Insider’s Guide: Educational Consulting and Therapeutic Placement

It was warm, breezy day in the little cove where the treatment center was located where my client and her parents were standing. We were all on the back deck of the main building and the parents and I had just arrived. The client smiled after a few minutes of small talk and said, “Um, not to be rude or anything, but who are you?” Her parents looked mortified and embarrassed that she didn’t know who I was.

“My name is Rob Danzman and we’ve met several times before you came to treatment. I helped your parents find a healthy place for you.”

The client, after pausing for a second smiled again and said “I think I was so high I don’t even remember you. Thank you.” She started crying. Her parents started crying and they hugged.

There is a deep and broad gap between what families need and all of the treatment options available. There are a ton of variables to consider when your son or daughter need treatment, whether its outpatient therapy or residential treatment. Insurance, location, modality, diagnosis, and housing options are just a few things families need to consider when figuring out what’s best.

There is a dramatic range in expertise and costs and they are not often aligned. Some of the most expensive consultants with whom I’ve worked have minimal understanding of psychological conditions and the evidence-based approaches that best treat them. The goal of treatment is either assessment, intervention or maintenance of a behavioral health issue. If a consultant does not have a combination of academic and experiential background they may not serve clients well. In fact, my agency has worked with clients who were given terrible advice on what types of service to use. You would never have a mechanic give advice on spinal surgery because, while the mechanic may be really well-intentioned and personable, they may due considerable harm. The same is true when dealing with behavioral issues, many of which either in the short or long term may have life and death implications.

Evidence-based interventions need to be well understood and require clinical expertise. Therapeutic placements do a great job of presenting themselves as comfortable, safe and a good value yet many do not provide evidence-based treatments. Evidence based treatments are not for broad spectrum of psychological issues.

Another confusing aspect is the terminology. Decades ago, educational consultants did a few things and did them well – they focused on private school and college prep admissions. They provided deep advice on testing strategy, applications, and how to write a great essay. They coached clients through interviewing and often the whole education process. But over the years, ECs expanded their service offerings, often outside of their area of expertise. ECs without credentials or appropriate degrees started advising parents on treatment recommendations, presumably assuming that applying to a treatment center is similar if not the same as applying to college. Since those wild-west days of ECs pushing kids into cookie-cutter programs and charging a fortune, more clinicians with actual therapeutic experience have entered the EC world. Granted, there is still the old guard of older, white women who had their own children placed in a treatment center and saw an opportunity to help other families while making good money in an unregulated field. There are essentially only one entity that oversee ECs – the Independent Educational Consultants Association. The division continues to widen between those serving families

EC should not receive gifts from treatment centers though it’s not unusual for them to have travel expenses covered when they are touring programs.

There is a symbiotic relationship between treatment centers and ECs. Treatment centers count on ECs for referrals. ECs count on treatment programs to cover travel expenses and, sometimes, provide referrals back to the ECs when a client needs a different placement or the family needs advice on treatment options.  

Where to Find These Magical Beings

First thing to do is just google the terms “educational consultant” and “treatment.” You should get plenty of options that pop up. You could also just contact my agency but I’m a bit biased since I believe we do great work for a fair price.

Next way to find a placement consultant is to go to the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) website (below in the Resources section) and look for the ‘Search’ option under the Parents tab. All of the people listed in this resource are paying members of IECA and met the IECA’s criteria. If you are going this route, I encourage you to, at a minimum, look for a consultant who has a graduate degree in a behavioral health discipline like counseling, psychology or marriage and family. Pastoral counselors or ‘Qualified Mental Health Practioners’ are not nearly qualified enough. It’s even better if they are a licensed professional (eg. Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker).

Do Your Homework

A great EC can support your family through the most difficult times while a bad EC can cost your valuable time and money and have nothing to show for it or set things back even further with a terrible placement.

Consult: If you can’t meet them face to face, then schedule a call with them. Before you go into any details, dig into the business end of their service first. Do they offer therapeutic placement consulting or do they focus on prep school and college? What are ALL the costs associated with what they do. What is their degree in and what active licenses do they hold. Ask if they are a member of any associations and if they have any disciplinary actions against them. Ask when and how they got into educational consulting. Ask what the scope of their work is – Do they meet clients at treatment centers for admissions? Do they continue to work with families while the client is in treatment? Do they assist with discharge planning?

Payment: Another thing to consider is how the ED gets paid. It’s important to understand whether the EC sends you an invoice and bills as they go along or do they receive a retainer upfront. Though not a deal breaker, I don’t like asking for retainers from clients for the same reason I don’t like attorneys collecting a retainer from me. They have my money and pull from it as they do work. I’d prefer to pay for things as we go along through a project. We only accept credit cards so that a) there is protection for the client and b) we don’t need to run after clients to pay an invoice. We also itemize every time we charge a client’s card so that everything is 100% transparent. Ask about how folks get paid before you agree to work with them. If they can’t agree to provide itemized billing or seem too focused on money upfront, you may want to consider working with someone else.

Guarantee: It’s unlikely anyone is going to offer you a guarantee for their services but it doesn’t mean you can’t ask about their responsibility if a treatment option doesn’t work or a treatment option can’t be found in a reasonable amount of time.

Cost

Take a deep breath for this section. Expect to pay between $10,000 – $300. Yes, I know that’s a ridiculously large range but there are no regulations on what an EC can charge. The spectrum of fees is truly that big. Some charge as much as $10,000 for a placement. They may put in 5-10 hrs but their rate doesn’t change. Other ECs charge a lower rate but most have a basic flat fee which covers support and advice through the admissions process. In my humble opinion, a lower flat fee or hourly rate is more fare. For instance, my agency has a free consultation to determine if someone really needs an EC. If we determine the client really can’t find an appropriate treatment option on their own, we charge $179 per hour and use as few hours as possible. We’ve had client come to us after spending $25,000 on placement services only to realize the ECs they were using had no clue about severe clinical issues like substance abuse and schizophrenia. Fortunately, we quickly found them services and billed them less than $500.

FAQ

Q: I know how to do internet researching. Why can’t I just find a treatment program on my own?

A: You could totally do this own your own. There are three easy steps. First – get a graduate degree in some counseling or psychological discipline to learn the clinical aspects of behavioral health and intervention. Next – work in the behavioral health industry for about five years so you can see what makes a program great and what makes a program terrible. Finally – go and visit 50 treatment programs. Granted, that will take a few years, and by the time you’re finished visiting, staff at each program will likely have changed (so start over). Ultimately, this experience  will be very helpful in determining which programs are good and which ones you would not trust to take care of your house plants. After all these steps, you should totally do some internet searching to decide which program is most effective at serving your loved one.

Resources

Independent Educational Consultants Association – https://www.iecaonline.com/

Rewards, Consequences, Punishment…What’s the Best Way to Parent Teens and College Kids?

A simpler what to think of this post is “How to Change Behavior.” That’s really the primary function of a reward or consequence.

There are more books on how to change kids’ behavior than just about any other topic. Ironically (or sadly), they all say the same thing. Punishment does not work; rewards work consequences for choices work. How can this be? Let’s kick the tires on the history and research behind this. If you hate history and research, jump ahead a few pages to the ‘how-to’ portion.

Context: Let’s Look Back First

For thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution, children were assets in an agrarian system (most humans up to that point farmed). We had lots and lots of kids since a) children were relatively cheap labor, b) most died during childbirth or as children and c) adult children became financial support systems for parents – the more children parents had, the more financial support and broader financial base.

In 1916, Congress passed the the first federal child labor law. However, pressure from big companies forced the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the law two years later. Following the Great Depression adults had become so desperate for jobs that they would work for the same wage as children.

In 1938, President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which limited most forms of child labor (but excluded agricultural work). This was the beginning of our modern view of children needing protection, love and nurturing. A pendulum was set in motion.

In 1946, another revolution took place. Dr. Benjamin Spock published his first book titled Dr. Spock’s Baby & Child Care (also titled The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care). Though a medical doctor by education and training, Dr. Spock’s books put children at the center of parenting rather than the adults. He encouraged responding to and engaging with babies and children rather than ignoring which was the advice up to then. The pendulum’s momentum builds.

Finally, we add in money and work. In the early 80’s, adults were working more, making more money and, as a result, needing to leave their children at home (the so-called ‘latch-key’ kids). Children would get dropped off from the bus and walk into an empty home. Cartoons and snacks were gorged upon till mom and dad came home. Guilt stricken parents with extra cash (…or more accurately extra room on their new credit cards) went and bought Ataris, Nintendos and the new wave of electronics and toys for kids. We were now descending into entitlement. About this time, school districts were changing punishment in schools (no more spankings).

How can old-school grandma and grandpa who raised 15 kids have been so wrong? All the kids turned out great, right? Well, let’s break this down a bit. First of all, it was a different time. No devices, internet and certainly little to no advertising directed towards children. All marketing was targeting stay at home mothers.

I also want to point out that most of these old school versions of parenting created some pretty nasty problems which is why the fastest growing demographics for substance abuse treatment are the Baby Boomers and the elderly. Old school punishment, drinking habits, and expectations led to a generation that was not well-equipped to handle stressors.

Now for the Goods

Here are the best ways to change behavior and encourage healthy choices. I’ve taught these, studied these and continue to stand by these effective strategies:

Commit to the Path

  1. Drawn into accidentally energizing and rewarding negativity leads to a battle – Be intentional about being positive
  2. Intentionally energize and nurture success
  3. Provide a true and deep consequence when a rule is broken – something that is proportional to the infraction
  4. Reward for what you want to see.
  5. Ignore behaviors you want see less of.

Establish Expectations and Boundaries

  1. Detailed rules/expectations and no grey area – kids are MASTER negotiators and litigators
  2. Chores and Expectations – daily schedule or list
  3. Bonus behaviors – Things you wish to increase
  4. Menu of privileges – Can include anything beyond basic needs
  5. Extend Structure – At school, friends house, soccer practice, etc.

Consequences

  1. Relentless pursuit of positives: Biased towards seeing your kid’s great choices.
  2. Strictness and Clarity: Be like a videogame – if a rule is broken, a consequence is administered no matter how you are feeling.
  3. No Leaking: Accidentally rewarding behavior with negative energy but they contribute to your kid behaving badly.
  4. Finite: Consequences do not expand and are tied to a specific behavior/event.

Rewards

  1. Catch them doing things right: When I run parent groups I ask parents to list the amount of things they caught their kids doing wrong in the last month. Easy list to make. Then I ask them to list three things they caught them doing right. Much harder. We are programmed to find faults in this attempt to modify kids behaviors towards compliance – making bad choices is the loud, obvious indication they are out of line. We we fail to see are the million little choices they make each day which are well-thought out and positive. Focus on those. Highlight those. “Hey Julian, I noticed you put the dishes away without anyone asking you to do it. Great job.” …And then move on. No need to get mushy and turn it into an Oprah interview about thoughts and feelings.
  2. Types of rewards: Your eye contact and facial expression are huge rewards for younger kids. Rather than giving kids an iPhone or XBox, I encourage parents to give time on each device or toy as a reward. Have you ever kept the car you rented at the airport? No, you paid them to borrow it for a specific amount of time and then returned it. There are few instances where I encourage parents to buy something to give to their kids as a reward. Time, praise, and access to cool things is often way better for everyone.
  3. Negotiating: If you find yourself constantly reminder, encouraging, begging, etc. for you kids to do A so they get access to B, you are violating your own rules. You are now negotiating.
  4. List of Rewards: In 2007, one parent I was working with could not understand why their teenage son was not motivated by the reward of time on their Blackberry (same year iPhone introduced). If they are not doing chores, getting good grades or engaging in the behavior you want to see, your rewards may be incongruent with their desires. Ask them to tell you what they’re into. Maybe its an allowance, money for iTunes or they want to borrow the car.

And Lastly…Own Your Home

This is a hard one for parents (… and most kids) but until responsibility for the mortgage, bills and everything that makes a home function is shared among all family members – parents rule. There is no such thing as the ‘kid’s’ room. Everything, every room, every toy, every piece of clothing is the parents’. Great parents allow their kids to use those things. Remember…privilges are not rights and kids get to own their choices, not their TV.

Good Luck.

Muir Wood Expands… Reaching for Alta Mira Recovery

Scott Sowle, the founder and executive director of Muir Wood Adolescent & Family Services (Sonoma County, CA) teamed up with private investors to acquire the residential and outpatient addiction and co-occurring disorders treatment organization from Constellation Behavioral Health. Constellation Behavioral Health operates Alta Mira Recovery Programs in California.

Muir Wood will operate as a stand-alone program focused on youth treatment, run by founder and executive director Scott Sowle. They will be expanding their residential treatment capacity by adding a residential campus for adolescent girls program. Constellation Behavioral Health operates Alta Mira Recovery Programs in California. Muir Wood will expand its residential treatment capacity for young males from its present 6 beds to 10. The adolescent male program, housed on a six-acre campus, includes weekly family programming, experiential therapies, and an accredited academic program.

5 Stupid Things My Teen is Doing

For this installment of Stupid Things, we start off nice and easy and then drop down into some weird crap. Kids are bored. I get it. We clearly need more devices since the iPhone 6 Plus, iPad, Mac, XBox, Playstation and all the other tech stuff just isn’t stimulating enough. We humbly present to you more stupid things teens are doing…

images (2)1. GoPro
GoPro is a small video device created for skateboarders, mountain bikers and surfers to self-film their adventures. GoPro went public this year. Why does this matter? Because their marketing budget exploded and with it, their target market which is now anyone who wants to film them self doing anything. Just let your imagination wander and you’ll soon realize why gopro-ing could be a problem for teens. They do some stupid prank at school, film it, post it on instagram and, voila! Instant evidence for the local DA to use against them.   

 

 

2. Vodka Eyeballingimages (1)
Pouring vodka in your eye sockets in order to get drunk faster and more efficiently is another dumb but real thing. It makes sense to the adolescent brain since the mouth is just soooo far away, best to use an eye. 

 

 

3. Beezin
Let’s continue our ‘eye’ theme. It’s called “Beezin,” (why do stupid teen things always leave off the last ‘g’?). Here’s the how-to – rub Burt’s Bees lip balm on the eyelids. It’s just that simple! No complicated steps like some of our other Stupid Things. The peppermint oil found in the balm creates a tingling sensation that some teens say enhances the feeling when they are already drunk or high. Others say its a way to keep them alert after a long night (…because that thing the brain and body do to restore itself each night is just soooo inconvenient, what’s that called? Oh, right! Sleep). If your kid is prone to stupid acts, look for pink-eye type irritation. Kids site the ‘natural’ ingredients as evidence of it’s safety but a Burt’s Bees rep argued “There are lots of natural things that probably shouldn’t go in eyes — dirt, twigs, leaves, food — and our lip balm.” 

images

 

4. Purple Drank
Just when you thought the good ‘ole days (1990’s) were behind us, creative teens desperate to feel something other than a stable middle class existence have resurrected use of cough syrup. Here’s the recipe – cough syrup, Mountain Dew (or Red Bull, etc) and Jolly Ranchers. Not sure what they’ll die from first, the dextromethorphan, guaifenesin, pseudoephedrine or Type II Diabetes. Keep an eye out for pilfered medicine cabinets (and pantries). 

 

 

5. Butt Chugging 
Yes, leave it only to bored American teens to come up with this one. It’s simple – take a tampon, soak it in alcohol, and insert into your butt. And yes, kids really do this.

That’s it folks. Join us next time for the sad but humorous exploration of how tomorrow’s leaders are spending their time today. 

Program Review: The Renfrew Center

Renfrew PicMany years ago I had the pleasure of visiting The Renfrew Center just outside of Philadelphia, PA. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a gigantic private residence with it’s ancient stone farm house, stables, and quintessential barn. Definitely one of the more beautiful suburban locations for a treatment center I’ve seen. I had my tour of the grounds which look more like an upscale farm (in a good way), talked with the Executive Director about mental health under a giant oak tree, and got to know the program schedule as young women shuffled in and out of the various buildings. Below are more details on Renfrew with my Final Thoughts at the end. 

Background

The Renfrew Center is headquartered in has been serving women with eating disorders and behavioral health issues since 1985. As one of the nation’s first residential eating disorder facility, with 16 locations throughout the country, Renfrew claims to have worked with more than 65,000 women since their founding. The Renfrew Center has experienced it’s most significant growth in the last decade and a half have with the additional of programs across the country. 

Services

The Renfrew Center offers a full continuum of care that supports patients well beyond a residential stay. This comprehensive range of services available at most of their locations, includes day treatment, intensive outpatient and outpatient programs. The services are tailored for each patient and with her referring therapist to develop treatment plans and goals based on her unique needs.

Renfrew maintains continuity in philosophy and approach throughout the individual’s treatment, while facilitating timely transitions from one level of care to another in order to maximize treatment and insurance benefits. 

Residential services are only offered in their Philadelphia, Pa and Coconut Creek, Fl locations. 

Clients

Renfrew works with women over the age of 14 suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and related mental health problems.

Locations

Cost
Residential – $8050 per week
They work with most insurers so a significant portion of services may be covered. 

Reviews
Employees on multiple sites give Renfrew some terrible grades for working conditions, diversity of the work force, and work-life balance. Most notably were many comments on Renfew’s seeming focus on profit and not much focus on treatment. They also described poor, untrained supervisors that did little to organize chaotic situations. 

Clients on the other hand often report having a positive experience and feeling somewhat nurtured. There were dozens of reports from clients going back to Renfrew multiple times for support. This could be viewed as good or bad. 
The New York location stood out with many, many negative reviews which highlights an ongoing theme among larger providers like Renfrew – when it comes down to actual effectiveness of a program, everything has to do with the clinicians at specific locations and very little to do with the corporate handlers up above. 

Contact

Here is a link to their online contact form which is probably the best way to get ahold of them. 

Final Thoughts
Oh how I wish programs like Renfrew could just slow down and focus more on quality. I’ve known too many therapists over the years who think poorly of Renfrew’s clinical integrity to feel comfortable referring clients that come to Fonthill. That said, it doesn’t mean women struggling with an ED should avoid Renfrew. I think programs like this have a place in the menu of options, especially if you want treatment close to a major metro area like Philadelphia. Just make sure to make a decision on more than what the admissions folks at Renfrew tell you. Look up reviews, talk with outpatient eating disorder specialists (like Dr. Joanna Marino in Washington, DC) or placement specialists (…like Fonthill ) and do your homework. It’s expensive and takes a huge amount of time to go to Renfrew so don’t rush in. 

FREE Parent Support Group: Residential Treatment and Higher Levels of Care

If you are a parent who wants to learn more about residential treatment for your teen or young adult child, our Parent Support Group is for you. This group is specially designed for Parents of Teens and Young Adult Children either in residential treatment or in need of residential treatment. Whether you have an acting out teen obsessed with gaming or a daughter exhibiting what seems like an eating disorder, residential treatment may be an option. But how do you choose? How do you know the good ones from the bad? We will walk you through the basics of the therapeutic program world through a discussion format. 

Topics will range from residential and treatment options, how to creatively pay for programs and use insurance, myths vs reality of treatment, parenting advice and skill building, and finally, sharing and venting. This is also an open forum to address any other problems related to acting out teens/adults – you’re not alone. 

WHEN

Mondays 7:00pm Starting September 8

WHERE

Fonthill Counseling Conference Room – 141 Providence Rd Suite 160 Chapel Hill NC 27514

COST

Free

FACILITATOR

Licensed therapist with expertise in residential treatment, counseling and parenting education will lead didactic, interactive and experiential sessions.  

RSVP

Due to limited seating, preregistration is required. Please email us at help@fonthillcounseling for sign-up instructions. 

Program Review: Veritas Collaborative

In April 2014, Dr. Marino and I visited Veritas Collaborative in Durham, NC, a 2 year old for profit eating disorder treatment program specializing in children and adolescents. Don’t let the age of this program fool you – they clearly know what they’re doing and have some clinical and business heavy-weights in their corner.VC dining pic

 

Below is a write-up of our experiences, thoughts and additional info we gathered together just for you. As always, our perspective as clinicians may be uniquely different from those of perspective clients or their parents. We highly encourage you to do your own research before committing to any program.  

What They Do

Veritas provides Inpatient, Residential Treatment and Partial Hospitalization for adolescents and children with eating disorders. What is key in our description is what is not listed. This means, during a time when other programs do everything for anyone, Veritas has committed to specializing. They have 26 inpatient/acute residential beds and 12 partial hospitalization beds. Below is a description of the three different levels of care (directly from the Veritas Collaborative site).

Inpatient hospitalization is the most intensive level of treatment available. Inpatient treatment is necessary for those who need frequent nursing care or are medically unstable (as determined by vital signs, lab abnormalities, or general physical and psychological condition). Patients who are severely entrenched in their disorders are depressed, suicidal, or are a danger to themselves or others, are also appropriate for this level of care. These patients see a medical doctor daily.

Acute Residential Treatment is a 24-hour monitored, structured treatment program for medically stable patients who still need constant supervision. Nursing care is still provided around the clock, but patients see doctors less frequently. Some individuals are admitted directly to residential treatment while others first go through inpatient treatment and them move to the residential program.VC bdrm pic

The Partial Hospitalization level of care is appropriate for patients who need structured programming but do not need 24-hour supervision. Patients participate in individual and group therapy, structured activities, and programming around meals similar to what is offered in the inpatient and residential programs. Some patients admit directly to this level of care, but many “step down” from the residential or inpatient levels, as partial programming still provides a high amount of structure and support. These patients are medically stable, and can move more readily while maintaining appropriate, non-disordered behaviors without direct supervision.

Another key feature to the Veritas program is the pervasive use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), both of which are evidence-based treatments for eating disorders and co-occurring mental health issues.

Who They Serve

Veritas serves children and adolescents (both male/female) 10-19 years old from around the country experiencing eating disorders. It’s rare for an eating disorder program to serve younger adolescents and children which is a huge plus. It’s also less common for a program to work with male clients. VC pic

Location

Veritas is located at 615 Douglas St #500, Durham, NC 27705. They sit right next to Duke University. They are 20 minutes from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (super, super easy airport to travel through) and 2 hours from the Charlotte airport. The parking deck is easily accessed from the road. The building is nondescript but that’s works nicely for those seeking a more discrete treatment experience. 

Fees + Insurance + Financing 

Yes, they accept insurance and will work with you to figure out what is covered.

As with most treatment centers, there are many outside financing agencies that specifically work with mental, behavioral and substance abuse programs.

A quick word about their fees – they wouldn’t say. Not a peep about daily or monthly rates which, in our humble opinion is no bueno. See below in the Reviews section for commentary on this. It’s not unusual for programs to defer questions about cost but they eventually give us an idea (normally as a monthly rate). But not Veritas. 

Reviews

It’s really disappointing and feels a bit awkward when we have a hard time finding negative reviews of a program. Either they’ve done a good job of scrubbing the internet of nasty feedback or…. they actually provide great service. From all around the intertubes we scoured parent blogs, professional review sites as well as the more general review sites. So what’s out there? What’s the overall judgement of this fledgling treatment center? Mostly just really nice praise for the staff, treatment and program as a whole. The thing that kept on coming up over and over was Veritas’s involvement of the whole family – which happens to be another key feature they told us about on our tour. Family work is at the core of how they impact the client’s treatment. 

One negative in our view is discussion of cost. We really, really like programs to be up front about what the estimated costs for service will be. It’s not that we expect a solid dollar amount since we know as well as the next professional that expenses can go up or down depending on loads of variables. But what we do want to see is an effort towards transparency, especially with pricing. When asked for pricing we were told ‘it depends‘ but would not commit to a daily or monthly rate and nothing is listed on their site. 

Other than the cost issue we experienced, there’s not much else for us to complain about. We’ll definitely continue looking for bad reviews and update this post. 

Contact Information

Reach out to Kelly Robinson at krobinson@veritascollaborative.com or 919.698.8574 to learn more or take a tour. You can also schedule a tour directly from their site here: Schedule a Tour.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we encourage perspective clients to take a tour and consider the program. It’s best to higher an educational consultant or case manager to go with you. They will ask detailed questions you may not think to ask or just feel way too uncomfortable to ask. This is a decision you should not make alone. 

Philadelphia Prep School Drug Ring: Affluence and Substance Abuse (and really good business planning)

Two young men, 25-year-old Neil Scott and 18-year-old Timothy Brooks, developed what they allegedly called the “Main Line Take-Over Project” (the Main Line referring to a group of affluent towns and cities outside Philadelphia). Their business plan: Take over the drug trade at some of Pennsylvania’s best schools. The team also had at least eight employees with a sophisticated business infrastructure. Scott and Brooks would allegedly push their dealers to each move at least one lbs of pot per week, and offer incentives like lower drug prices and the ability to buy drugs on credit if they successfully hooked new customers.

Montgomery County authorities announced April 20th that they were able to destroy this ambitious effort. They confiscated marijuana, hash oil, cocaine, ecstasy as well as cash and weapons and arrested the pair allegedly at the center of it.

“They were in business to make money, and they were going to do whatever they needed to do to make sure that no one threatened their business,” Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.

Officials claim Scott ran the operation by shipping pot from California to Pennsylvania, while Brooks supervised sub-dealers at area high schools.

And these weren’t just any schools. They include the prestigious Haverford School ($35,000/yr tuition), from which both Scott and Brooks graduated. Also included were Conestoga, Radnor, Harriton and Lower Merion – each of which have some of the highest SAT scores in Pennsylvania.  According to the district attorney’s office, all had students tied to the drug ring. College students involved hailed from Gettysburg, Haverford and Lafayette Colleges.

Authorities seized stacks of cash and some semi-automatic weapons
Authorities seized stacks of cash and some semi-automatic weapons

In brief comments Tuesday, Scott’s lawyer Tom Egan said his client’s “main concern … is how the mandatory minimums are going to operate if he’s indeed guilty of the offenses.”

Greg Pagano, Brooks’ attorney, spoke more extensively regarding his client, who went to the University of Richmond in 2013 on a lacrosse scholarship then left after one semester. He said Brooks had gotten injured, after which he was at home, “idle and suffering from some depression” when he got involved with Scott “at a very susceptible, low point in his life.”

“He’s willing to accept responsibility for what he did,” Pagano said of Brooks, whom he said “was involved in this conspiracy for a very, very short period of time.”

In a news conference and release, authorities laid out what they described as an elaborate operation to build up business. This effort included things like offering incentives to sub-dealers, such as lower drug prices and being able to buy them on credit.

Including Scott and Brooks, eight people have been arrested in the case, an arrest warrant is out on another, and there are petitions for two juveniles. All but two of those arrested attended local schools such as Lafayette College, the Haverford School and local public high schools. They face a host of drug, criminal conspiracy and other charges.

Reflecting on the areas where this alleged drug scheme operated, Seth Williams — the district attorney for Philadelphia, which is near the schools in question — said in a press release, “The days of, ‘It can’t happen here’ are long gone.”

The arrests follow an investigation that began in January. Authorities say seized text messages showed the suspects’ plans to expand the business, with Scott giving Brooks business advice on how to expand marijuana sales in local high schools and Brooks encouraging sub-dealers to “efficiently distribute drugs at their schools,” Ferman’s office said.

Authorities assert the discovery of a loaded .223 caliber AR-15 assault rifle, in addition to a semi-automatic pistol and another rifle, suggest the drug ring’s leaders had the capability to use force.

Ferman admitted she’s bothered by the fact Scott — who left Connecticut College after three semesters of study after being sanctioned for using marijuana and creating fake IDs — and Brooks both attended Haverford, then allegedly did what they did.

“You’re dealing with kids from one of the finest institutions probably in the country,” she said. “To take those skills and turn it into this kind of illegal enterprise is very distressing.”