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ALPHA Center in top 3 percent worldwide

Will build new facility next to current one, sell Ehrenclou Drive lot

Posted: November 12, 2018 4:46 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Paul Napper, executive director of The ALPHA Center, holds up its latest accreditation certificate from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). CARF listed no recommendations for improvement based on its three-day visit earlier this year, placing The ALPHA Center in the top 3 percent of CARF-certified facilities worldwide.

The ALPHA Behavioral Health Center, with its headquarters in Camden and locations in Chesterfield and Lee counties, is among the top 3 percent of its peers -- worldwide -- according to an accreditation report from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Founded in 1966, and according to literature provided by the organization, CARF currently accredits more than 50,000 programs and services at more than 23,000 locations on four continents.

The ALPHA Center recently underwent CARF’s three-day accreditation process at all three of its locations that examined more than 1,500 standards -- from how everything is documented to the stocking of first-aid kits -- and came away with a report without a single recommendation for improvement.

During a Nov. 8 interview, ALPHA Center Executive Director Paul Napper said CARF officials told him that no-recommendation report placed the organization in the top 3 percent of CARF-accredited facilities around the world.

“One of the examiners was a woman from Canada and she said that in her 10 years of doing this, she had never seen one without a recommendation for improvement,” Napper said. “This is what keeps me going. It just blew me away. Part of the process included privately interviewing our patients, staff, board and partners.”

He was quick to point out that he, as executive director, is “the least part” of The ALPHA Center’s success.

“Mara Jones, Margaret Pennebaker and Tina Griggs are the backbone, the rock -- they are the greatest people,” he said of The ALPHA Center’s deputy director, human resources director and prevention director, respectively.

One of the highlights of the CARF report touched on what Napper considers an unfortunately rising service: the treatment of opioid addiction. In part the report states, “ALPHA’s response to the opioid crisis is nothing less than exceptional. The organization has established both community-based initiatives and partnerships with allied stakeholders that have reduced the stigmatizing effects of addiction, strengthened community partnerships, and restored public confidence as it related to the treatment of addictive disorders.”

Napper said he was especially happy that CARF recognized The ALPHA Center for its medicated-assistant treatment, or MAT, program. It includes having Narcan -- a medication that can partially or completely reverse an opioid overdose -- on hand to prescribe along with other anti-addiction medications to be used along with counseling.

“This is a new directive from the government, and we are one of the few facilities in the state that are already doing it,” Napper said, estimating the center has helped around 150 people through MAT for opioid and other addiction.

Part of MAT means having a physician or physician’s assistant (P.A.) at the center every day.

“We are, essentially, a healthcare center now,” Napper said. “We don’t just treat the addiction, but everything -- diabetes, high blood pressure, even the flu -- it’s a total ‘wrap-around’ service.”

The doctors and P.A.’s must receive additional, special certification along with their medical degrees or other certifications in order to treat patients for addiction, Napper said.

As these needs have increased, Napper and his staff realized they had to expand. In March 2017, Napper announced that it would build a new $2.5 million facility on a 4-acre lot on Ehrenclou Drive across from the S.C. National Guard Armory. Napper now says plans those plans have changed.

“We’ve decided to build the new building next to our existing one, and sell the land we purchased on Ehrenclou,” he said.

Some services will be housed in mobile units during construction and while the existing building is spruced up. Napper said the new building will be a full-treatment facility; the existing building will be used for administrative purposes and group meetings that don’t require the technology and equipment in the new building.

“I estimate we’ll save about 40 percent of what we would have spent building a totally new facility out there,” Napper said.

Construction and equipping of the new building will be paid for from three revenue streams: income from the sale of the four acres on Ehrenclou Drive; a $1 million check presented to him by State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk and State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, part of $4 million appropriated by the state legislature to fight the opioid crisis; and a fundraising drive The ALPHA Center plans to launch during the next few weeks.

With the coming expansion, Napper promises one thing won’t change: the special bond the ALPHA Center staff has with their patients and the community at large.

“How we care for our patients came out through those interviews, as did our collaboration with local and state partners,” he said.

For example, there was a patient who was angry when they first arrived at the center.

“He didn’t want to be here, but after the third visit, he realized how much help he needed and was getting,” Napper said.

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