The idea behind business is to flourish and provide a twofold benefit: a service for the consumer and a way to make a living for the business owner.
So it may seem odd for one local health professional to acknowledge, “Sadly, business is good; the young people come in droves.”
Raynard Packard isn’t complaining. He’s really making an observation about the rise in clients at the Packard Institute, an outpatient clinic for adolescents and young adults battling substance abuse. In fact, his statement may also be viewed as a testament to Packard’s success helping others combat their addiction through counseling, intervention and healing.
In addition to the clinic he founded in 2007, where he is CEO and director, Packard recently opened a second Highland Square location, a residential facility “right around the corner from the home of Dr. Bob,” which readers likely know as the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Along Florida’s Gulf Coast there’s a third Packard Institute that serves as an “adventure-oriented” home base for experiential therapy, which also includes trips on the Appalachian Trail, marathons, rafting expeditions and multi-state bike outings.
Packard’s no stranger to the plight of his clients’ struggles. “There’s a mindset in recovery that goes, ‘Wherever you go you tend to take yourself with you,’” Packard says. “I would say my own recovery was the paradigm shift. And I don’t make any distinction between the two (drugs and alcohol). From a scientific standpoint, there is none. The addictive process is identical.”
Packard spent much of his formative years in Southern California, where, he says, “once the waves blew out, it was time to hop some fences and reconfigure the rules of the game and drop in on these empty swimming pools with our prehistoric skateboards.”
During the mid-to-late 1970s, California had a serious drought and water use was limited, and included the draining of swimming pools, which for Packard and his friends became a precursor to the modern-day skate parks.
“It was a small group of us who were all dead-end kids,” he recalls. “And you know what, those of us who are still alive are in recovery. There’s no dividing line, whether dead, imprisoned or in recovery.”
After getting out of the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in 1992, instead of returning to L.A., where it could have been “potentially catastrophic,” Packard moved to Akron, where he had family, “crashed, burned and got clean and sober.”
He holds degrees from Santa Monica College, the University of Akron and a master’s in counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary. Walking into the Packard Institute at 461 W. Market Street, the facility is absent of any clients just before 9 a.m., as most are likely in school. A couple of Bengal cats meander freely across the hardwoods with Packard’s dog, Pi, named after the institute.
“The buzzword in my field of psychology has been an individualized approach,” says Packard. “But there’s no regard for the individual himself. We try to fill out the spirit of that individualized approach, instead of just mouthing the words. Everybody brings with them such unique strengths and needs, so to simply give them a one-size-fits-all program would miss wide of your mark.”
Part of that approach Packard speaks of is the crucial assessment process, which for some public agencies may take as little as 90 minutes, Packard says.
“But good assessments are done over a period of time … little Johnny didn’t get to Stonerville overnight, you have to peel back the layers of the onion,” Packard says.
Additionally, that brief assessment process may be exacerbated by lengthy waiting lists to actually begin recovery, which could further hamper those “cognitively impaired or impaired by substance abuse,” he adds. Before Packard opened his institute, he worked at areawide public health organizations and says he’s not negating their efficacy nor the work of his fellow colleagues in the field. “They have constraints, and a lot of efforts are hampered by bureaucratic inertia, and I don’t think it’s endemic to psychology, treatment or counseling.”
This is not to say the Packard, a 501(c)3 nonprofit agency, doesn’t have its own obstacles. “We’ve never accepted a dime from a grant or public funding ever; it’s all been fee-for-service income, underwriting our efforts,” Packard says. “Or we write it off, no sliding fee scale, just pro bono. And that’s OK. It’s a business model that’s worked so far. But in terms of growth, we’re capped, and there’s a lot I’d like to do.”
Packard’s staff comprises mostly part-time paid professionals and volunteers, some of whom are former clients. The plethora of services offered is far reaching.
They include family counseling, reflexology, yoga, massotherapy, Pilates, life coaching, acupuncture, peer mentoring, recovery coaching, martial arts, meditation and pet and equine therapy.
“We found particularly with young people that some of the more traditional therapies don’t work because some of these kids may have limited verbal skills,” Packard says. “Does acupuncture work 100 percent of the time with all of the kids? No, but you have to find out what turns them on.”
Some of the institute’s referrals come from the juvenile justice system and schools but many are from the young people themselves. “I’ve always considered that to be the greatest compliment,” Packard says.
And with just about everything else, particular drugs have gained a newfound popularity, and along with the discovery of new drugs, they are just as detrimental. And deadly. “There’s always been a high mortality rate within our [institute’s] population: suicide, death by misadventure, overdose … but about two years ago overdoses really started picking up,” Packard says. “Heroin is as plentiful on the street as I’ve ever seen it, and it’s cheap. And bath salts is the other one, kids ingesting or smoking them or using an IV. And with the salts, I’ve seen a persistent psychosis long beyond coming down from the actual toxins.”
Since opening the institute, Packard estimates he and his staff have treated about 400-plus clients, some just as a consult, others more involved with daily visits.
“Conventional wisdom says that when these people develop a range of problems, addictive disorders, that they [first] need to hit bottom, but I suggest to you, that’s absolutely untrue,” Packard asserts. “Many know they have already, experiencing trauma beyond comprehension. What they need is hope. We’re solution focused and definitely strength-based, that is to say we focus on their strengths.”
For more information, visit www.thepackardinstitute.com or call (330) 762-4357.