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AAC CEO visits Etta campus

Therapeutic relationship remains central to evolving approach for addiction treatment

The high-tech transformation of addiction treatment through new technologies like brain scanning will be grounded by a clinical mainstay: The essential human connection between patient and therapist.

That was the message of Michael Cartwright, CEO of American Addiction Centers, as he met recently with Oxford Treatment Center’s clinical staff. Cartwright encouraged therapists and support staff on their essential role in helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction.

All the evidence shows that two things work best to begin a successful recovery: A long-term model of care, and the therapeutic relationship with you,” he told the team. “What you are doing is effective for the patients you serve, and I appreciate the hard work you do every day.

Earlier this summer, Cartwright released his 2030 vision for American Addiction Centers, the company he founded in 2007. AAC acquired Oxford Treatment Center in 2015.

In designing his vision for the company’s next decade, Cartwright worked with Dr. Mark Calarco, AAC’s national medical director for clinical diagnostics and the CEO of Addiction Labs. The 2030 vision for AAC centers on applying new and emerging technologies to continue reducing the “trial and error” approach and cognitive bias in addiction treatment.

“I believe imaging, bloodwork and genetics are going to revolutionize the way we do drug and alcohol treatment in the next 10 years,” Cartwright told the Oxford Treatment Center staff.

Cartwright said the company’s core mission remains unchanged: That of delivering the best possible care for people with dual-diagnosis needs, which span both substance use disorders and related mental illnesses.

In the years to come, AAC aims to grow its focus in pharmacogenetics, honing the ability to tailor medication choices to a patient’s unique DNA. The company also anticipates beginning to use brain scans for psychiatric indications and mental health. Expanding access to nutraceuticals to reduce inflammation and aid in treating depressive symptoms is also a goal, along with investments in medical technology.

Learn more about AAC’s 2030 vision:


This release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. These forward-looking statements are made only as of the date of this release. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “anticipates,” “believes,” “could,” “estimates,” “expects,” “may,” “potential,” “predicts,” “projects,” “should,” “will,” “would,” and similar expressions intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these words. Forward-looking statements may include information concerning AAC Holdings, Inc.’s (collectively with its subsidiaries; “AAC Holdings” or the “Company”) possible or assumed future results of operations, including descriptions of the Company’s revenue, profitability, outlook and overall business strategy. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results and performance to be materially different from the information contained in the forward-looking statements. These risks, uncertainties and other factors include, without limitation: (i) the Company’s inability to effectively operate its facilities; (ii) the Company’s reliance on its sales and marketing program to continuously attract and enroll clients; (iii) a reduction in reimbursement rates by certain third-party payors for inpatient and outpatient services and point-of-care and definitive lab testing; (iv) the Company’s failure to successfully achieve growth through acquisitions and de novo projects; (v) risks associated with estimates of the value of accounts receivable or deterioration in collectability of accounts receivable; (vi) a failure to achieve anticipated financial results from contemplated and prior acquisitions; (vii) the possibility that a governmental entity may prohibit, delay or refuse to grant approval for the consummation of an acquisition; (viii) the Company’s failure to achieve anticipated financial results from contemplated and prior acquisitions; (ix) a disruption in the Company’s ability to perform diagnostic laboratory services; (x) maintaining compliance with applicable regulatory authorities, licensure and permits to operate the Company’s facilities and laboratories; (xi) a disruption in the Company’s business and reputational and economic risks associated with the civil securities claims brought by shareholders or claims by various parties; (xii) inability to meet the covenants in the Company’s loan documents or lack of borrowing capacity; and (xiii) general economic conditions, as well as other risks discussed in the “Risk Factors” section of the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018 and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As a result of these factors, we cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this release will prove to be accurate. Investors should not place undue reliance upon forward-looking statements.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Oxford’s Equine Therapist Wins Prestigious Scholarship

Horses. The animals are known in human society as beasts of burden or the ideal mode of transportation before the automobile hit the market. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that horses started developing a new reputation as potential companions to help people develop stronger mental health. As a result, equine-assisted therapy is a relatively new and growing field of research, but not one that is unrecognized.

Oxford’s Equine Therapist Katie Holtcamp recently received a prestigious scholarship from the Gamma Sigma Delta Agricultural Honor Society for her research into the effectiveness of equine therapy at Oxford Treatment Center.

Equine Therapy at Oxford

Katie Holtcamp

Katie Holtcamp, a Certified Equine Assisted Psychotherapist and Equine Assisted Learning Instructor, got her start at Oxford Treatment Center about two years back. “I had zero knowledge of addiction when I first started,” Katie said, “It wasn’t my story.”

Instead, Katie had an interest in researching animal physiology, or animal behavior in lay terms. Oxford operates a long-running equine-assisted therapy program for its patients struggling with addiction. The program is designed to foster mutual trust and confidence through connection with animals.

After working with patients in the program for some time, Katie started noticing some similarities in patient experiences. Phrases like “I trust the horse,” came up often as patients reached a turning point in the therapy. Patient comfort began to coincide with emotional safety. “But (emotional safety) doesn’t have a meaning,” Katie said, “It doesn’t really have an exact definition.” In research terms, emotional safety is subjective.

Researching Emotions Through Equus

Katie set out to research the changes she was noticing during the equine therapy process. Working with a population consisting of young adults, Katie distributed a survey before and after treatment to the participants. The 60-question survey was designed to gauge four qualities of the patient: Connectivity, Respect, Self-Worth, and Personal Security. These four areas are addressed by Oxford’s equine program.

Research into equine-assisted therapy programs is a bit of a gray area. “A horse keeps authenticity. However, a horse doesn’t know human theory,” Katie explained, “A lot of equine programs foster equine-assisted happiness, not therapy.” Katie’s research measured not just happiness, but the therapeutic aspects that differentiate Oxford’s program from other equine-assisted programs that promote a “just go pet a horse” methodology.

The results from the research are promising.

Young adults participating in the study demonstrated significant growth in all four categories. This is especially the case when the survey results were contrasted with the results for a group of college students who worked with horses, but were not subject to therapeutic practices.

One interesting finding was how patients grew more comfortable in treatment when they began to recognize a horse’s body language. For example, when horses are relaxing, they tend to fold one of their hind legs towards one side. To the untrained eye, this looks like the horse is getting ready to kick at anything behind it. However, when patients were able to recognize the subtle signs of the horse just settling into a relaxed posture, they began connecting with the animal on a deeper level. Confidence and feelings of security in the presence of the animal rose.

Scholarship and the Future of Evidence-Based Equine Therapy

Katie’s research was awarded the International Scholarship of Merit by the Gamma Sigma Delta Agricultural Honor Society through their Mississippi State University chapter. “I really wasn’t expecting that to turn into anything,” Katie said, recalling being nominated for the scholarship. She went on to praise the can-do attitude of the staff at Oxford, particularly of COO Mark Stovall and Director of Experiential Services Tori Ossenheimer for their “willingness to take a chance” and their support of her research.

Katie Holtcamp plans to continue her research into equine-assisted therapy at Oxford, and has plans to conduct a similar research survey with adult populations.

To read more about Oxford’s Equine-Assisted Therapy program and all the great work Katie and her peers are doing, click here.

About The Contributor
Timothy Esteves is the Community Content Editor at American Addiction Centers. After getting his editing start in publicity four years ago, Tim found his way to working with content marketing and community content. Read More

Understanding Addiction: Community Workshop Open to All

Have you ever wondered what to say to someone who might be struggling with addiction? Do you think someone close to you might have substance or alcohol use disorder, but you’re not sure what the next step is in getting them help? Have you ever wondered what recovery actually is?

Those in search of answers can hear directly from a regional leader in treatment and recovery, at the upcoming community workshop Understanding Addiction: How Research is Charting New Roads to Recovery.

The event is set for Wednesday, March 13, from 6-8 p.m. at Oxford Treatment Center’s outpatient office at 611 Commerce Parkway. There is no charge to attend. Refreshments will also be provided, and everyone is welcome.

Mark Stovall

Mark Stovall, CAT, CMHT, Chief Operating Officer for Oxford Treatment Center, is the creator and facilitator of the Understanding Addiction community workshop.

Mark Stovall, CAT, CMHT, Chief Operating Officer for Oxford Treatment Center, will be leading the workshop, designed especially for those who have a friend or family member struggling with addiction.

Stovall is the former statewide head of substance abuse treatment oversight, having served as director of the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services at the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH). He has two decades of experience in the fields of chemical dependency and behavioral health.

“We enjoy any opportunity to share with the broader community what we are learning about addiction and recovery — both through research and through our own work with patients every day,” Stovall said. “We want to help people understand the nature of addiction as a disease. We also want to help family members and friends understand how to support their loved ones in finding recovery.”

As a chronic disease, Stovall said, addiction cannot be cured with a quick-fix approach, but rather through a long-term strategy of support. Family and friends have an important role to play in providing that support, he said.

“The good news today is, there is help and there is hope for people struggling,” Stovall said. “We can give them the first glimmer of hope that they’ve ever seen before.”

Stovall’s program will also give practical advice so family and friends can talk to people in their lives who may be struggling with addiction.

“A lot of times people will say, ‘If you loved me, you would stop using,’ but this shame-based argument does nothing but hurt everyone involved,” Stovall said. “Instead, we need to change the conversation and provide the support they need to get them proper help.”

The community workshop

Complements a 1.5 CE Lunch & Learn seminar for mental-health professionals on Tuesday, March 12. Stovall will be presenting Addiction 101: The Basics of Treating Addiction. Details and registration:

Brian Whisenant

Brian Whisenant, Director of Community Relations, has been instrumental in the creation of the continuing education programs offered at Oxford Treatment Center.

Brian Whisenant, Director of Community Relations, said the topic had been requested by therapists and social workers who often encounter substance-abuse problems in their clients, but are not specialists in treating addiction. For the community workshop, he said, Stovall will focus on providing practical information for people of all ages and backgrounds.

“Mark frequently presents at professional conferences, but at the same time he has an incredible way of making it simple for those of us who are not clinicians,” Whisenant said. “I’m excited for our community members to be able to learn from him.”

Stovall will also answer questions about how family and friends can tap into treatment and support resources to get their loved ones help.

“It means something to me to be able to help not only those in recovery, but also those people who will be with them on their journey,” Stovall said. “Ultimately, our success in treatment is actually about what happens after a person goes home. We want to equip both individuals and their loved ones for long-term success.”

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Yoga instructor Blends 12-Step Training with Personal Journey

Six years after losing her 23-year-old son to a drug overdose, Kent Magee has found a powerful way to help others build their recovery from addiction — one breath at a time.

Magee joined Oxford Treatment Center’s staff of experiential therapists in December as a part-time yoga instructor. She is certified as a Y12SR instructor for 12-step yoga, and launched Mississippi’s first Y12SR program as a community class a year ago.

Kent Magee

Kent Magee, RYT 200 and Y12SR Certified yoga instructor, leads recovery yoga classes for patients at the Etta campus.

“Yoga is a powerful tool for helping people fight their addiction and to get on a path to freedom,” she said. “Addiction affects not just your mind but your body as well — your whole life. When people use yoga as part of their recovery plan, it brings mind, body and spirit together.”

Magee’s classes are among a broad range of experiential therapy sessions available to patients at Oxford Treatment Center. In addition to the center’s signature equine therapy program, patients work with therapists in art, music, recreation and challenge-course sessions as well as in traditional talk-therapy groups and individual counseling sessions. The result is a treatment program that patients can tailor to their own needs and interests, boosting their engagement and speeding progress in recovery.

In each of her yoga classes, Magee selects a 12-step topic and leads a series of movements designed to embody that day’s theme. For example, a session focusing on the first step — admitting one’s powerless over addiction — incorporates postures of surrender such as child’s pose.

“Through yoga, we add the physical element to what can be a totally cognitive process,” she said. “If you are working the 12 steps traditionally, in a classroom or around a conference table, it’s all very much in the mind.”

By adding a physical dimension, you realize all the tension you’re holding in your body and find a new way to let that go. Particularly for people who are newly out of detox, it can be a very powerful tool to move beyond that initial stage where you’re really just white-knuckling it.”

Magee’s own journey with yoga has been intertwined with the experience of addiction and loss in her own family.

She began her eight-month teacher training program on the same day her son, William, began residential treatment for his drug addiction. The day she was scheduled to teach her first yoga class was the same day her husband found their son dead from an overdose.

Kent Magee on yoga mat

“Yoga had been something I had really connected with personally, first as an avid practitioner and then as a teacher,” she said. “After our son’s death, it seemed at first that our connection to recovery was over. It was only as we started to heal that we were able to look up again and say, ‘OK, what are we going to do next?’”

In 2017, she and her husband, David, announced they were establishing the William Magee Center for Wellness Education at the University of Mississippi. The center, which is slated to open later this year, will include a focus on prevention and early intervention for substance use disorders among college students. Magee also became involved with the Collegiate Recovery Community on campus, serving as a volunteer board member.

When she learned about Y12SR, The Yoga of 12-Step Recovery, she decided to earn the certification and traveled to Colorado for training. In 2018, she began offering weekly donation-based classes at Oxford-University United Methodist Church, with proceeds benefitting both the church and the Magee Center.

Tori Ossenheimer

Tori Ossenheimer, CTRS, Director of Experiential Services

The community class functions as an open meeting for those in 12-step recovery groups, including spouses and family members who take part in Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. Those in outpatient treatment at Oxford Treatment Center’s Resolutions campus became frequent attendees. Tori Ossenheimer, CTRS, Director of Experiential Services for Oxford Treatment Center, invited Magee to lead a similar program at the Etta campus.

“I was impressed with Kent’s knowledge of recovery as well as her ability to tie yoga and recovery together,” Ossenheimer said. “In just the first month, her yoga classes have grown as patients are telling each other how much they enjoy the group and benefit from it.”

Magee said that since joining the staff she’s been impressed by both her colleagues’ professionalism and by the willingness and open-mindedness of the patients to engage in her classes.

“Sometimes you feel like all the things in your life have led you to a certain point for a reason,” Magee said. “You look back on the moments when it is so hard and you wonder, ‘Why is this happening?’ It is very gratifying when you can take that pain and grief, and release it in a good way by helping others.”



Supporting prevention, early intervention at Ole Miss



About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Oxford Treatment Center 2018 Employee of the Year Honored

Recognized by her peers for her passion and enthusiasm for her work, Nurse Krista Hartfield, LPN, was honored as Oxford Treatment Center’s 2018 Employee of the Year.

The award was given to her by Medical Director Dr. Stephen Pannel, at the center’s January staff meeting.

“Krista is very reliable,” said Pannel. “I can always count on her to give me the most recent information and to follow through on patient care needs. She is very good at closing the loop on patient needs.” 

As a nurse, Hartfield primarily works in withdrawal management unit at the Oxford Treatment Center. Her position involves monitoring the physical and vital signs of patients.

My patients are my inspiration.

The around-the-clock supervision and attention to patients might make it the most demanding unit at the center. For Hartfield, the challenge is worth it.

“I have worked in other areas, but this is where I am meant to be,” she said. “Working here is humbling and motivating. My patients are my inspiration. They come here sick and ready to give up, but they push through and fight.”

“You’re with patients for days and weeks, sharing in their struggle and having their back. There are tough times, but at the end of the day you go home knowing you made a difference. It really motivates you to keep going. It’s rewarding work.”

“To see someone’s life turned around at the end of their treatment here is what inspires me every day.”

Hartfield has been a member of the Oxford Treatment Center staff for five years. She previously worked as a nurse at an assisted living center and at a medical clinic.

When asked what motivated her to transition into the field of addiction treatment, she said that it was compassion for others and the loss of a family member to addiction.

“Addiction took my father away; that is what brought me here,” she said. “I thought if I can help someone get through this — even one person — that is more than I could do for him.”

Hartfield says working in the addiction treatment field has taught her a lot about the disease of addiction.

“I have learned a lot about how a substance grabs ahold of the brain during addiction,” she said. “I used to question if my father had a choice. Working here I learned addiction is a disease; when it takes hold of someone, they do not have a choice.”

She says her work has also changed her perspective on those struggling with addiction.

“I have become more sensitive, more compassionate,” she said. 

I hope to help others understand: Those struggling with addiction are everyday people, normal people.

Seeing the progress that a patient makes is the most rewarding part of the job, Hartfield said.

“From my perspective, working in withdrawal management, seeing someone at the beginning of their journey here when they feel at their lowest, to the person they are when they leave here, it’s amazing.”

She says seeing a patient return as on alumni visit later is the best gift. Robust alumni programs at the Oxford Treatment Center include monthly meetings, quarterly events, and a yearly alumni weekend where alumni and their families are invited to return to the center for fellowship and reflection.

“It means a lot to see people get to where they want to be in life,” Hartfield said.

“When a patient returns on an alumni weekend or a visit with their family, just seeing that transformation reaffirms the life-changing work that is happening here. I’m honored to be a part of it.”

 In 2018, Hartfield was named Employee of the Month for February. Other staff honored as Employee of the Month in 2018 included:

Counselor Claire Harris, M.Ed., NCC (January)

Housekeeper Betty Holden (March)

Business Office Specialist Allison Crane (April)

Maintenance Technician Pete Potts (May)

Mental Health Technician Miranda Kiddy (June)

Equine Therapist Greg Davis (July)

Behavioral Health Technician Jason Lane (August)

Equine Therapist Adam Hyland (September)

Marion Campbell, Housekeeper (November)

Counselor Amy Willard (December)

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Jerri Avery joins Oxford Treatment Center

Substance abuse:

New clinical director brings more than 20 years’ experience

A longtime regional leader in behavioral healthcare has joined Oxford Treatment Center as clinical director.

Jerri Avery, Ph.D.

Jerri Avery, Ph.D.

Jerri Avery, Ph.D., arrived on the Etta campus in August. Her role includes advancing clinical excellence at Oxford Treatment Center.

Avery brings more than 20 years experience in behavioral healthcare, including at the Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services, where she served as director. She was most recently clinic director for Acadia Healthcare’s Jackson Comprehensive Treatment Center.

“Dr. Avery brings a high level of clinical insight and a wealth of experience in the field of behavioral healthcare,” CEO Mark Sawyer said.

“Her ability to lead our clinical team is matched only by her compassion for our patients and their families. We are very pleased to have her on board.”

Avery said a top priority at Oxford Treatment Center will be bringing new resources to the clinical team. That includes hiring additional therapists, as well as expanding opportunities for professional development for the center’s current team. Avery said she wants to see therapists grow and achieve new certifications in their areas of interest.

“Our clinicians are truly dedicated to what they do and to serving others. I want to give them every resource and tool they need, so that they can provide the highest quality care for our patients.

“We want to equip them to use their compassion, skills and training in such a way that they’re making lives better — and are also happy in their own life and work, too.”

Avery’s own research and teaching interests include public policy, research design and methodology, integration of primary care and behavioral health, substance abuse prevention, mental health promotion and medication assisted treatment.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master of education degree in community counseling, and a Ph.D. in public policy and administration. She is an adjunct professor at Belhaven University, teaching graduate-level courses in management research, public policy, management ethics and organizational behavior. She also regularly presents at state, regional and national conferences.

At the MDMH Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services, Avery was responsible for an annual budget of $21 million in federal and state funding. She secured and supervised the implementation of more than $50 million in federally funded discretionary programs.

Oxford Treatment Center scenic view

She has previously served as a member of the National Prevention Network, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Directors, and the Mississippi Council on Compulsive Gambling’s Advisory Council. She is a former director of the Southeastern School of Addiction Studies and the Mississippi School for Addiction Professionals.

For Avery, interest in addiction treatment and recovery started early. As a child, she learned about recovery from the family of a close friend, whose father found recovery after living in addiction. She completed an internship during graduate school at a substance abuse treatment program. The experience fixed her course.

“I fell in love with addiction treatment and the hope of it — the fact that people do get better and create new lives for themselves,” she said.

Her earliest professional experiences included running an Intensive Outpatient Programming and serving as a clinical supervisor at a residential treatment program. She has also been involved in consulting and research.

Avery said joining Oxford Treatment Center offered a chance to return to a more hands-on role in helping people overcome addiction.

“Direct service in a program that houses people is very different from public administration,” she said.

“When your work is shaping policies and budgets, you are affecting people’s lives — but at a distance. At a treatment facility, you can see it every day.”

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Oxford Treatment Center adds music therapist

Sessions focus on expression, group dynamics

Oxford Treatment Center has added a board-certified music therapist to its staff, broadening its experiential therapy programming for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

Hannah Roye, MT-BC

Hannah Roye, MT-BC, joined Oxford Treatment Center as a music therapist in August.

Hannah Roye, MT-BC, joined the staff in August. Her sessions are part of clinical programming for people in residential treatment at the Etta campus. They complement Oxford Treatment Center’s existing range of experiential therapies, including equine, wilderness, ropes course, art and mindfulness.

Music-therapy sessions help people build healthy new ways to understand and express their own emotions, as an alternative to using drugs or alcohol to cope with strong feelings.

“Many people in treatment relate music to a negative time in their life — when they were using substances and partying,” Roye said.

Music therapy provides a new meaning for music and helps people realize that they can express themselves in new ways they never thought about.

Instruments incorporated into music therapy sessions can include drums, guitars, tambourines, maracas and various other instruments. Each instrument supports a new way of self-expression through music.

“The focus is on expressing oneself positively through music, even when discussing and processing is hard,” Roye said. “Music gives people in treatment another way to dig into themselves and into what they are going through.”

That can include simply helping people recognize and cope with what they are feeling that day, she said.

Person drumming with their hands“I look into how they are producing music and expressing themselves through their instruments,” said Roye. “Playing drums loudly can translate to anger or excitement, and playing quietly could mean that a patient had a hard morning or feels uncomfortable.”

The benefits of music therapy include the role it can play in group dynamics. Whereas people in active addiction isolate themselves and manipulate others, those who succeed in recovery learn to build healthy new relationships and embed themselves in a supportive community.

As with other types of group-therapy sessions, music therapy helps develop positive new ways of interacting.

“In a group, people in treatment can feel supported by their peers,” Roye said. “They compliment each other’s playing. They begin to play together, and their beats start to fall into each other. Soon they begin to feel connected and accepted in that setting.”

Music therapy is increasingly being recognized for the role it can play in helping people recover from addiction. Earlier this year, Las Vegas music therapist Judith Pinkerton, LMPT, MT-BC, was the first music therapist to receive a music-industry award from the Academy of Country Music. She leads sessions for those in treatment at Oxford Treatment Center’s sister facilities Desert Hope and Solutions Recovery.

Roye’s previous experience includes leading music therapy in such settings as memory-care units, retirement homes and schools. She also has experience working with adolescents and adults with substance use disorders.

Roye holds a bachelor of music degree from Mississippi University for Women. She is certified by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Connecting nature to mental wellness

Experiential therapists present at regional conference

Meaghan O’Connor, M.Ed., NCC, CCTP

Meaghan O’Connor, M.Ed., NCC, CCTP

Oxford Treatment Center experiential therapists Katherine Westfall, MSW, and Meaghan O’Connor, M.Ed., NCC, CCTP, shared insights from their work with patients in addiction treatment recently at a conference for outdoor education professionals and students.

The Arkansas Regional Adventure Programming Conference was held April 20-22 at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, Arkansas. Westfall and O’Connor presented I Bend So I Do Not Break: Connecting Nature and Mental Wellness.

“We know that physiologically when you spend time in nature, it naturally lowers your cortisone levels — the stress hormone,” said Westfall, a wilderness therapist at Oxford Treatment Center. “As anxiety melts away, being in nature is a chance to just be who you are and be fully present in the moment.”

The practice of focusing on what you are seeing, hearing and experiencing, instead of the whirling fears and worries inside your mind, is known as mindfulness. It is often used today as a tool to prevent relapse in recovery from addiction.

O’Connor leads mindfulness and meditation groups at Oxford Treatment Center. She is also a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional through the International Association of Trauma Professionals.

Westfall holds a master’s degree in social work in addition to being a Wilderness First Responder and Challenge Course Facilitator. She works with young adults at Oxford Treatment Center, leading camping, canoeing and other recreational therapies.

Katherine Westfall, MSW

Katherine Westfall, MSW

In the conference presentation, the two therapists shared perspectives on how interacting with nature affects people biologically, physiologically, emotionally and interpersonally. They also offered practical ways that even non-therapeutic outdoor programs, such as those on college campuses, can integrate wilderness therapy and mindfulness concepts into their programs.

As a field, wilderness therapy traces its roots to Outward Bound adventure programs developed more than half a century ago. Its application in therapy, particularly for troubled adolescents, took off in the 1990s.

Westfall said the use of wilderness therapy in substance abuse prevention and treatment is still new and evolving. “It’s exciting for us to be part of building new programs and advancing this field,” she said.

Learn more: 5 Ways Wilderness Therapy Aids Recovery

ARAP Conference photos by Damon Akin/University of Arkansas



About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Mark Stovall joins as first COO

Mark Stovall, CAT, CMHT

Mark Stovall, CAT, CMHT

Oxford Treatment Center has tapped the former statewide head of substance abuse treatment oversight as its first Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Mark Stovall, CAT, CMHT, joined the center in March. He brings nearly 20 years experience in the coordination, development and management of inpatient chemical dependency and behavioral health programs.

“Mark Stovall is ideally suited to advance our clinical programs and refine the care we provide to our patients and their families,” said Mark Sawyer, CEO of Oxford Treatment Center.

“He is deeply familiar with all the dimensions of clinical care and how to excel in each one. Meanwhile, his passion for helping people overcome addiction is sincere and contagious. Our staff is already benefitting from his engagement and leadership.”

Stovall is the former director of the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH). During his eight years with the department, he led divisions including Adolescent Services, Clinical Services and Treatment Services. His efforts at DMH included advancing the use of evidence-based programs in community treatment centers across Mississippi.

Stovall was recruited to Oxford Treatment Center by founding CEO Billy Young, who recently transitioned into a consulting role with parent company American Addiction Centers (AAC). Stovall’s first visit to the residential campus at Etta was in 2012, as part of a team of state regulators on site for the center’s DMH certification.

“I never dreamed I would be here in the role I have today, or that I’d have the opportunity to work for an organization like AAC,” Stovall said. “I’m impressed every day.

Oxford Treatment Center adirondack chairs looking over the lake

“Both locally and at the corporate level, our goal is driving clinical excellence to help patients be as successful as they can be in long-term recovery,” he said.

During his first weeks at Oxford Treatment Center

Stovall has focused on gathering the insights of existing staff, drilling down into details to define how the center can reach new heights in quality of care.

“Oxford Treatment Center is already a well-oiled machine, with staff and facilities that are second-to-none,” Stovall said. “The task ahead is about pioneering a new level of excellence in addiction treatment.”

Stovall joins Oxford Treatment Center from Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center, a private treatment facility located outside Oxford. As founding executive director, Stovall oversaw the development of the clinical program from the ground up.

His approach blends hands-on clinical experience with high-level fluency on research-based treatment strategies. He also brings the perspective of being in long-term personal recovery himself.

“The patients who come to us have been through a lot of pain, and have caused a lot of pain,” Stovall said. “When you’re at that place in life, a little bit of love and compassion goes a long way.”

A Mississippi native, Stovall holds a Master of Education degree in Community Counseling from Delta State University. He devoted the early part of his career to supporting mental health and addiction recovery in the Mississippi Delta. He served as director of the Cleveland Crisis Intervention Center, an acute stabilization hospital for seriously mentally ill patients, and as director of adolescent treatment at Region I Mental Health Center-Sunflower Landing.

Stovall is a Certified Addictions Therapist and Certified Mental Health Therapist. He has presented extensively on dual-diagnosis treatment and on treatment planning at state and regional conferences. He has served as director of the Mississippi School for Addiction Professionals.

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About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Bluebird Trail a new addition to campus

Nesting boxes offer hands-on exercise in new beginnings


Oxford Treatment Center’s residential campus will be a more welcoming haven for wildlife this spring, with the installation of new nesting boxes for Eastern bluebirds.

A collection of more than 50 nesting boxes are currently being installed on the 110-acre campus and surrounding properties. While the boxes are built to suit the species’ standard preference for nesting sites, they are also unique: Each one features the brightly painted designs of a person entering recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

Director of Operations Sid Russell, an avid naturalist and outdoorsman, worked with Art Therapist Resa Frederick to incorporate the conversation project into therapy sessions for patients.

“This is all about new beginnings,” said Sid Russell, Oxford Treatment Center’s director of operations, who initiated the project.

Russell oversees the center’s facility management and maintenance. He conceived the project as a way to use leftover lumber from projects on the campus, rather than throwing it away. The boxes were built by the center’s maintenance team.

Recognizing the opportunity for therapeutic use as well, Russell offered the boxes to Art Therapist Resa Frederick, M.Ed., NCC, LPC, who has incorporated them into her sessions with patients this spring.

“Every project we do allows the individual to express themselves, while incorporating themes of addiction, recovery, reflection and hope,” Frederick said. “The birdhouses provide a perfect ‘canvas’ for that expression. They symbolize recovery as a new beginning, along with the importance of having a firm and solid foundation, being surrounded by a positive community, and having a place to belong.”

Those themes were apparent to Russell, who is in long-term personal recovery from addiction. An ardent naturalist and outdoorsman, he looks to nature as a way to shape his own perspective in recovery. He maintains a collection of bluebird houses, wren houses, squirrel boxes and hummingbird feeders at home.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

“I respect and admire the wildlife the Lord gives us and try to learn from them,” Russell said.

“When you’re in active addiction, it’s all about you. You’re the center of attention. But being in nature helps you see that you’re a very small part of a very big world, and that all of creation works together.”

Russell was previously involved in the development of a bluebird trail in Tupelo. At Oxford Treatment Center, he contacted the owners of surrounding properties for permission to install some of the bluebird boxes on areas around to the campus.

According to the North American Bluebird Society, nesting boxes hung along prescribed routes help bluebird populations to grow and thrive. To best attract bluebirds, the boxes must have the right depth and entry-hole diameter. They also must be hung at a specified height, preferably facing southeast. And they must be at an appropriate distance from each other, since bluebirds are territorial during nesting season.

In addition to the bluebird boxes, Oxford Treatment Center’s maintenance team has also begun building and installing wood duck houses, to attract the beautiful migratory birds to areas around the center’s private lake. Such wildlife conservation projects are rooted in another central tenant of recovery — giving back.

“We’re here to be stewards of the earth,” Russell said. “If we can help a little bluebird along its way, that’s a worthwhile effort.”

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More