Ashley Addiction Treatment, Release Recovery Partner to Expand SUD Treatment Access for Communities of Color

Ashley Addiction Treatment and Release Recovery Foundation have teamed up to launch a scholarship for underserved communities in need of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. Specifically, the new scholarship program aims to remove financial barriers for people of color, who are less likely to get treatment than their white counterparts.

“Our real goal is to help these folks change their lives and use this treatment experience as a true launchpad into sustain recovery,” Ashley Co-CEO and President Alex Denstman told Behavioral Health Business. “Our hope is … [to] develop a 12-month continuum and work with some other care partners to, in total, offer a full year of residential care.”

Based in Havre de Grace, Maryland, Ashley is a nonprofit provider of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. It has an inpatient facility and two outpatient locations, across which it offers the full continuum of care.


Meanwhile, Release Recovery Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring people seeking SUD treatment are able to get it. It was co-founded in March 2020 by Justin Gurland and Zac Clark, the lattermost of whom shared his battle with addiction last year on the ABC reality show The Bachelorette. The foundation is a branch of the pair’s Release Recovery addiction treatment center in New York.

The idea for the scholarship program was born last year. Ashley typically commits about $3 million to $3.5 million to charity care, but according to Denstman, the organization wanted to do more to bolster its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts following the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

“While we were discussing that, Justin and Zac approached … and they said, ‘Hey, our foundation has had some success, we have some money and we have a working relationship with Ashley. We’re willing to make a contribution if it’s used specifically to help communities of color [and] underserved communities.’”


Research has long highlighted the racial disparities that exist in SUD treatment.

Take a 2020 study out of the University of Pennsylvania, for example. In looking at a large private insurer’s opioid overdose records from 2011 to 2016, researchers found that black and hispanic patients were far less likely to receive follow-up treatment than white beneficiaries. In fact, black patients who were treated in the emergency department for overdoses were half as likely as white patients to receive such treatment, the findings suggest.

And that’s only taking into account the privately insured. To make matters worse, non-white populations are more likely to be uninsured than their white counterparts, adding another layer of complexity to their ability to access SUD treatment.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I know what it’s like to be from a minority community,” Gurland said. “And I know that we’re only scratching the surface here, but we’re really just trying to do our part in making sure that quality care gets in the hands of people that need it.”

The scholarship program has earmarked its initial half a million dollars to be used to help at least 24 people this fiscal year, which began July 1. But it won’t stop there: The scholarship will be ongoing, with continued fundraising efforts taking place throughout the year.

“We don’t take this lightly,” Denstman said. “It’s easy to put up social media posts. It’s another thing to really commit your resources, your time and your energy and steer your organization in this direction.”

Scholarship recipients will receive all-expenses-paid inpatient treatment at Ashely’s Havre de Grace location. To qualify, a person must be eligible from a financial standpoint, showing “true hardship,” according to Denstman. Additionally, they must demonstrate a medical need for treatment, in addition to being motivated to get help.

“This whole initiative is going to wear many hats,” Gurland said. “It’s going to be effectively treating people who are underserved and can’t afford treatment. And it’s going to be effectively treating communities that in general have struggled to get proper treatment. We’re thrilled, and we hope this is just the beginning.”

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