Addiction Treatment Admissions SOS – Limelight Interview

addiction treatment admissions pillars Sanford

The admissions team at Sanford has always offered help to those who are struggling with substance use disorders (SUD). And they have always served as a port in the storm for individuals and their families who are looking for the right answers, facilities and programs to treat SUDs.


During this difficult time, we are all acutely aware that recovery from an SUD is not compatible with isolation or distancing. It requires connection and community, and the admissions team is continuing to provide a voice at the end of the line with answers and options to the SOS calls they are getting every day. We (virtually) sat down with Sanford Medical Admissions Specialist, Mary Zimpleman, to find out more about her important job in the front lines. And to ask how that job has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.


I believe the commitment to providing the best SUD treatment available has always been top priority at Sanford. Witnessing the level of work this organization has output to keep their virtual doors open to our clients during the COVID-19 crisis, has been one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed. Mary Zimpleman


The Limelight Interview: Mary Zimpleman – Medical Admissions Specialist

1. How has your job changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Just as most are experiencing, my job has changed in every possible way. The Admissions Team continues to offer help to those who are struggling with SUDs; however, we are now doing this from home. Our colleagues at Sanford have been wonderful during this difficult time in providing us with the necessary support. We are keeping the admission lines open, and operating.


2. And have phone calls been impacted?

Although each and every call that we receive under normal circumstances is considered important and valued, the calls that we are receiving during this crisis have become increasingly desperate. Those with SUDs are often more susceptible to relapse during a crisis, and they know it. They are seeking help and treatment before they
relapse or may have relapsed and are looking to Sanford to help them regain their sobriety before their lives spiral out of control.

We are also receiving an increased number of calls from family members/loved ones who are urgently seeking help and support as they navigate their way through the unknowns of addiction and treatment. We understand, and are eager to help in any way that we can.


3. You are an Registered Nurse. Why did you become an Addiction Treatment Admissions Specialist?

I started my career in real estate – until the bubble burst. I took the opportunity to go back to school during that time. I always wanted to be a nurse – I believe that people have the ability to heal, that it comes naturally. And I also have a Psyche degree, so I have always questioned why we were not treating the body and mind at the same time. I worked for a mental health facility, but was looking for an organization that was more in line with my philosophy. I began to research Sanford. And I was impressed by Sanford’s long-term continuum of care. Why admissions? I believe in people. I went from direct patient care to administration. But I am able to use my medical experience when pre-screening our callers. And with the high acuity of co-morbid mental health issues – I am exactly where I want to be.


4. Do you miss direct client care?

It doesn’t get any more direct than this. Listening is key to this job. Letting an individual or their family members talk. Often callers seem to think their situation is so bad, that no one can understand. We help them hit the reset button. What life has taught me is that mistakes happen. We all make mistakes. That reflection gives me grace toward others and the ability to listen (really listen) without judgement.


5. What is your philosophy? What do you know to be true about addiction treatment?

The nature of addiction is brokenness – no healthy relationships, a vicious circle of hopelessness. But when a client arrives at a Sanford program, whether in-person or virtually, they are surrounded by healthiness. And health begets health. In three to five days, you can see the physical changes.


6. What is the key to successful outcomes in recovery?

You have to dig deep and find the strength. When someone makes the call to Sanford, that person has found the strength and a flickering hope. It is up to us to remove the unknown. To let them know this can work. I liken it to the Hospital ICU (especially relevant at this time). When you arrive into the hospital, you may not be feeling any better, but you certainly feel safer. You know you are where you can be helped. I also believe that a long-term continuum of care is critical. There is magic to a year. Our clients are psychologically healthier and they have begun to use coping mechanisms, and to replace negative behavior with positive behavior on a regular basis.


7. What are the pitfalls?

Leaving treatment too soon. Especially when going back to unhealthy relationships or environments.


8. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding thing is being able to take a pause from crisis mode and smile. When the walls come down, trust is established and snippets of information are given. And when someone says, “Thank you so much for listening.” Authenticity is the most important thing in this job – our callers could see through falseness. There are times I don’t have all the answers, but I am present. And my collaboration with Marrissa Sheehy. I couldn’t do this job without her.


9. Do you have time to read for pleasure?

I like historical fiction. Anything that shows the human fight to survive. My favorite is Follow the River, by James Alexander Thom.


10. What about Sanford? What makes it unique?

Everything. Their philosophy of rehabbing rehab. The creative approach.


11. Finally, do you have any other observations about this difficult time?

I am so excited about our virtual telehealth options! This program has provided many of our clients and those coming newly into our program with the ongoing treatment, support and encouragement that is so needed for them at this time. The Sanford Team has proven to be an incredible support to me during this time too, but even more impressive, to those who are most vulnerable to relapse during this crisis…those with substance use disorder…Those who continue to fight for their recovery…

Thank you for listening Mary. SH




Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit