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Intensive Outpatient Program celebrates 1st graduating class

LAPLACE — Licensed addiction counselor Freda Fulton has helped individuals overcome their vices for the past 13 years, but she’s never seen a program quite as comprehensive as the Intensive Outpatient Program at HHS Behavioral Healthcare in LaPlace.

TaQuana Z. Mason opened HHS Behavioral Healthcare at 299 Belle Terre Blvd. Ste. E in October 2020. Last week, her team celebrated the first three graduates of the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). During the ceremony, another individual on track for graduation received a certificate for 30 days of continuous attendance.

As the IOP director, Fulton helps individuals with severe substance abuse disorders navigate the road to recovery through a combination of counseling, psychoeducation classes and innovative therapies. The program is CARF accredited and licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health.

According to Fulton, clients participate in the program three hours a day, four days a week on their own accord. While clients are eligible to graduate after 90 days, the program can go on much longer if needed.

“I don’t know of any program quite like ours because we combine quite a few different therapies in our program,” Fulton said, listing recreation therapy, music therapy and art therapy as some examples.

Clients have also watched movies, gone on nature walks and taken field trips to places like the Rural Life Museum. While some of the activities might seem mundane, Fulton said they help to dissociate substance use from daily living.

“My goal is to associate activities without the use of alcohol and drugs. We watch movies, because oftentimes they have to have a drug or alcohol of some kind to watch a football game or to play a card game. We do those activities here so they can disassociate it from alcohol and drug use,” Fulton said.

One of the most important aspects of the intensive outpatient program is education. Clients learn about how addiction impacts the brain and other organs such as the liver.

“Clients are learning about the effect of drugs and alcohol on myself, my mind, my body, my family,” Fulton said. “I love to think of the process in terms of a butterfly. You watch them come in as caterpillars, and they go through this cocoon, this program, and they come out on the other end as butterflies. You can really see the progression. When it comes close to graduation, they don’t want to leave.”

Lana Smith, MHS, offered opening remarks during last week’s graduation ceremony.

“These guys have come a very, very long way. I can truly say within the past three-to-four months, I see totally different men, and I thank God for that,” she said. “Every morning when they come in, they are so happy to be here. They had to want to do this in order for it to get done, and they did. They did a wonderful job.”

IOP sessions are held from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. Typically, IOP is for clients who haven’t used anything in the last 90 days, though Fulton welcomes those who have.

“If they are new to the program, I conduct a screening and take a drug history on them,” Fulton said. “If they haven’t used anything in up to a year, I may still accept them if they feel they are dipping into a red area in their sobriety.”

Fulton said IOP principles apply to any type of addiction, whether it involves alcohol, opioids or even nicotine.

Owner TaQuana Mason said HHS Behavioral Healthcare Inc. also has a sober living home where individuals can be placed to detox, when needed.

Mason had a vision to provide behavioral health services within the community in a way that empowers clients to make positive lifestyle choices, take responsibility for self-care and reach their full potential. The HHS Behavioral Healthcare team of psychiatrists, licensed clinicians, therapists and nurses provide compassionate and person-centered care.

Services include outpatient mental health treatment, intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment, and psychiatric services including medication monitoring, crisis interventions, counseling, assistance for persons with addictions, community outreach and school-based counseling.

For more information, contact HHS Behavioral Healthcare Inc. at 985-651-4612.