and it was thought that maybe the organization should move away from using “next door” altogether.
“We asked our clients, and people loved the name,” Morris said. “They felt well connected to it.” The name has conveyed both the next door that women can step into during a time of need, and the next door they may find for their life journey while there. Leaders decided they will proceed with the name “The Next Door Recovery,” as they stay true to tradition while integrating the new ideas that build on it.
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