Can a Prescott training course be a national model to aid the recovery industry?

Editor’s note: This is a part of an ongoing Daily Courier series of articles on group homes in Prescott.

PRESCOTT – A house-manager training course that experts say could become a national model in the drug- and alcohol-recovery industry is in the works in Prescott, although the details have yet to be worked out.

With more than 170 group recovery homes operating in Prescott, a number of recurring complaints have circulated in the community. Among the claims: That many house managers are young, inexperienced, and just recently out of rehab themselves.

A bill that Rep. Noel Campbell introduced in the Arizona State Legislature this year took aim at that complaint by offering cities and counties the authority to regulate aspects of structured sober-living homes, including training.

On Friday, May 6, the bill got final approval from the House of Representatives, and is now headed to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office for a signature.

In anticipation of the state’s adoption of the bill, the City of Prescott proposed a partnership with Yavapai College this past week for development and delivery of curriculum for a training course and certification of managers of structured sober-living homes.

Campbell said the state bill would give the City of Prescott the authority to require the training and certification, and Mayor Harry Oberg said the city is working on such an ordinance.

The proposed intergovernmental agreement with Yavapai College for development of the course generated significant opposition at the council’s May 3 voting meeting, however.

Several local residents and council members objected to the city’s proposal to put up $20,000 in seed money for the program, with reimbursement to go back to the city through 25 percent of the tuition paid for each student.

“The college should be taking the risk on this, not the city,” Councilwoman Jean Wilcox said, maintaining that Yavapai College “can afford $20,000 for a course.”

Local resident and restaurant owner Barry Barbe also brought up concerns about the city’s financial involvement. While noting that the idea of the course was noble, Barbe said, “The funding is off-track.”

Sherrie Hanna, another local resident, expressed similar concerns. “You should cut the city out as a middleman,” she told the council. Instead of putting $20,000 toward the training course, she suggested that the city could put the money toward another code enforcement officer or police officer position.

Still, Phil Goode, a local resident and a member of the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes, pointed out that the committee’s goal is to make local group homes as safe as possible. “Currently, they’re not safe,” he said. “Having a training requirement for these home managers, I think, is very much needed.”

Councilwoman Billie Orr pointed out that the intent of the proposed city partnership with Yavapai College “was for us to get in front of this issue, and to get this ball rolling quickly.”

Oberg added that the training course would be the “first step” in the city’s efforts to follow through with the intent of Campbell’s bill, House Bill 2107.

The council ended up taking no vote on the matter this week. Oberg said Friday, May 6, that he had since discussed the matter with Yavapai College President Penny Wills, who indicated that the college would look into developing the curriculum.

Yavapai College Marketing and Communications Director Kim Kapin said this week that Yavapai College was considering its options on the course.

“The buy-in from our side in terms of the value (of the course) to the community is without question,” Kapin said. But at this point, he said, “It’s premature to speculate” on whether the college would take on the development of the course.

Meanwhile, work has been underway on a potential curriculum for the course.

Molly McGinn, managing partner of TreeHouse Learning Community in Prescott, said she met with Oberg early-on to talk about how the course might come together.

“The mayor said, ‘What would it take to create a course?’” said McGinn, who has a PhD and 23 years of experience in corporate consulting and training. She has since been working to put together a curriculum and a team of instructors for a four-day, 24-class-hour course.

Among the goals of the program would be to improve the competence of the people serving the clients in the sober-living homes, and to have better oversight of the homes in neighborhoods, McGinn said, noting, “If we want to fix the problem, part of it is education.”

While about 80 percent of the curriculum has been mapped out, McGinn said she also expects to put together a focus group to get feedback from the involved players, such as the recovery industry and the police department. The goal of the discussion, she said, would “to make sure we didn’t miss something in the content of the course.”

The planning so far has the course beginning with an opening statement from Oberg, followed by instruction on topics such as: the disease model of addiction; crisis prevention management; client rights and responsibilities; client confidentiality; CPR and first aid; and professional communication with clients, staff, and parents.

A written proposal on the course states that TreeHouse proposes that “Prescott use its skill and leadership in the recovery industry to develop a comprehensive training program for people employed in the management of treatment programs.”

Ultimately, McGinn said, the course could have positive impacts on the house managers’ futures. She said she would like to see many of them “get excited about going to college.”

She added: “This could become a national model. Prescott could go from being in trouble to being in control. This could be a turn-around story.”

Oberg agrees. “I believe it could be a national model,” he said Friday. While most communities appear to be focusing more on code enforcement, Oberg says the training course change things by working to improve the conduct at the homes.

He and McGinn also agree that the results of the training program would be “measurable.” While it might take time to see results, Oberg said he believes better training for the house managers would be a move toward improving the situation.

The Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.