Promises Staff Stories
By Meghan Vivo
The #MeToo movement has gone viral following sexual harassment and sexual misconduct allegations against a growing list of celebrities. It’s a powerful and needed movement that’s only beginning to shed light on the depth and scale of the problem.
“My ideal day consists of seeing hope in others,” says Dr. Craig Franke, medical director at Promises Austin. “That’s all I need. I gladly accept more.”
Born in Uvalde, Texas, as the youngest of three siblings, Dr. Franke lived in Leakey as a child before moving to Houston with his mother. He went to grade school and graduated high school in the small community of College Station. “In high school, I chose to pursue medicine as a result of my experiences with cancer in my family,” says Dr. Franke. “While in college I studied biology for the same reason but also chose psychology to better understand the human condition.”
He went to Texas A&M University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a minor in biology. Recruited to attend medical school while still in graduate school, Dr. Franke went to medical school at University of Texas in Galveston. After earning his doctorate there, he completed his internship and residency in psychiatry at Texas A&M University Health Center/Scott & White in Temple, Texas. After that, Dr. Franke did fellowship training in addiction psychiatry at the University of South Florida and moonlighted as an emergency (ER) provider at James A. Haley VA in Tampa, Florida.
The Road to Promises Austin
Dr. Franke returned to Texas to be with family and joined the Scott White Healthcare System (now Baylor Scott & White) as a senior staff psychiatrist, ultimately becoming the medical director for all their addiction services.
During and since his tenure there, Dr. Franke held an active outside position with Texas A&M University as an assistant professor, teaching residents and students. He also served on the physician advocacy committee through Scott & White, intervening on behalf of the organization and before involvement of the Texas Medical Board. Dr. Franke adds that “it was a big honor to be able to serve on that committee.”
Dr. Franke eventually started his own company and later served as medical director for a 200-bed treatment center with a 40-bed medically supervised detox unit. He joined Promises Austin as medical director in 2012, then returned to academia for about a year and came back to Promises Austin as medical director in July 2014.
Understanding Addiction as a Disease
Talking about his day-to-day responsibilities as Promises Austin’s medical director is an exercise in complexity. Dr. Franke is involved in so many different aspects of the treatment facility that it’s hard to find an area where he’s not right in the mix of things, either with direct responsibility or working with other staff as part of a hands-on team.
Dr. Franke is greatly involved with patients, providing direct care, doing all the history, physicals and evaluations to determine their psychiatric and medical suitability to enter the facility, making recommendations for patients, and continuing to oversee their medical and psychiatric care while they’re in treatment.
“I feel a need, first and foremost, to try to understand the phenomenon of addiction as 100 percent a disease,” says Dr. Franke. “Unfortunately a disease carries with it a tremendous amount of social consequences. A lay person, indeed a professional, often blurs lines and confuses it and, in doing so, they forget that they’re dealing with a disease.”
Dr. Franke first deals with biological instability, so as to help ensure the likelihood of treatment success. This involves culling research to find evidence-based practices that really meet the underlying physiology. Dr. Franke says he has seen all too often that physicians and other providers lack the fundamental biological understanding.
“They just treat symptoms and patients come along with multiple medications which are really creating problems themselves,” he relates. But there is, he says, a better way. “If you really target the underlying illness, you do more with less because all those other symptoms are relieved once you address the illness.”
Dr. Franke has treated people from all walks of life. “They’ve made me realize that we’re all the same,” he asserts. “I want to be patient with them. I want them to learn to be patient with themselves. More importantly, I want to see the person apart from the illness.”
What Really Drives Him
In addition to his passion for his work, Dr. Franke loves music, the outdoors, mountain biking, running and going to the gym. He prioritizes his family and friends. His brother and sister both reside in Texas, and he has a young daughter and a teenage son, both of whom he adores.
“This line of work has really taught me how important that is,” Dr. Franke emphasizes. “It has made it really obvious to me just how important every tiny moment is every day.”
Ilana Zivkovich has an inner beauty that radiates through and is visible to everyone around her. Some might say this is because she sees the inner beauty in others.
“All people have an inner truth that is beautiful,” says Ilana. “So often we feel we’d be good enough ‘if only’ we could make certain changes. At Promises Austin we challenge those thoughts by taking a strengths-based approach that normalizes our clients’ struggles and helps them see that they are inherently worthy. From there, we figure out how to help them act in ways that align with their inner truth.”
One of the first things people notice about Elizabeth Wilkinson – “Izzy” to those who know her – is her clever sense of humor. She’s quirky. She’s passionate. And she makes people laugh – not only in passing moments as she greets her clients or colleagues, but also as part of the therapeutic process.
“I believe humor can be healing in itself if it’s used correctly,” Izzy says.
Although Izzy utilizes an eclectic mixture of therapeutic styles to meet the emotional and psychological needs of her clients, she is specially trained in psychodrama, a type of therapy that is conducive to the entire range of human experience, including humor.
When people prepare for their first day of drug or alcohol rehab, they are usually filled with uncertainty. “What should I bring?” “What will the process be like?”
Admissions Director Jay Plotkin answers all of these questions but reassures clients, “All you need is a suitcase of willingness and you’ll be just fine. Give us willingness and we’ll help you turn that into hope like you’ve never seen.”
Among the first doctors certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM). H Magazine Texas’ “Top Doc” in Addiction Medicine, 2007-2009. 2008 winner of Sierra Tucson’s Gratitude for Giving, Compassion Award. Dr. Powers has worked in drug and alcohol addiction recovery for over eight years and has helped Right Step’s Promises Austin’s inpatient detoxification program reach out to, and reform, hundreds of addicted persons over the years.
“Holistic medicine is all about addressing the patient as a whole person: body, mind and soul,” explains Dr. Jason Powers, when asked about the Promises Austin drug and alcohol treatment center. “The Promises Austin program is a 35- or 60-day holistic rehab program designed to help mature guests over the age of 26 meet their recovery needs.”
By Dr. Jason Powers
Chief Medical Officer, Right Step, Promises Austin, and San Cristobal
Among the first doctors certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM). H Magazine Texas’ “Top Doc” in Addiction Medicine, 2007-2009. 2008 winner of Sierra Tucson’s Gratitude for Giving, Compassion Award.
Dr. Powers, Right Step Chief Medical Officer, has worked in addiction recovery for over eight years and has helped Right Step’s inpatient detoxification program reach out to, and reform, hundreds of addicts over the years.
“Holistic medicine is all about addressing the patient as a whole person: body, mind and soul,” explains Dr. Jason Powers, when asked about the Promises Austin alcohol treatment center. “The Promises Austin program is a 35- or 60-day holistic program designed to help mature guests over the age of 26 meet their recovery needs.”
Promises Austin, set in a lush landscape near Austin, Texas, is unlike many other drug rehab centers. “It offers a recovery fitness program,” Dr. Powers notes, “that is designed specifically to enhance patients’ recovery.” Other amenities include spa services (such as massages), a culinary program that includes gourmet meals and cooking classes, spiritual guidance, expressive art therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and a concierge to help guests arrange group activities that suit their interests and help them find their passions. Each of these offerings is created especially for people undergoing addiction recovery and aimed at helping to boost every element of their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Jeremy Stalbird was on a troubled path for the early part of his life, but it led him “right where I’m supposed to be,” he said, helping those with drug and alcohol addictions as Residential Manager of Promises Young Adult Program.
Born and raised in Denmark, Bettina Ottenstein came to the U.S. almost 20 years ago. In search of a long-term career that she wouldn’t easily tire of, she went to grad school and became a licensed marriage and family therapist. She had known about Promises for many years, and when the opportunity arose to join the team, she seized it.
If you had to choose one of the following: becoming a therapist, working as an investment banker on Wall Street or joining the CIA, which would you choose? At one time, Dr. Alexander Bacher had all three of these options before him and decided to enter the field of addiction and mental health treatment.
His interest in psychology reaches back to his college days at Georgetown University, but when it came time to choose a career, Dr. Bacher pursued a path that promised financial stability and challenge: a Wall Street investment banker. Like so many others, Dr. Bacher was lured into the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle. But he quickly noticed a difference that intrigued him.
There are many important factors to consider when choosing a drug rehab: the program philosophy, the qualifications of the staff, the level of one-on-one attention. But let’s face it, one of the most pressing questions on everyone’s mind is, “How’s the food?”
With Beverly Jerricks in the kitchen at Promises West L.A., clients aren’t disappointed. By the time they arrive for breakfast at 7:30 a.m., Beverly has been up for hours preparing a gourmet spread that is sure to please. For those with a discerning palette, ricotta and lemon pancakes and egg white omelets are on the menu. Clients looking for some familiar favorites will find a buffet of eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, cereal and fruit.
When clients come to Promises and meet Michele Jackson, they find a partner in recovery for life. On any given day, Michele can be found making follow-up calls to alumni, checking in on how they’re doing and offering help as needed, and coordinating in-state and out-of-state alumni meetings, events and reunions.
When individuals come to Promises Treatment Centers, Chester Williams’ reassuring face is one of the first of many reminders that they’ve made the right choice. With more than 25 years sober and a compassionate approach tempered with real-world experience, Chester has a way of setting people at ease from the start.
Keith Arnold’s passion is bringing out the best in both people and companies. He has worked with many different organizations in a range of fields, having started his career in management consulting. Working in the addiction treatment field for the past 16 years has been the most rewarding time of his career.
With 23 years in recovery, Patricia (Pat) Womack has a unique way of connecting with her clients. “I’ve been to hell and back,” she said, “so while I may not know exactly how a client is feeling, I can tell them that I’ve been there and that I understand. It’s not just something I read in a book.”