Article written by Tim Poor for the Brown School at Washington University
When she began her studies at the Brown School, Callan Howton knew she wanted to work in the field of substance use treatment and recovery. She was motivated by the experiences of loved ones and her work in a detox center.
“I saw a huge need in the field,” she recalled.
What she didn’t know was how quickly after graduation she would become a major source for treatment services in St. Louis by founding her own non-profit and for-profit facilities – or the satisfaction it would bring her. Howton combines a passion for social change and an entrepreneurial spirit, both of which were nurtured at the Brown School.
“People who use alcohol and drugs are often shunned or looked down upon,” she said. “With the appropriate resources, we can treat their condition like we treat any other disease. I get to see people recover every day when they’re treated like human beings. To be able to watch them do that and grow in life, and reconnect with their families … I couldn’t not do this.”
After obtaining her MPH, Howton began working in program management for an outpatient provider. She quickly started getting requests from various organizations that needed help developing their own programs. “I realized I could help more companies expand their services if I created my own development firm,” she said.
In 2017, Howton founded the Center for Program Development. A major project, Engaging Patients in Care Coordination (EPICC), pairs overdose patients with peer recovery coaches in the St. Louis region. EPICC employs 13 recovery coaches who have lived experiences with substance use disorder, and provides around-the-clock outreach to 14 St. Louis area hospital emergency rooms. The project has served more than 2,000 patients and will soon expand to include Emergency Medical Service (EMS) outreach to respond to overdoses.
Howton received project funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in partnership with the Missouri Department of Mental Health and UMSL Missouri Institute of Mental Health.
In addition to her for-profit arm, Howton is dedicated to expanding her nonprofit efforts. She has launched Haven Recovery Homes, which provides a supportive living environment for people in recovery; Haven Recovery Gives Back, which funds community education and events to help normalize the recovery process in communities throughout the region; and Haven Recovery Services, an outpatient services office that provides peer-led mentoring and group session services to clients and their families at no cost.
“Business models, budgets, evidence and science are absolutely necessary,” Howton said. “However, I believe nothing will outweigh heart and passion. Being able to combine that with logical approaches lets you create a force that can really drive change. Making a financially sustainable model makes sure you can sustain the service, too.”
It’s an approach she learned at the Brown School.
“All of our professors had that same mindset: Heart and passion combined with evidence and science. They were out there doing that very thing, and offered us practical messages we could implement in our own field.”
She noted that Professors Lora Ianotti and Joe Steensma were particularly influential, and consistently emphasized the connection between statistics and people. Howton never forgets that “every data point is a person. We need the data, but we’re serving the person first and foremost.”