Recovering from any illness is often not a linear road, especially when it comes to mental illnesses. To go even further and specify it, bouncing back from addiction is not an easy task. Substance abuse is something that people turn to when they are unable to cope with their internal struggles.
Each individual struggles differently in their life, and every person has a different pace and ways that work for them to recover. And to understand this, a mental health professional needs deep knowledge and qualification to help the patient and a compassionate attitude to do their job well.
Maryland Addiction Recovery Center is an organization that has deeply understood the concept of recovery from addiction. It helps individuals address their issues and lead a life that is free from addiction and is also fulfilling.
Sam Bierman, the Co-founder and Executive Director, and Zach Snitzer, the Co-Founder and Corporate Director of Marketing, are at the helm of MARC’s operations.
Maryland Addiction Recovery Center is a long-term community reintegration extended care treatment model for individuals suffering from substance use disorder, addiction, and co-occurring disorders. It views addiction as a chronic illness and, as such, believes that the best recovery outcomes are supported by a long-term treatment continuum that includes clinical services, recovery support, monitoring and accountability, and engagement in a personal program of health, healing, and recovery.
The three pillars MARC has been built upon consist of 1) treating addiction as a chronic illness through long-term treatment and care; 2) family engagement and involvement throughout the treatment experience; and 3) inter-agency collaboration between MARC and other service providers, which can include other addiction treatment or mental health treatment providers and recovery service providers, but also healthcare systems and care providers, community organizations, businesses, employers, and EAPs, and generally speaking anyone that is involved in the patient’s life and can help support them in recovery.
The recovery center’s overall purpose is not only to help a patient find sobriety but rather healing and quality of life. “In order to overcome addiction, patients do not need to learn abstinence from substances, but rather how to identify, address, and overcome underlying causes and conditions of addiction, learn healthy coping mechanisms and necessary life skills development, and create a life of purpose, meaning, and direction,” the co-founders expressed.
MARC is family-owned and operated. It opened in late 2013 as an intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment program, over time growing into the current service structure of a 50-bed long-term comprehensive extended care program, with IOP programs to serve the local community.
Caring Patients into Recovery
MARC offers a unique long-term community reintegration care model, where patients stay with the center often for an average of nine months to a year, slowly step down through a continuum of clinical services, learn to manage and/or overcome issues, develop life skills, and create purpose and direction. This is done through the support of a dynamic clinical and medical staff of psychiatrists, nurses, doctorate and master’s level therapists and counselors, and ongoing recovery support.
The center does not adhere to one evidence-based practice in how it approaches its patients, but rather through a combination of many evidence-based clinical approaches and tailor’s a treatment program personally designed for the needs of each patient.
MARC also offers a robust vocational program that supports patients whether they are returning to an established career or instead need the basic tools to achieve first-time employment. For patients in need of academic support, the center offers a College Success program to appropriately integrate or reintegrate a patient into the life of a student, whether they need a GED, to reengage in a community college or university, or are seeking further schooling such as a master’s degree.
Expertise that Redefines Compassionate Care
Sam Bierman was born and raised in Long Island. He graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. After finding his own recovery from addiction after relocating to Florida, Sam began working in the addiction treatment field and went back to school to become a clinician.
Overtime, he worked at Caron Renaissance in Florida, holding positions as a Counselor Assistant, Medical Office Coordinator, and Director of Operations for Caron Ocean Drive, a treatment program focusing on executive and affluent clientele.
Sam moved to Maryland to co-found Maryland Addiction Recovery Center with Zach in order to create a community-based long-term treatment program for those suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders.
Sam also is a 40 Under 40 honoree of the Baltimore Business Journal in 2019 and serves on the board of non-profit organizations Shalom Tikvah, a mental health organization for Baltimore’s Jewish population, and The Phoenix Foundation, an organization that operates Maryland’s first recovery high school.
Zach Snitzer was born and raised in Owings Mills, Maryland. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and marketing, Zach found his way into healthcare after overcoming his own decade-long journey of addiction.
With a background in marketing, public relations, communications, and business development, Zach previously worked at a public relations firm, an events and marketing company focusing on regional amateur sports, and a media company producing marketing and educational content.
Being from Maryland, he recognized the value of long-term treatment and how it best treatment models. Friends with Sam in the Florida recovery community, he identified the Maryland-DC-Virginia area (where he grew up) as a perfect fit for this treatment model. Moving up to Maryland, Zach spent two years in the planning stages for MARC before Sam joined in. At which point, Zach and Sam opened MARC in late 2013.
Zach also sits on the board of the National Conference for Addiction Disorders (NCAD), the local non-profit treatment center Valley-Bridge House, and the DMV-PLA, a professional liaison’s association for individuals working in behavioral health in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area.
Sharing his opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the global healthcare sector, Sam shared, “There has been a terrible impact upon healthcare from COVID-19. The isolation, disconnection, financial insecurity, and fear brought on by COVID-19 have created an epidemic of addiction and mental health within the pandemic. Rates of mental health crises, substance misuse, rising sales of alcohol, overdoses (both fatal and non-fatal), and thoughts of suicide have overwhelmed the healthcare system.”
He further adds, “Over the last 12 months, the rates of treatment of liver disease due to alcohol has increased rapidly. Over 93,000 Americans lost their lives to fatal overdoses. Hospital Emergency Rooms and Emergency Departments, often ill-equipped to deal with patients who have substance use disorder or mental health conditions, are being overrun with patients in need.”
Talking about the challenges that MARC faced during the initial phase of the pandemic, Zach expressed, “The greatest challenge for MARC in the initial phase of the pandemic was with the unknown. As information and CDC recommendations were changing by what seemed like minute-by-minute, it was difficult to pivot in changing protocols. The number one priority was keeping patients and staff safe while still being able to deliver high-quality treatment services.”
Additionally, he said, “Another challenge was the sourcing of PPE. What we found was collaborative efforts between providers and organizations were vital. We were having weekly and sometimes daily calls with the leadership of other treatment centers, health systems, and government health departments.”
“Working together to figure out how to best source PPE, get tests and results, be flexible with programming, integrate virtual services, and create health and safety protocols that could sustain through uncertain times,” Zach concluded.
Opinions that Matter
Elaborating on his opinion about the future of the rehabilitation services niche, post the pandemic, Sam added, “Virtual services are certainly going to be a big part of behavioral healthcare moving forward. The ability to have people access services that they would normally be unable to access based on location and convenience. The important part to understand is how we as a field effectively integrate virtual health platforms and other technology with the vital piece of in-person services.”
“There is an important connection that occurs in-person when treating someone with addiction or mental health issues, so we cannot lose that vital person-to-person connection, but we also need to work towards allowing greater access to services because there is a great need being unmet and individuals unable to get life-saving and life-enriching services.”
He further said, “Additionally, outcome-driven treatment is going to start guiding the field. For years it has been difficult to obtain accurate data on success rates or patient outcomes. As addiction treatment is such a niche within healthcare, there is often not enough bandwidth in organizations to acquire this important data and then use it to create better, more effective treatment or to tailor treatment to the individual. This is changing, and hopefully, in the future, the addiction treatment field will be more aligned with the rest of healthcare in using data-driven treatment approaches.”
Words of Wisdom
Advising budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the rehabilitation services sector, Zach said, “First, this is not a field to enter in lightly. It would be essential to get an education and important experience working at a good, ethical addiction treatment provider. Learn the field. Learn the good and the bad, and then understand that you need to be driven by a set of principles that put patient care first, above all else.”
“Second, find a mentor, or a group of mentors, within the field outside of your own organization or company. Someone or a group of people who also demonstrate the principles you aspire to follow and lean on that guidance. Finally, make sure that you are filling a need. There is a host of different treatment providers and services opening, but rarely does it seem like it is being done to fill a need and help a group of people incapable of finding those services.”
“One of the greatest principles we strive towards is that any decision we make, whether it is expanding within our clinical program, adding services, or overall growth, is driven by the question ‘Are we filling a need?’” he added.
Taking the Caravan Further
Sharing his vision on scaling the center’s operations in 2021, Sam added, “Scalability in behavioral healthcare and addiction treatment is tricky. What people don’t quite understand is that the direct patient care and those clinicians and practitioner’s ability to appropriately adapt evidence-based practices to each individual patient’s needs is not something that is easily scalable.”
“For example, you can’t simply find a location, hire some clinicians and administrative staff, and open a program. Well, you can, but what type of quality program will that look like? Addiction treatment programs need to operate from a specific clinical philosophy, and then through different therapeutic approaches, evidence-based practices, and patient-centered care, deliver services that will be able to help each patient that they serve as best as they can. So, for us at MARC, we’ve seen significant growth over the last several years by using those guiding principles.”
Explaining further, he said, “We grew from a small intensive outpatient with six employees to a 50-bed extended care model with over 50 employees. We’ve scaled through a partnership with Caron Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania with the combined ownership of Encore Outpatient Services in Arlington, Virginia, which is an outpatient PHP and IOP program. So rather than simply looking to open more programs, our growth is strategic.”
“We plan on improving our internal clinical, medical, and psychiatric services and expand on our specific programs like our Vocational Program or our College Success program (which is another partnership with Caron.) In terms of growth, we actively look in other areas where we might fill a need, and partnerships with like-minded, quality, and ethical organizations where we might be able to open or expand additional access to care,” Sam concluded.
Accreditation and Integration
Maryland Addiction Recovery Centre is Joint Commission accredited.
MARC’s team is comprised of its clinical team (A doctorate-level Clinical Director, nine primary therapists that are Master’s Level clinicians, many with associated Drug and Alcohol Counselor certifications, a Master’s Level Family Therapist, a Master’s Level Trauma Recovery Specialist clinician, a Vocational Therapist who is a Master’s Level clinician and has a Master’s in Education, and an Alcohol and Drug Counselor that oversees the College Success program as the Collegiate Recovery Specialist), its medical team (2 psychiatrists that are onsite between 40-50 hours weekly, and a nurse practitioner), and it’s admissions team (a director of admissions and two intake specialists that are clinicians), as well as it’s administrative, recovery support, business development teams.