Addiction doesn't recognize status, so The Referral Center comes in handy 

The television series "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" treats famous people with addictions. Here in Oklahoma, there aren't cameras or a TV doctor, but there is a rehabilitation clinic tucked away in the heart of the metro: The Referral Center, 1215 N.W. 25th.

The clinic, which is an inpatient, medically-supervised detoxification program for substance abuse, has 48 beds, with eight private rooms for those wanting anonymity. Since addiction doesn't recognize status, the facility is busy. In 2009, TRC assisted 1,821 patients. Clients are admitted regardless of insurance, and TRC reports that for those with insurance, the rates are cheaper than similar metro facilities.

"We have a private, medical facility right in the middle of the city," said Don Burk, CEO of The Referral Center. "We are very, very affordable."

The Referral Center began in 1981. At first, intoxicated citizens would camp out at its doors. For assessments, they needed to be free of toxins, so TRC made cots available for patients to be assessed, evaluated and receive the help needed to live sober.

Today, Burk said, TRC assists about 183 people per month, with the average stay being seven days. The nonprofit center, which is certified and funded by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, has 41 employees and a board of directors. Although there have been state cutbacks, TRC has improved the environment for the patients by updating its facilities. With construction costs lower, TRC has been able to take advantage of the downturn in the economy. Construction will be complete in June.

"For 19-and-one-half years, there have been no rate increases," Burk said. "We've had to make do with what we have."

The first step to living sober is detoxification, and many don't want treatment. According to Medical Director Dr. Billy Stout, most TRC patients are there due to some consequence, such as loss of job, family demand or court order. The pain-pill problem, he said, has grown so much over the last few years that it almost equals alcohol admissions.

"The Referral Center is step one of what needs to happen to change their lives," Stout said. "Our goal for the patient is long-term treatment. It takes a year for the brain to return to some semblance of normal."

TRC also provides case management services and outpatient aftercare.

"We've been doing this for 30 years. We have a good crew. They should be commended," Burk said. "(Patients) are at a gateway of change. The wonderful end product is when the person walks through the other side (of treatment). There is a bright side."

For more information, call 525-2525 or visit "Gina Dabney

The Referral Center. Photo/Mark Hancock

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