Peter Barbuto: From Addict to Treatment Consultant

(Article courtesy of Common Ground)

Peter Barbuto is used to seeing strange numbers flash across the screen of his iPhone all day.

“It rings all weekend,” Barbuto said. “It rings all the time.”

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Sometimes it’s a distressed parent. Other times, a concerned boss. Or a down-and-out person who knows he needs help. All of them have this in common: they are hoping Barbuto can offer advice, consolation, and help them find a way to get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for their loves ones, employees, children, or themselves.

For Barbuto, a treatment consultant for Treatment Solutions, it’s the calls from worried parents who are with a son or daughter at the ER that leave a lasting impression. When one of those calls comes through, he remembers how helpless his own father felt when Barbuto himself was at a treatment facility.

“There’s a certain stigma and guilt that surrounds it,” Barbuto said.

A mother or father may sometimes feel a sense of shame, or worse, failure, over having a child who has become addicted to drugs or alcohol, Barbuto said. But he knows better: an addicted child says nothing about someone’s worth as a mother or father. “My dad is probably one of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet,” Barbuto said.

He tries to provide the same advice and comfort to parents that his own father once received from friends and others in his community when Barbuto was entering treatment. “There’s no black and white … there’s a lot of gray,” Barbuto said. What might have been helpful for him, may not work for someone else. “You know what the best treatment center in the world is? The one you get clean in.”

Barbuto can lend not only his personal experience, but also his professional expertise. Usually, that means getting someone into the right treatment facility for their needs and then getting their insurance company to fund it. For everyone who is not a celebrity or a millionaire, the average person is lucky to get their insurance company to pick up the tab for a five to seven-day stay in a facility—barely enough time to go through detox.

But Treatment Solutions is able to work with insurance companies to obtain benefits that are normally not utilized, allowing stays to be extended much longer, up to an average of 42 days, according to Barbuto.

The longer stays increase someone’s chances of truly recovering from an addiction.

“We’re able to send people to these treatment centers that normally wouldn’t be able to afford them,” Barbuto said.

He says he tends to work with a lot of unions and blue-collar people who have good insurance. Barbuto serves as the middleman between them, a treatment center, doctors, and others trying to help them. In a

given week he might do five to ten placements, with a fraction of them actually going to a facility affiliated with Treatment Solutions. The rest—if they do not have a top insurance plan—he will refer to other facilities, something he can afford to do because his job is salaried, rather than commission-based.

‘I was a nice guy’

Barbuto was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in a predominantly blue-collar community. For Barbuto, recreational drug use and drinking started when he was a young teenager, not realizing how dangerous they were. “Unfortunately using alcohol and drugs as adolescents, it’s almost like breathing it’s so prevalent,” Barbuto said.

His substance abuse did not go unnoticed by others. He recalls coaches, teachers, and distinguished community members confronting him and telling him that his behavior patterns were unhealthy. And Barbuto would stop for periods of time, only to eventually start using and abusing again.

He insists that, by many measures, he was just a normal good kid. He was a baseball player at Boston College High School and continued to play when he went to Merrimack College.

“I was a nice guy. It’s not like I was a bad kid,” Barbuto said. “I had every intention of being a good guy and doing well in life.”

But narcotics put him on a different path.

As Barbuto grew older, his recreational substance abuse grew into a full-blown addiction to prescription pain killers, cocaine, and other heavy narcotics. Ten years after he started using, he couldn’t even start a normal day without first getting high. “Your life is literally overrun by narcotics,” he said.

‘My world blew up’

After college, Barbuto worked in golf operations at country clubs. He moved out to Chicago, then back to Massachusetts, living in Cape Cod.

It wasn’t until he was 26 that his addiction finally caught up with him.

“Eventually, what happened at the end of the day, I started stealing money,” Barbuto said.

He was arrested and indicted. And that was the wake-up call that he needed, Barbuto says, to seek treatment for his addictions — something, he adds, that he did on his own initiative, not to meet some pre-trial mandate.

The day he entered treatment — his ‘Sobriety Day’ — is September 9, 2006. He spent a few months in other treatment facilities before finally entering Gavin House in South Boston, where he spent about six months completing his recovery and building a support network. He finished the program in May 2007. He had one more hurdle to clear: his trial, one year later, where he was sentenced to probation by an understanding judge.

A new life

After leaving treatment, Barbuto went to work for the Gavin Foundation, the umbrella organization for Gavin House. He later moved on to the South Boston Collaborative Center, a division of the Boston Public Health Commission, where he did case management in the Old Colony public housing development. A lot of what he was doing, he says, was just being a “broker for beds.”

Those with great insurance he referred to a company he came to know very well: Treatment Solutions.

Over time, Barbuto observed a pattern: it was easier to get someone placed in a treatment center in Salt Lake City through Treatment Solutions than to find a local bed for

someone for just five days. When his contact at Treatment Solutions took on additional responsibilities, the company tapped Barbuto to be their “man on the ground” in the greater Boston area.

It’s work for which Barbuto, now 32 years old, has a passion because he can relate on such a personal level with those whom he is helping.

“I love my job,” Barbuto said.

Mike Blackburn, a former Providence firefighter and currently the Senior Vice President of Business Development at Treatment Solutions, describes Barbuto as a tremendously valuable employee who is always available to help clients. “Peter lives his recovery every day,” Blackburn said. “He lives his personal recovery by helping others.”

Blackburn says that the company’s motto is to treat every client with the respect and dignity they deserve. The approach of Treatment Solutions is to provide the highest possible quality treatment for everyone, regardless of whether they are down to their last 25 cents, or they are carrying around a $50,000 check.

“Peter just emulates that,” Blackburn said.

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