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Environments for Recovery: Vinland National Center

June 4, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Loretto, Minnesota
Click to view photos of Vinland National Center

In 1990, Vinland National Center created a residential chemical health program for persons with traumatic brain injury and other cognitive impairments. At the time, Vinland was the first facility in the country to operate a program such as this. Since then, the program has grown and exceeded its maximum capacity, so much so that the organization decided to expand the facility to almost double the space.

Construction began in June 2012 for the expansion, which would take Vinland’s 41-bed residential facility in the western suburbs of Minneapolis from a square footage of 18,000 to 37,000. One goal of the program was to separate the male and female clients. In the previous space, there were 10 female beds and 31 male beds.

The expansion was designed so the residential beds could be more flexible, says Mary Roehl, executive director at Vinland. Twenty client beds in 10 rooms were added to the program, and Roehl says the upper level (12-beds) and then the main level (8-beds) are all currently being used for women.

Besides the new bedrooms, the $4 million expansion also added a new reception/lobby area, a new dining room and kitchen facility, and some additional staff space.

The new space opened in March, and Roehl says it has greatly enhanced the complementary care services that the program offers. Because of the presenting issues of the clients whom the program treats, much of the program is individualized. One of the main complementary care therapies that the program utilizes is a fitness program. The recent expansion doubled the therapeutic exercise facilities and allows clients to look out windows to a therapeutic wildlife landscape, rather than exercising in the basement as they previously were.

The expansion has also allowed Vinland to expand on some of the other complementary care services such as yoga, mindfulness-based meditation and stress reduction, music therapy, and art therapy. The campus has 180 acres of restored prairie and wetland and also has about 3,000 feet of lakefront.

Roehl says the program strives to utilize the 180 acres as much as possible. Walking, biking, snowshoeing in the winter, sailing out on the pontoon boat for a ride or to fish, kayaking and canoeing are just a few of the ways in which the land is used.

“We try to work with the clients and find sober leisure activities that they can do once they leave the facility and are working on their sobriety on their own,” she explains.

As a result of the expansion, Vinland also now has the space and the opportunity to add medical services to the facility. With a nurse and an on-call medical director already on staff, Vinland now has a nursing office and an exam room, and will add a nurse practitioner, which will allow minimal medical services to be provided to the clients as they’re needed. This addition will eliminate the need for clients to receive the health physical exam before they are admitted.

Vinland’s program is purposely slow-paced and repetitive, explains Roehl. A majority of the clients have been through multiple treatments before they arrive at Vinland. Because most of the clients have short-term memory problems, a conventionally presented 12-Step program would be difficult for them to pursue because they may not be able to grasp the intention of the Steps, she says.

The overall feel of the facility is “warm, comfortable, and homey,” according to Roehl. Using rock and wood, planners sought to make it blend in with the surroundings. She explains that visitors frequently comment that the facility feels more like a lodge than a behavioral health institution.

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