On South Broadway, between East Center and East Exposition avenues, is a place where people go to clean up their lives. It looks a bit like a coworking space, with exposed beams, a lime green and gray color palette, clusters of computers, and a conference room complete with a whiteboard wall. Instead of start-up founders, though, the 8,000-square-foot building plays host to addicts in recovery.
This is the flagship location of Face It Together, a nonprofit that believes those struggling with addiction need a different model in order to achieve long-term recovery. Addiction survivor Kevin Kirby launched the organization in 2009 with the idea of changing the stereotype about where and how addicts recover—and how to measure what a successful recovery looks like.
His solution is a peer coaching technique in which those who have personally dealt with addiction issues provide counsel in person, by phone, via text, or over video calls. They then use a digital platform Face It Together invented, called the Recovery Capital Index, to track their clients’ progress in 60 measures of quality of life, ranging from employment status to access to transportation and housing. “Even though addiction is associated with consuming too much of something, it’s not a consumption problem,” Kirby says. “It’s a living problem, but with consumption being an answer. We help people identify personal, social, and cultural issues that might be holding them back and causing them to seek some relief.”
It’s been successful enough that Kirby has expanded Face It Together to North Dakota, Minnesota, and now Colorado; the organization recently moved its headquarters to the Mile High City, thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the Daniels Fund, and celebrated its local grand opening on Wednesday. Kirby says the Denver location currently has the capacity for 200 clients a month, but he has plans to open two more satellite facilities in the region to further meet demand: About 255,000 people ages 12 and up are suffering from addiction in the metro area.
Face It Together also acts as a middleman for addicts who aren’t ready to commit to coaching, but have questions about how to improve some aspects of their lives, like housing or healthcare. Additionally, the nonprofit has a program that serves the loved ones of addicts, a rarely targeted group that has just as much need for therapy. (Kirby expects these folks to make up 65 percent of Denver customers.)
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirby is rolling out a workplace initiative that partners with local companies to provide services to employees. “Historically, employers have been the bad guys, thought of as out to remove anyone suffering from addiction from employment,” Kirby says. “We want employers to change the culture and contract with us for services, with the idea of helping them help their employees come forward and get the help they need.” Face It Together is targeting the construction, oil and gas, financial services, hospitality, and manufacturing industries because research has shown that those sectors tend to have a high proportion of workers who deal with addiction. GE Johnson Construction Company has already signed on, and Kirby says he’s in talks with eight to 10 other businesses.
Of course, none of these services are free. (The fee that employers in the workplace initiative program pay does cover unlimited coaching for workers and their family members.) Face It Together’s coaching costs $595 a month, whether it happens in person or electronically. On average, clients have a 45-minute coaching session once a week for 120 to 180 days to “get on a good path to wellness,” Kirby says, so that works out to $2,380 to $3,570 total on average. Prices for addiction treatment vary widely and depend on level of care and insurance coverage, but even outpatient rehab can easily cost $5,000, which, by comparison, makes Face It Together’s services relatively affordable.
Clients currently have to pay out of pocket, although Kirby says he’s “exploring relationships with insurance companies” in Colorado and hopes to build a more convincing case for them to cover the service once the organization has accumulated more local data.
The method does make it tough for Face It Together to quantify success in the same way for everyone, which is what insurance companies are used to. It’s a lot easier to calculate how long it’s been since all your clients have last used drugs or alcohol versus figuring out whether they’ve made meaningful but different changes in their lives as a result of treatment.
But that’s why the method works, says Face It Together coach Kristin Dell’Orso. After an addiction that lasted more than 20 years, she’s been in recovery for 10 and wishes she’d had a coach when she started to get well. “People share stories that are so personal,” she says. “Everything I went through is worth it when someone else can learn from my mistakes.”
[Editor’s note: Prices for Face It Together’s coaching services have recently changed. This story has been updated to reflect those changes.]