In August, Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Recovery Ranch welcomed a new CEO in Michelle Beaudoin, an 20-plus-year veteran of the behavioral health industry.
The California-based addiction treatment providers are part of the Sierra Tucson Group, which is owned by the behavioral powerhouse Acadia Healthcare (Nasdaq: ACHC). The scenic facilities provide residential treatment, partial hospitalization programing, intensive outpatient programing and detoxification services, among other treatments.
Soon, the programs could also boast specialty offerings, which Beaudoin says she plans to prioritize as she settles into her new role.
Behavioral Health Business recently connected with Beaudoin to discuss that strategy, as well as her goals as CEO, which include focusing on employee satisfaction, expanding vertical service integration and more.
You can find that conversation below, edited for length and clarity.
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BHB: Congrats on the new role! How’s the transition been so far and what have you been up to in your first month?
Beaudoin: I just finished up orientation in Tennessee. It’s amazing to see all the resources Acadia has available to its various programs and leaders.
The first month has been so cool. I wake up every day hours before I have to because I’m so excited to get out there and get things going in these programs.
I’ve been doing a deep dive, getting to know the staff and the clients — and appreciating the dedication and expertise at both the facilities.
For me, being new there, it’s so important to do that analysis of strengths and challenges. I want the staff to recognize that I’m authentic. I’ve worked in this field for a long time, and I’ve worked in direct care roles for many years. They can trust me, they can respect me and we can move through this change process together.
Can you walk me through your background and what brought you to this position?
I started my working career in business management and had an opportunity to work at an addiction treatment center. I just kind of fell in love with the work, and it really motivated me to want to work in the field.
I was a counselor for many years, then a supervisor and then a clinical director.
What’s been really amazing is that I’ve been able to combine all my interests into one and lead programs. My passion from the get-go has been to improve the lives of those suffering with substance use disorders.
One of my strengths has been going into strong, well-respected treatment programs and helping take them to the next level in terms of clinical services and the overall experience they provide.
At Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Ranch, I saw the opportunity not only to take the already excellent clinical care up a notch, but also to grow each facility in terms of the services that are offered.
Through my 20-plus years in behavioral health, I’ve become convinced that physical environment plays a major role in the healing process.
Both these facilities are in incredible natural settings, where clients can get that sense of serenity to help counterbalance the internal chaos they experience when they’re embarking on that recovery journey.
What will it look like to take things up a notch at Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Ranch?
Both of those programs are already operating through a very client-centered, trauma-informed lens. I want to ensure everything we do is infused with that perspective, including making sure that our staff is well taken care of and healthy in order to best serve clients.
I’m also really interested in expanding our services to specialized populations. We recently contracted with Tri-West to serve the veteran population.
Veterans and first responders — people who have been in unbelievably traumatic scenarios — have unique treatment needs that can be beautifully met in the environments we operate in.
Being mindful of all the potential triggers, I can’t think of a better place to heal than by the side of the ocean or in the rolling hills of a 10-acre ranch out in Jurupa Valley.
Caron Treatment Centers also does a lot of specialty programming. Are you looking to them as an example or more doing your own thing?
I have some experience from the facility that I ran in New York, where I was clinical director. I helped get us funding for a 25-bed veteran unit for adult males with PTSD and substance use disorders (SUDs).
I had the opportunity to do a deep dive into what these guys were looking for and what they needed but weren’t getting in traditional treatment settings. I’d really love to bring some of the research, connections and concepts from that into what we would be doing with special populations here.
What are the main differences between Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Ranch? Apart from geography, do the different campuses specialize in serving different patients?
The differences are really primarily in the environment and what that person is looking for in terms of treatment environment.
The ranch is a pastoral setting with rustic cabins and rolling hills, with the opportunity to take hikes and watch the sunrise over Mount Rubidoux. We do equine therapy at a facility down the road from our ranch.
There’s a certain kind of person who that all really appeals to, whereas, at Sierra by the Sea, houses are on the beach. We do yoga, we do sound healing and we do somatic exercise there.
Would you say that senic, destination-type atmosphere is what makes these facilities unique compared to competitors?
That’s definitely part of it.
The other thing that really sets us apart is we have a full medical staff at both programs, where we’re doing medically supported detox and medication assisted treatments (MAT). And at both sites, we do eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) to help folks address underlying trauma. Our sub-professionals are trained to introduce clients to all of the different types of sober support options available to them in their communities.
It’s that combination of factors that sets us apart.
One group you definitely want to set yourself apart from is the bad actors in the destination-style treatment space, who have come under fire in recent years. What’s your take on maintaining a good reputation amid that backdrop?
It’s really unfortunate that vulnerable people can so easily be taken advantage of by places that don’t have a strong ethical foundation.
The thing that really attracted me to these programs is that they’ve been around for many years, and they’re well-respected in the community.
And I don’t even see us in the same category as those places that are on the news because we operate from a very ethically, clinically and medically sound framework.
Got it. How has COVID-19 changed the way these facilities approach recruitment and operations? Has there been any impact on your census?
We haven’t really seen a huge impact on our census as a result of COVID. There was a brief blip prior to me coming on board, but people need treatment now more than ever.
We have a fantastic treatment placement specialist team that networks out in communities across the country to help to find people resources to get into treatment. They do a really good job helping steer people in our direction if we’re the appropriate choice for them.
We’re making sure that people know we’re here, we’re admitting and we’re taking all the precautions necessary.
The CDC guidelines, we follow to a tee. We really evaluated the cleaning practices and made sure we have new sanitation guidelines.
One of the benefits to the environments is we can have open windows and people can go outside to do groups. It kind of offers us some alternatives that traditional treatment programs might not have.
What other unique opportunities do you see for Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Ranch?
I spent many years in the nonprofit world, where you struggle and compete for resources. You can’t always do things you know would most benefit clients because you don’t have the means to do it. You’re always coming up with these creative, out-of-the-box ways to do them.
It’s really refreshing to work for a big company whose bottom line is patient care, but who also has the resources to help make that manifest. Acadia is huge with so many diverse programs, but it’s so committed to the people it serves.
At Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Ranch, we have lots of potential for growth and expansion, especially through developing some of the partnerships and collaborations we’ve had through the years.
Again, specialized service lines are really key.
Then, really working on expanding the vertical integration of our services. We’ve got detox, residential, partial hospitalization programing (PHP), intensive outpatient programming (IOD) and lots of new innovative support options with technology.
Building that full spectrum of care is important so clients know they can get care at any level. That is something that we can really work on developing, especially with the new opportunities in healthcare with technology, virtual care and apps.
What about challenges?
I feel like I have dealt with every challenge on the planet coming from the nonprofit world.
All of the challenges that we have are opportunities. None of us know what’s going to happen next with the pandemic. By constantly staying responsive to what’s going on and providing people with the best quality care, everything else kind of falls into place.
You’re always going to have challenges with recruiting and retaining staff. It’s a tough field to work in, and it’s very emotionally intensive. Creating buffers for staff so they can feel rewarded and empowered and not depleted is essential.
Those are basic industry challenges all of us face.
But the benefit of having years of experience is that you kind of know how to navigate that. And it’s about culture. The culture we create among our staff gets trickled down to the clients.
When challenges come up, you deal with them, you figure out new ways to do things and you move forward.
Finally, what are your goals in the new position?
I want to focus on ensuring we fill any gaps we have with practices to best serve our clients.
I want to help staff to settle in and feel grounded in the fact that they have an experienced leader at the helm who’s on their side, who has been in their shoes and who wants to do best by them and our clients.
I really want to grow a leadership team in our facilities so employees feel like they’re advancing in their careers, learning, growing and fulfilling their potential.