Admission Specialists are Callers’ Friends on the Inside

John SniffenLa Hacienda

The admissions specialists and others at La Hacienda who answer calls regarding addiction treatment.

Caption: Your friends at La Hacienda are, from left, sitting: Chris Ponthier, Elliott Franklin, and former specialist Greg White; standing: Jon Garcia, Admissions Director Lisa Schreckenbach, Joe Eckert, and Todd Benedict, who handles contacts from referral sources and our Community Outreach representatives.

Asking a stranger for help with a substance use disorder can be unnerving, but La Hacienda’s admission specialists think of themselves as “friends on the inside.”

They are all in recovery and use their experiences to help understand callers’ needs and feelings, and guide them toward answers.

Occasionally they offer an “I know, I’ve been there,” when a caller needs reassuring, but most of the time they’re focused on finding help for the person on the other end of the phone call.

Houston native Chris Ponthier had a lengthy career with Saudi Aramco before moving to Kerrville, then joining La Hacienda’s staff in 2015. He especially likes helping families. “If they’re new to dealing with substance use, they’re often clueless about why an addict or alcoholic behaves in the manner they do.”

He likes to reassure incoming patients that, despite their concerns, they will be OK. “There is something about coming into La Hacienda and releasing your burdens. You can let go, and your higher power will take care of you.”

Guide Through the Process
Jon Garcia has worked for La Hacienda since 2015. He also appreciates interacting with families “in the front lines” seeking help for their loved ones. “I identify with them. I know what I put my family through. In a loving way, I try to guide them through the process.”

Jon feels that he and the other admission staff serve as examples of what is possible for persons suffering from the disease. “We can show them that someone who is in recovery can live a dream they thought was lost.”

Joe Eckert, our resident Yankee who grew up in New Jersey near Manhattan, notes that callers receive individual attention; they’re not speaking to someone in a room full of people in a distant call center. He and the other specialists work in a small cottage near the La Hacienda dining hall. There are headsets and computers, but the atmosphere is congenial, collaborative and caring.

“One of the things I love about La Hacienda is the emphasis on personalized care,” says Joe, who joined the staff in 2017. “Patients are treated as individuals with unique issues.”

An Amazing Place
“This is an amazing place. I’m lucky to be here,” says former Austin resident Elliott Franklin who became an admission specialist in 2016. “I’ve been a part of different facilities, both as an employee and a resident. La Hacienda is the best at offering solutions to those suffering from substance use disorders.”

If it is determined La Hacienda is not the best fit for a person, the specialists do their best to refer them to another treatment facility which has been vetted by the staff and shares our treatment philosophy. Todd Benedict helps make this possible through contacts from major referral sources and our Community Outreach representatives.

Admissions Director Lisa Schreckenbach, La Hacienda’s longest-serving staff member, oversees their work from a corner office.

“I am so proud of my admission staff,” she says. “Each handles calls in his own, unique way which makes all the difference in the world to the caller. No one wants to be in a crisis and hear a monotone, canned script from the other end of the line. Their caring natures and their belief in the treatment La Hacienda provides is conveyed in every phone call. I feel blessed to have such a caring, fun team!”