CPH Site Highlight: Acceptance Recovery Center

In honor of National Recovery Month held every September, we want to introduce you to one of our newest Community and Population Health sites: Acceptance Recovery Center (ARC).

Drug use and overdoes are an epidemic in the United States.

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, those numbers rise every year— over 96,700 people die from drug overdoses in a year and half of people 12 and older have used illicit drugs at least once.

In 2016, Acceptance Recovery Center (ARC) opened its doors in Athens to join the fight against addiction.

ARC is a recovery residence that strives to provide addiction care, support, and education. Each resident must complete a 5-phase foundation program in no less than 12-months.

ARC can accommodate 64 residents (20 women and 44 men), and they have served over 330 individuals since their 2016 opening. Program coordinator Michelle Medlock said they have served more residents in the past, but recently cut back on their capacity to better give more individualized care.

Residents at ARC work full time and must attend community supports meetings. Residents must also give back to the community—ARC residents have served over 400 community service hours since 2016.

ARC also offers alumni care for its program graduates—it is a 12-month program offered to those who have completed ARC’s foundation program and want continued accountability and support after they complete the program. ARC alumni care also accepts others who have completed recovery programs elsewhere.

Those in alumni care can complete the program on site or at home.

Residential assistant and community engagement specialist, Danielle Bonanno, also praised ARC for being all-inclusive.

“We serve a very diverse group of individuals, and this has been life changing for our trans clients,” said Bonanno. “We have trans residents who have had complete lack of trans affirming care, and this has really opened the door for them.”

Medlock said one thing was missing from ARC—easy and accessible health care.

Dr. Suzanne Lester, the director of community and population health (CPH) at the August University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, first visited ARC with the CPH HIV outreach team.

Lester was so impressed with ARC that she wanted to bring them onboard as a CPH site for the Medical Partnership.

The Medical Partnership group at ARC. Photos courtesy of Sachi Shastri.

“We were so compelled by their program and residents that we wanted to formalize the relationship and make them a regular site,” said Lester. “Their program is outstanding in that they are committed to pivoting according to their residents needs as they present—pregnancy and newborn care, family reunification, relapses, gender affirming care for their trans residents, assistance with marketplace health insurance applications, employment assistance, and general community-based encompassing substance use disorder care. The patients we saw there were incredibly welcoming to our medical students and the care that we offer.”

Medical Partnership students and faculty visit ARC to provide primary health care and check-ups to the residents. Second-year students rotate though the site about twice per month with Dr. Lia Bruner, associate professor of medicine at the Medical Partnership. Lester and her HIV team also rotate though ARC every two weeks.

“ARC is a remarkable program, and I think our students will get a great experience there,” said Bruner.

Medlock said this partnership brings a whole new level of care to ARC.

“The reason why we chose to partner with the Medical Partnership is because the service that is offered to our residents, and by proxy the service we offer them, is invaluable,” said Medlock. “The people we serve are high risk and high need and have long histories of substance use disorder and incarceration and homelessness and sometimes have never had any regular medical care.”

Medlock said their residents do not have the best association with medical care.

“Their idea of medical care is emergency rooms when they overdose and whatever the jail has offered to them irregularly during their incarceration history,” said Medlock. “We have people who have chronic medical conditions that have been untreated for years and decades, and we haven’t had many resources for them. We try to support our residents all the way around and this is a service we haven’t been able to provide for them.”

With the students also coming to the ARC site itself, residents don’t have to leave the comfort of their surroundings to get care.

“It’s been amazing to have this primary care that’s happening right on our site, so they don’t have to feel any fear,” said Medlock. “It’s not this insurmountable goal they’ll never be able to get to.”

Medlock said she has been impressed with the professionalism the Medical Partnership students have shown and appreciates the respect they have for ARC residents.

“The students are amazing. They called and asked what they should wear because I mentioned most residents have fear associated with medical care and fear has been a barrier for them so would it be helpful if we wore T-shirts or can we wear scrubs and lab coats,” said Medlock. “I was really impressed they even considered that.”

ARC will turn seven-years-old in October, and they are throwing the Give Recovery a Voice Gala to celebrate.

As ARC moves forward towards this seven-year milestone of serving those in need, Medlock is happy they can now provide the service of health care.

“We’re teaching them healthy habits and ways to care for themselves, and hopefully they can carry with them throughout their life,” said Medlock. “We are teaching them how to take care of themselves.”

To learn more about ARC, click here.

Dr. Lia Bruner, front right, leads the Medical Partnership students at ARC.

For more information about attending the Medical College of Georgia at the Medical Partnership campus

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