By: George Kolodner, M.D., Medical Director
When I finished my medical training, all of my clinical experience had left me with a firm belief that patients with alcohol and drug problems had poor prognoses. Consequently, I had no interest in working with them. I entered the military and was fortunate enough to be assigned to Bethesda Naval Hospital. The Navy was a leader in the field of alcoholism treatment and while I was there I saw, to my surprise, alcoholics recover in the hospital’s inpatient treatment program. When I left the Navy in 1973 and went into private practice, I decided to develop a treatment model that would replicate the clinical success that I had observed, but on an outpatient rather than an inpatient basis.
I teamed up with Jim McMahon, who had recently retired as deputy director of the Navy program that I had admired. Together, we designed and implemented the program that we eventually named Kolmac. We picked this name to make the point that professionals with graduate degree such as myself and counselors without such degrees but with clinical training along with personal recovery experience, such as Jim, could work together effectively.
When we started Kolmac, many people in the field doubted that we would be successful because outpatient programs in the past had routinely failed. I was nevertheless optimistic that if we could provide enough structure and intensity, we could create a non-residential therapeutic environment. Most outpatient programs only saw each patient for 1 to 2 hours per week and could not create such an environment.
A pioneering physician, Dr. Vernelle Fox, had already demonstrated the effectiveness of a day hospital program, in which each patient was treated for 6 to 8 hours per day. Our program was different from hers in that we developed a daily 3-hour program for the rehabilitation phase of treatment. This level of care had not previously existed and has now become known as “intensive outpatient” or IOP treatment. We did this because I was particularly interested in treating working alcoholics and we needed to squeeze their treatment in between the end of their workday and when they went home at night. We focused on further reducing the practical barriers to entering treatment by working with their insurance companies to provide financial coverage for the program.
On the front end of our IOP, we retained the full day model to provide medical ambulatory detoxification for those patients whose problem included physical addiction. Prior to this, such treatment had primarily been done in hospitals and other residential settings. We discovered that modern detoxification techniques were so effective that patients were comfortable enough to begin the rehabilitation phase immediately. By participating in detoxification and IOP rehabilitation simultaneously rather than sequentially, we found that patients were more likely to progress into recovery and avoid the revolving door scenario involving repeated detoxifications.
In 1984, we began to expand our program. We began treating people who were addicted to substances other than alcohol. In keeping with our goal to make treatment more accessible, we began to establish additional offices close to where people lived and worked. Below, I have listed a few notable developments that have occurred during our 40 plus years of working to help patients recover from addictions
Kolmac History Timeline
- Name is changed from Kolmac Clinic to Kolmac Outpatient Recovery Centers
- Treatment for gambling disorders begins
- 20,000 patients treated
- Kolmac Baltimore office merges with Crossroads Centers.
- Sixth location opens in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.
- Kolmac named the area’s Best Substance Abuse Treatment program in a Washingtonian Magazine poll of 1,500 mental health professionals. 2009 was the only year in which this category was included.
- Kolmac purchases Partners in Recovery program and opens fifth location in Towson, MD on the campus of and in collaboration with Sheppard Pratt Hospital.
- The Kolmac Foundation is formed. The Foundation is a non-profit organization set-up to provide financial support to those who are unable to afford the full cost of addiction treatment.
- Fourth location opens in Columbia, Maryland.
- Dr, Kolodner receives award for Outstanding Teacher from Georgetown University School of Medicine
- 10,000 patients treated since program inception
- Dr. George Kolodner receives the Outstanding Physician Award for Excellence in Addictions Treatment from the Maryland Chapter of the National Council l on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.
- Dr. George Kolodner receives the Community Service Award from the Vanguard Foundation for outstanding service to the community for helping people in need to receive addictions treatment.
- Buprenorphine is used for the treatment of patients with opioid use disorders, improving our success rate for this population
- 5,000 patients treated since program inception
- 2,000 patients treated since program inception
- Third location opens in Gaithersburg, Maryland
- Program begins treating patients with opioid use disorders and using naltrexone
- Program begins treating patients with cocaine dependence
- Kolmac begins teaching affiliation with Georgetown University School of Medicine.
- Second location opens in downtown business district of Washington, D.C.
- First 1,000 patients treated
- The clinical results of the program are presented at the annual meetings of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the National Council on Alcoholism.
- Kolmac program, co-founded by Dr. George Kolodner and Jim McMahon, for the treatment of alcohol problems, opens in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was the first intensive outpatient (IOP) addiction rehabilitation program in the country – all other treatment at the time was being delivered in a residential or partial-hospitalization setting.