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From grist mill to treatment center

March 4, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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As an adolescent spending his summers at the hunting and fishing club his family belonged to, John Lacy would have never imagined that the location would mark the spot of his future treatment facility.

Today, the property between the Waco and Dallas/Fort Worth areas houses The Ranch at Clear Springs, of which Lacy is the executive director. Throughout the three decades he’s worked in addiction treatment, he has found that he prefers environments with vast acreage that offer occupants distance from city life.

“You just have a more serene atmosphere and a non-hospital type feel to things. For the work that we do, it’s just always been the way that I like to do it,” he explains.

The Ranch, which employs 40 people, opened in August 2012 and provides residential addiction treatment for adults. The 200 acres contain eight spring-fed ponds full of trophy bass; a nine-hole golf course; equine stables; and many historical remnants.

The golf course, when it is finished being renovated this summer, will serve as an experiential activity, says Lacy.  It will be a clinically led exercise that will focus not on golf skill, but on how to exhibit patience, focus and concentration, and particularly to work on anger management issues. Fishing on the property is all catch-and-release, and serves as a stress-relieving activity.

Besides being exposed to what Lacy calls an “intense treatment regime,” the clients will also be able to utilize equine therapy, a swimming pool, and tennis courts while in treatment. The center operates out of existing structures that were renovated.

The residence building houses 31 patients, the medical department, a detoxification unit, nursing staff, and a medical director. Its renovations included new HVAC floors, plumbing, and electrical updates. Currently split by gender-specific floors, this building will soon transition to men-only when a new residence hall opens for women. The dining hall, which sits on a lake, had to be brought up to commercial standards, so the equipment was replaced, and it is now the facility’s food operation service.

The Magnolia House, which was named after the 40-foot magnolia tree that sits out front, houses the administration offices currently, but will become a women’s residence with 18 beds by mid-year. When this happens, a new building will be constructed to house the administrative offices. 

Some buildings on the property date from the late 1850s, including a log cabin that was built by the Patten family that settled there prior to the Civil War. The log cabin is currently being used as a technical/maintenance office but Lacy says it will be turned into the campus store later in the year. The grist mills, which were operated by the family, are still remembered as original stones that ground the wheat and the crops can still be found on the property.

Another house on the property owned by the Patten family burned in a fire, but the chimney and hearth remained standing. Today, that area is used as a meditation garden and in the winter clients can build a fire in the fireplace. A cemetery of the founding family with 15 to 20 headstones, remains preserved on the grounds.

Considering the rich history, Lacy says the staff at The Ranch takes great pains to preserve all of the original structures, particularly the log cabins and the stone buildings.

“I would say that nature is the main feature of this place so we like buildings that don’t interrupt the visual nature of what we do here. They have to fit in and not detract from lakes and the variety of animal life on the property. We want to be good stewards and we want our land and our buildings to reflect that.  So we put a lot of effort into it, which is a challenge, but we use soft colors inside the facility to blend with the land, instead of going for a super modern look,” he explains.

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