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Vol. LXIV, No. 41
 
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
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Corner House Clinical Director Tapped as Panelist for Government Publication

Ellen Gilbert

“This was quite an honor for David and for us,” observed Corner House Executive Director Gary DeBlasio as he proudly reported the selection of the non-profit’s Director of Clinical Operations, David Errickson, to serve on a Consensus Panel in the preparation of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment and Improvement Protocol (TIP) publication.

Established 36 years ago as a joint agency of both the Borough and Township, Corner House is a non-profit counseling center for adolescents, young adults, and their families. Its treatment and prevention programs are open to the entire community, and no one is ever turned away because they are unable to pay for services.

TIPs, according to the introduction to one of them, “are best practice guidelines for the treatment of substance abuse, provided as a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.”

In Mr. Errickson’s case, his panel convened to work on a TIP entitled Managing Anxiety Symptoms in Early Recovery, which will be published in 2011 after undergoing peer review. “A powerful relationship exists between substance abuse and dependence, and mood and anxiety symptoms and disorders,” posits the TIP’s introduction. To address this relationship, the publication looks at policies, procedures, and organizational strategies “to support integrated interventions, to improve client access to appropriate services and treatment outcome.”

Each of the six professionals chosen from across the country for the panel had experience dealing with substance abuse and mental health, said Mr. Errickson, “but not all of them had worked for a non-profit in a community-based setting. My Corner House experience was very valuable.”

Work on the Consensus Panel included doing an extensive literature review, and brainstorming on “how to put this TIP together in a creative way.”

“The most difficult part was having to prepare it for sub-clinical use,” said Mr. Errickson, who is a licensed clinical social worker as well as a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor. Unless someone has this dual licensing and are “covered on every level,” he explained, they may be limited in how they address problems that are presented. “In the past, there was a tendency to minimize symptoms or not treat them at all,” thus “significantly reducing the chances for change or recovery.” Mr. Errickson’s expertise in addressing both substance abuse and coexisting mental health issues put him in good stead, he said.

The fact that TIPs are “absolutely evidence-based” and use “best practices” in the field appeals to Mr. Errickson, who plays ice hockey in his spare time. “I’m a big fan of motivational interviewing, and I brought that experience to the panel.” Members of the panel took turns role-playing counselors and clients from case histories. These vignettes were audio-taped for review as the TIP was prepared. “These were real life scenarios,” said Mr. Errickson, who is also in a private practice that specializes in treating adults with addictions. “We’d stop, discuss, and tweak them.”

Another plus for Mr. Errickson was his familiarity with TIPs. While some of the panelists “had never heard of a TIP, I’ve used them for years, sometimes ordering them by the case for continuing education programs.” Handing a visitor “my favorite TIP of all time,” a 243-page volume (“Number 35”) on Enhancing Motivation For Change in Substance Abuse Treatment, he observed that “They’ve evolved over the years. The first ones are a little archaic and not very user-friendly.” Now, he said, the lay-outs are improved while the level of specificity is greater. “It’s nice to see them getting better and better.” Previously published TIPs, which are “really useful for substance counsellors, social workers, nurses, and anyone in the health care field,” are regularly updated online. 

Mr. Errickson and his colleagues spent a total of six days working together. “It was very well organized,” he observed. “The time went by very fast. We were on a very tight schedule, and we really worked hard. I learned a lot about mindfulness and its application. I trained in it, but watching therapists demonstrate the technique was a really enriching experience.”

To learn more about TIPs or request a free copy of any of them, see www.treatment.org/Externals/tips.HTML. For more information on Corner House, visit www.cornerhousenj.org. To learn more about the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, see www.samhsa.gov.

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