Benchmark Transitions residential therapeutic living program
Benchmark Transitions is a residential therapeutic transitional living program for men and women ages 18-28. It’s located in Redlands CA, one of the pleasanter small cities in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles. Founded by Jayne Longnecker-Harper, Benchmark is a family business that’s been in the business of transforming young adult lives since 1993. I recently had the chance to take a tour of their main facility.
Benchmark is a dual-diagnosis program offering two primary tracks: one for those with a history of substance abuse, and one for behavioral health challenges without drug or alcohol abuse. Because of the dual nature, Benchmark can individualize the curriculum to fit the client’s needs.
Typically, at any given time Benchmark Transitions has a total of 45-50 clients. Enrollment is open year-round. While the program length of stay is designed to be six months, Benchmark can offer individualized length of stay options. That said, the average stay is 10-12 months, with extended care options available.
Benchmark has recently added an Evening Intensive Outpatient Program. This is used as a step-down from rehab for those with sobriety issues. At some point Benchmark hopes to be able to offer behavioral health IOP options as well.
Now, you might see a program that offers dual tracks and think (as I did), “I’d rather have a program that specializes only in behavioral/neurological issues. Next!” But after my tour, which at my request focused on the Behavioral Health track, I realized that dual-track programs really can deliver exceptional services to all of their clients.
What’s impressive about Benchmark? The comprehensiveness of services offered; flexibility in some program elements; the professionalism, longevity, and warmth of the staff; how well thought out and integrated all elements of the program appear to be; and an emphasis on character development as well as independence. Chance encounters with staff and clients in the halls of the Education & Life Skills Outpatient Center contributed as much to my positive impressions as the planned stops of the tour.
A few notable guiding principles were brought up on my tour. For one, clients are encouraged to think about and commit to the beginning, middle and end stages of each process they’re in, whether it’s preparing a meal or getting an education. (We know many young adults have difficulty getting started, or sag in the middle, or have trouble wrapping up what they’ve begun.) Also, in therapy sessions, Benchmark clients are guided to recognize the triggers for their undesirable behaviors and to develop alternatives that will yield better outcomes the next time the trigger shows up.
Some of the therapies and approaches I’ve blogged about before are part of Benchmark’s program. For instance, skills promoted by the Amen Clinic for improving brain health are part of the curriculum. I was also pleased to learn that neurofeedback therapy is available as an option.
Clients may be admitted to the Behavioral Health track if they have the “usual suspects” diagnoses (ADHD, anxiety, depression, spectrum disorder, bipolar, learning differences) but also for reasons such as anger management, grief, lacking confidence, lacking motivation, poor judgment, or social isolation. Neuropsychological testing is offered as an option. All clients have weekly sessions with a psychologist and monthly sessions with a psychiatrist. There’s also a monthly family therapy session, conducted by phone for families who live at a distance. The frequency of all these sessions can be adjusted as needed.
Each client is assigned to a case manager and a therapist on staff. Clients meet individually with staff and in small and large groups to learn life skills and discuss social and psychological issues. Some of the small groups are gender-specific. Clients have a schedule to follow and are responsible for showing up on time to all meetings and appointments.
At the Education & Life Skills Outpatient Center, the kitchen where weekday meals are provided has three teaching kitchen bays. These enable lessons in meal planning, prep, and cleanup in a setting that resembles an apartment kitchen. On completing the culinary arts classes, clients should qualify to obtain a food handler’s card, allowing them the option to work in local restaurants.
During their time at Benchmark, clients are also taught the basics of plumbing (such as troubleshooting why a toilet won’t flush) and household wiring. Wouldn’t it be great if every 18-year-old learned these things?
Banking and finance, household budgeting, and job search techniques are among the other practical life skills taught. Clients can finish earning their high school diploma while at Benchmark or can enroll in community college classes or vocational training if desired. Staff will assist with tutoring, study skills, placement, and career testing. One staff member ensures all clients are placed in volunteer positions around town and arranges part-time jobs for those who aren’t taking high school or college classes.
Art is another component of the Benchmark program. Clients can try their hand at things like pottery, jewelry making, mosaics, woodblock printing, tie-dye shirts, and woodworking. All clients make a crest (like a family crest) that features symbols and words conveying where they see themselves on life’s journey. The pieces of artwork I saw in the studio were remarkably good!
Benchmark clients live in 2-bedroom apartments in a complex about a mile from the Education & Life Skills Outpatient Center. Transportation is provided, or other modes of getting around are available, depending on the level of independence attained.
Roommates cooperate in maintaining their apartment and in planning weekend meals. Clients enter less-restrictive phases of living arrangements as they progress. The first 30 days is known as Phase I, or “Courage.” Phase II is known as “Conscience.” These two phases have 24/7 staff support. In Phase III, or “Character,” clients have less staff support and more autonomy in applying the life skills they’ve learned. They even serve as mentors to other clients.
Now we get to the part where I say: the program is wonderful, but it costs a whole lot.
And that’s true. Benchmark’s fees are about $10,000 per month private pay, including housing, therapeutic programs, clinical services, room & board, activities and incidentals. Whoa. (or is that “Woe”?)
The good news for many families is that Benchmark Transitions accepts insurance: they will work with most private PPO insurance companies as an out-of-network provider. Before you go very far along the path to admissions, they can help you get an idea of how much your health insurer might cover. They meet Detox, Residential, Day Treatment (PHP), Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Outpatient (OP) levels of care, providing for a full continuum of care throughout the program. Recognizing that cost is a big factor for whether families will move forward with a placement, Benchmark works closely with your insurance provider, doing all the utilization review and billing for you, all at no extra cost. Financing is also available.
Is it trustworthy?
If you are concerned about Benchmark’s licensing and credentials, fear not. Here’s a statement that Benchmark staff provided:
Benchmark Transitions is a licensed residential treatment center through the State of California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and also holds an outpatient certification for the Education & Life Skills Center. Benchmark holds a national private school accreditation through NPSAG and a Private School Affidavit through the State of California. Benchmark Transitions is a founding member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP); as well as Young Adult Transition Association (YATA.) Benchmark is also a member of the California Consortium of Addiction Programs (CCAP).
As part of your information gathering you might look around the Internet for other people’s opinions of Benchmark. You’ll see some glowing reviews but also a few disgruntled ones, and even mention of a lawsuit a few years back. I was momentarily concerned – until I read that Strugglingteens.com listed Benchmark Transitions as one of the schools and programs with the best reputation among Independent Educational Consultants.
For even more reassurance, check out this discussion from the impartial educational consulting firm FamilyLight. They conclude that “…[Benchmark] deserves a reputation for being one of the most if not the most trusted facility in its class for excellence of service, innovation, and self-assessment.”
“Best reputation,” “trusted,” “excellence” – those words certainly affirm the favorable impression I developed about Benchmark Transitions.