PUBLISHED: 4:10 PM on Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Program offers support system
Rainforest Recovery Center
What's just another day for some is a lifetime for others. For more than 15 years Rainforest Recovery Center has been working to make people's lives better, cope with diseases and give them the strength to overcome challenges in everyday life. What keeps the center going is the people within. You might recognize their faces or names, but between them all - their vision is unison.

Located at 3250 Hospital Drive, behind Bartlett Regional Hospital, Rainforest Recover Center offers comprehensive treatment services for people with substance abuse, substance dependence, and other dependence disorders. Since 2000, Bartlett took over management; it was owned by CBJ previously.

Photo by Abby LaForce
  From left: Vickie Rosenstein, Cheryl Bucchorn and Jan Walker.
"At RRC, we know that addiction is treatable and success can be achieved when individuals take an active role in their personal recovery," according to its Web site.

They have three different programs including outpatient, inpatient and an emergency services program, said Jan Walker who worked at RRC from 2000-2004 and took over nurse management for the past five months.

"(The) emergency services program, which is better known as 'sleep off,' where we offer mats on the floor with a blanket and a pillow for people who are inebriated and homeless and have no where to go," she said. "The 'sleep off' is free. Other services are covered by insurance. We do have a state grant that covers some of it. We do have a sliding B scale, that is based on their wages."

With the inpatient program, RRC has 12 beds available and patients stay in the program for normally 28 days.

"We have a good program; over the last year, our success rate has increased quite a bit. The success rate with chemically dependent people is really hard because of the nature of the disease," Walker said.

Every Monday a women's group and men's support group class is offered. While topics vary, on the first Tuesday of every month there may be an anger management class, for example.

"A lot of times, having that support system out in the community makes a huge difference. We find that those whose family comes to family programs have a better chance of staying sober once they leave. It's easy to stay sober here because we're a very safe environment, but when you leave you go back out to what you've been in the middle of before," she said. "You can't change habits in 30 days. You can learn new skills."

Local Vickie Rosenstein, a recovering patient, is now working as a residential aid at RRC.

"As a previous client, in recovering myself, I've been through this program (inpatient) at least one time, and I was in the detoxification program myself. The program at the time was very useful, I have a lot of information that I kept from them and even use still," she said. "It was something I needed: structure, stability, being responsible for being there and being humble. I think it does set the stage for accountability."

At RRC, Rosenstein assists clients in groups, facilitating and offers them any kind of suggestions she might have. She said her story often involves a lot of their story and vice versa.

"It was a stepping stone. It planted a seed. I would be sitting at the window and knowing I had to be here, I had to work here. It was a must. I had this inner desire, and I can still feel it-to work here," she said.

"Vickie is one of our success stories," Walker said.

"I had no skills at all, and I had to cope with issues the program offered me. It offered classes referring to family, relationship, siblings (and) people in general," Rosenstein said.

"I have a job, I'm a single mom, and I have all things normal people have. I have a successful story, and I think about it one day at a time," she said.

There are a total of 32 employees at the center, including RA's, EMT's and counselors. Some people go and some people come back, Walker said. A job that's one of the most challenging day to day is the EMT's.

"The EMT's job is to really go in and make sure it's intoxication and that there's not a medical reason that they're laying on the ground," Walker said.

"We get a lot of injuries because they're drinking; we'll get head injuries or cuts and abrasions. It's common here in the community (that) people will take advantage of people who are passed out and beat them up," she said.

EMT Cheryl Buchhorn said she really enjoys her job even though it's difficult.

"You can't be afraid to get your hands dirty. And just know: everybody has problems. Whether it's eating too much, drinking too much, gambling too much-nobody's perfect," she said.

"You just gotta be there for them, a lot of their family's disown them. It's sad. A lot of people say, 'oh, yeah, pick my uncle up,' but they don't want to pick them up."

She said basically the EMT works on their own, and with Juneau Police Department, businesses, ER and the fire department.

"The EMT's job can be dangerous. They're going down, out on the street by themselves, and they're going toward someone who's passed out and you don't know if you're reach down to shake them, if they're going to swing at you."

They are required to take 101 control tactics once a year, to give them skills to protect themselves.

"I think the best protection from getting yourself harmed is knowing when to leave a bad situation," said Buchhorn.

"Even the most skilled counselor will not be able to talk down the clients," Walker said.

"I especially love, 'Sleep Off.' I love the clients and it's my favorite," Buchhorn said. "I guess because they're almost like family; they know you, you know them--you develop a rapport with the clients," she said. And, when you lose people, you think back and wonder what could I have done different to possibly have brought the person to rehab."

"They watch out for each other and they're all each other's family and they watch out for us too," she said.

"The homeless people, they know we are here to help them. And, the staff have really good attitudes about treating them with dignity," Walker said.

At RRC, clients receive individualized care. They provide an understanding of alcoholism, drug addiction, and the addiction process and help clients develop a support system to stop the addiction process and prevent relapse. The residential and outpatient substance abuse/dependence treatment programs are designed to help clients and their families achieve success.

"I see quite a few people that have gone through the 'Sleep Off' program that are successes out there. As an alcoholic we do struggle, this is a reference point for most of them. I have to remember I have to ask for help and I have to reach out because if I don't, it could build up and that's not a good thing for me. If by chance we need some help, it's here for us," Rosenstein said, who will be three years sober this November.

For outpatient treatments, RRC works to manage the program's schedules around the client's work or personal schedules.

"It's not a quick fix. What the program does is give people skills to continue with sobriety. It's a long-life skill," Walker said.

For an online application and information, go online to or call 796-8690.