Gay Jackson
Admissions Director

Visit by Judith E. Bessette, EdD, of Compass Consulting, October 2014

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Salt Lake area to be part of the 5th Anniversary Celebration of New Roads Behavioral Health. When I first visited, the young adult transitional living program (Trans) was in place with a handful of clients and the former assisted living facility that would become their RTC was in the very early stages of being completely renovated.

I was impressed with Eric Schmidt when I first met him…and I continue to be impressed the better we get to know one another. Eric Schmidt, MSSW, LCSW, MBA, is the CEO of New Roads Behavioral Health. He holds both a master’s in social work and a master’s in business administration, and committed to education. As an adjunct faculty for the University Of Utah School Of Social Work, he teaches a variety of clinical and professional development courses.

Eric is committed to running a quality program, which includes hiring talented staff and ensuring they have high caliber on-going training. Bringing Kevin McCauley, MD, onboard has brought New Roads into the national spotlight as Kevin is well-known for his ongoing work in educating the public as well as professionals about the science of addiction. And as for training-did you know that all of the therapists at New Roads have completed DBT training?

Eric is also committed changing public policy around addictions and mental health issues, both in Utah and on a national level. Eric has been a passionate advocate for individuals with addictions and/or mental health issues, working to ensure treatment under the Affordable Care Act as well as working to change current Medicare exclusions for coverage for adults with severe mental illnesses. He has also been a voice for criminal justice reformation – making drug possession a misdemeanor rather than a felony and creating greater access to the full continuum of care for the disease of addiction.

The team at New Roads is remarkable; all are committed to cutting-edge treatment. One example is the way New Roads is using Vivitrol with clients dealing with opioid and/or alcohol addiction. A non-addictive, once a month injection, Vivitrol works on blocking the physical aspect of addiction by blocking pleasurable feelings. In conjunction with counseling that addresses the psychological aspect of addiction, it’s an invaluable tool.

From the beginning, New Roads has used a modified Therapeutic Community (TC) approach as the mechanism to manage the milieu. The TC treatment model has many powerful features for this target population. Young adults are especially responsive to peer influence. This approach views substance abuse “as a reflection of chronic deficits in social, educational, familial, economic, and personality development.”

At their inception in the US in the 1960s, TCs did not use professional staff but the peers managed the treatment program themselves. They were highly confrontational. New Roads has modified many TC components to better address the needs of young adults and has moved completely away from the confrontational aspects of the early TCs.

Over the last five years, as the program has become better, there have been some subtle but profound changes. One such change was the addition of their program in Florida.

Probably the most notable change has been the quiet transformation from New Roads Treatment Centers to New Roads Behavioral Health. The RTC and Trans continue to work with both clients with addiction issues and clients with dual-diagnosis issues. In fielding the many referrals that come their way, New Roads began to see a growing need for programming to address young adults with long-term needs-whether addiction was an issue or not. These are young men and young women with psychotic disorders, schizo-affective disorders, severe social anxiety, a bipolar diagnosis, and more.

To address this emerging need, New Roads has opened NRTH – New Roads to Healing. The typical NRTH client has probably been through another RTC or a psychiatric hospitalization for stabilization but needs longer-term treatment to develop the life skills necessary to become as self-sufficient as possible.

Knowing this organization as I do, my guess is they have their first NRTH facility, but it is probably not going to be their last.

This visit to New Roads had all the usual trappings of a program visit…touring the facilities (friendly and well-appointed; meeting the staff (including their chef who served a delicious and healthy lunch); and talking with some clients (often the best part of any visit.) This visit, however, had something very special-an an invitation to sit in on their DBT consultation team. New Roads offers a robust DBT program – offering all the requisite parts of the program as described by its architect, Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP. Every client has weekly individual therapy. Skills training happens in a group setting, run by a qualified clinician. In addition, New Roads clients have access to their therapists at any time via phone coaching. Ancillary services such as addictions education, psychiatric services and case management are all part of the program.

A word about DBT: Dialectic behavioral therapy is designed to help people change patterns of behavior that are not effective, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking, and substance abuse. DBT assumes that people are doing the best they can but either is lacking skills or is influenced by positive or negative reinforcement that interferes with one’s functioning.

New Roads also holds weekly consultation team meetings. This is an important aspect of DBT that many who offer this sort of therapy do not offer. Many clients at new Roads have severe, complex and difficult-to-treat disorders. Consultation team is designed to be “therapy for the therapist.” It helps the clinicians stay motivated and hones their skills so they can provide the best treatment possible.

Three cases were presented while I was observing the consultation team. I’ve observed many treatment team meeting where it’s not unusual to hear therapists talk about the blocks their clients are experiencing. This meeting was different, with the clinicians being unbelievably open about how they themselves may be a block to their clients’ work. The therapists, the case managers, and New Roads leadership team all attend this weekly meeting. I was quite impressed at the therapists’ candor in front of both their colleagues and their supervisory team. Even more amazing, everyone who attends the group is just as candid and open.

You don’t have to wait until the 6th anniversary event to visit New Roads-either in Utah or Florida-just give Gay Jackson a call!

Judith E. Bessette, EdD is an Educational and Therapeutic Consultant, and founder of Compass Consulting. For more information, visit her website at, email, or call 414-581-9146.