“In my many times being in treatment, especially in the past year,” ML, a young male addict using only his initials, said via email, “I have felt as if I couldn’t express my full self, which…has prevented me from advancing in my recovery. Not only am I able to fully be myself [now], I am able to openly discuss my history and dissect all the different layers that contribute to my addiction.”
ML felt he couldn’t be himself when he attended a traditional treatment program because he is gay.
It’s a common refrain for people in recovery, but ML recently completed rehab and now resides in a sober living home, coupled with an outpatient program, a standard recommendation of modern addiction treatment.
He says he is sober today because he found the “right program,” one that ensures a judgement-free environment of like-minded people who also happen to be LGBTQ.
Larry Hymes, a well-known marriage and family therapist, believes in the power of LGBTQ ‘family’ and has taken the idea to the next level. As Clinical Director of Pride Recovery Los Angeles (PRLA), a new addiction treatment facility located at 8300 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, he hopes to offer a unique outpatient model. “It’s for LGBTQ people, by LGBTQ people,” he says.
PRLA aims to focus on the needs of LGBTQ patients who have completed a 30- to-90-day inpatient rehab program, or who wish to combine their sober living experience with an outpatient program. “Our resources are large,” says Hymes. “We’re the largest facility that I know of in California.”
Able to treat 30 to 60 clients at a time, PRLA provides three distinct tracks, Monday through Friday full- and half-day options, as well as a twice a week program for those with some recovery time under their belts.
While several addiction treatment centers in Los Angeles offer an LGBTQ focus, very few offer intensive programs centered on the identity issues LGBTQ people face.
With so much progress in terms of civil rights and marriage equality, it may sound surprising to hear that so many LGBTQ people still struggle. “There’s a lot of self-hatred for being gay, lesbian, bi or transgender,” Hymes said. Even with, say, a 40-year-old adult? “[It’s] probably worse,” he says “because they have been hidden for a good chunk of their life. Perhaps they have (heterosexual) families. It’s actually more difficult to come out later in your life.”
“If they are focusing on LGBT and [addiction] issues,” said Trevor Scott, regional director of marketing for KLEAN Treatment Centers, also in WeHo, “that would be unique.” While KLEAN is LGBT-friendly, they are not LGBTQ nor do they have a strictly LGBTQ core staff. KLEAN’s focus is also on drug and alcohol abuse, while PRLA describes its programs as “holistic,” treating a variety of behaviors, including sex addiction.
But how big is the need for LGBT-specific treatment?
A 2015 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states, “People who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are at greater risk for substance use and mental health issues compared with heterosexuals.” And The Advocate reported, “the use of methamphetamine is five to 10 times more common in urban gay and bisexual men than in the general U.S. population.” These percentages can be even greater for communities of color. In addition, PRLA cites that LGBTs in traditional treatment programs can experience a success rate roughly 60% lower than non-gay patients in those same programs.
PRLA is in West Hollywood for two main reasons. One: “WeHo has a large LGBTQ community,” said Matthew Bianchi, Admissions and Outreach Coordinator. “And substance abuse has played a pretty big role,” with meth having a profoundly negative impact.
The second reason? Becoming a treatment destination. PRLA is seeking clients from outside the area, even out of state. “LA is a very safe bubble for some, but we are looking at other cities where it’s not safe to be gay,” says Hymes. “The opportunity to recover in WeHo with other gay people” can sometimes remove barriers for those seeking treatment.
For those outside LA, various sober living options can be suggested. “Our patients manage their own sober-living arrangements, but we get you here. We feed you. There’s coffee…snacks. If you’re [in] full-day, there’s a catered lunch.”
One of Los Angeles’ largest sober-living management companies, Westwind Recovery Residences, owned by Zach Ament and Justin Wells, is an investor PRLA.
Hymes added, “We have numerous clients from various sober living communities in the area. We are making significant outreach efforts to the community of recovery programs in Los Angeles.”
Bianchi discussed the various types of outreach PRLA is engaged in. WeHo City Council member John Duran will be the keynote speaker at their open house on October 26th from 4-8 PM, and partnerships with AIDS LifeCycle, the LGBT Center and social networking recovery app MOBER are also in place.
Hymes added “a lesbian outreach event” is also planned, indicating that lesbians are under-represented in LGBTQ treatment programs in general. “PRLA is also proud to be serving transgender people suffering from addiction,” Hymes said, “as they have been overlooked and underserved for too long.”
I wondered how sober gay men might feel about an LGBT treatment program. CP, 43, “definitely” sees value in it. Getting sober ten years ago in AA, he said, “In early recovery it’s really important to be part of the tribe.” Speaking to ML’s point above about the need for a non-judgmental, safe environment, CP knew a man who struggled being the “only LGBT man at a rehab.”
JG, also 43, got sober three years ago at non-LGBT-focused Michael’s House in Palm Springs. Now pursuing his PsyD in clinical psychology, wanting to help others attain sobriety, he said PRLA’s program “seems like a good idea.” “Substance abuse, addictive behavior is overrepresented in the LGBT population. It does makes sense you would have this kind of facility.”
PRLA accepts most insurance programs for outpatient programs and sometimes offers scholarships for those without the resources to pay.
“The most important thing to know is that Pride Recovery Los Angeles is a safe place, an affirming place,” Hymes says. “It’s for our community.”