Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Helping the Ungrateful

At TLC we’ve made a diligent effort over the years to meet halfway house client needs in the areas of employment and medical care.

For example, we help clients find jobs. And to accomplish this we have a temporary labor company that sends clients out to do day labor. In addition, we have staff members on the phone seeking work. It's a wonderful service for those who have problems finding jobs.  Especially those without skills.

For those with medical and dental problems, we have a staff member who solicits healthcare clinics for free services. And he's quite successful, having built up a list of over 40 organizations willing to help. Clients with dental issues, or who need glasses, are usually able to get these issues taken care of at no cost. And most clients are grateful for the help.

However, when extending this help to clients from the outpatient treatment clinic we've had some disappointing experiences. For example, we had four or five outpatient clients who were anxious to find work. So we found jobs for all of them. Not great jobs, but entry-level jobs that paid minimum wage until they could find something better. We were surprised when every one of them walked off the job or didn't show up for work.

And as a result, we lost our contract with these companies because they don't like it when people don't show up or walk off the job. So, you might ask, what's the big deal? Just go find another contract. But finding work for the type of clients we have isn’t easy. We sometimes spend three or four weeks trying to land a contract with a company. And we’d been with one of the companies that cut us off for two or three years.

And the same thing happened with one of our medical providers. We sent a client for free dental work, and the next day he was complaining about the quality of work. So our coordinator sent him back to the clinic so they could remedy the problem. While he was there waiting for his appointment he made a few comments about the quality of work, comments the office staff overheard. And of course you know what happened next.

Within an hour after the client left, we received a long email from the doctor who operates the dental clinic. Even though they've been providing free service to us for four years without incident, he said he wouldn’t tolerate these kinds of comments from clients for whom he was donating services. And he understandably terminated our arrangement with him.

So in a matter of a few months we've had outpatient clients cost us a few of our good contacts – something that’s never happened with halfway house clients in the past 20 years.

And the solution? Of course the solution is to cease providing these services to outpatient treatment clients because they aren’t grateful for our help. Many of them have insurance or family resources that will allow them to arrange their own dental and medical care. And as far as those seeking employment, there's a DES office right behind our facility that will be glad to help.

Our policy is to help those who are grateful.