Not only is the aesthetic important to the experience of the individual served at WestBridge’s Florida facility, but so is the language the organization uses to describe it. After all, this is the same organization that takes care to avoid uttering the terms “patient” or “client,” preferring “participant” to describe the individual with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.
So when staff are referred to as being stationed in “bullpens” and not “offices,” and when most individual work with participants takes place in cozy “sitting rooms,” this constitutes no mere exercise in semantics.
“We really want to be person-centered,” says WestBridge CEO Mary Woods. “You’re not going into an ‘expert’s’ office and experiencing some ‘magic’ thing. This is about really being collaborative.”
In numerous ways, the program for men that opened in Florida last spring resembles WestBridge’s flagship program in New Hampshire. WestBridge has used Manchester-based interior designer Elaine Krause for design work since the organization’s inception, and its lead architect (CMK Architects) is New Hampshire-based as well. “We wanted to be able to replicate the home-like environment we have in New Hampshire,” Woods says.
The Florida surroundings did embolden planners to embrace a bolder color palette than what is seen to the north. “We wanted it to look like Florida, but not too Key West,” Woods says, so the overall effect is still serene and soothing, not showy. WestBridge has used a number of furniture vendors, from Valiant to Pompanoosuc Mills to Crate & Barrel.
Interior spaces emphasize both the participant’s need for privacy at times and the importance of community living in other instances. The site has only one living room and one dining room, and the long table at which participants share meals embodies the mutual support these individuals receive on their recovery journey.
Conversely, many of the bedrooms in the 20-bed center could accommodate four individuals but are reserved for two. “People need a place to go where they feel safe, where they can wind down and have some quiet,” says Woods.
Staff members spend relatively little time in their purposely small “bullpen” space; they tend to be out with the participants at most times of the day.
“The feeling that participants get is, ‘Here’s somebody who’s concerned about me,’” says Woods. This is particularly important for individuals with co-occurring disorders to see, as many have endured other treatment experiences where expectations for them were extremely low.
Photographs documenting the history of the surrounding community of Brooksville adorn the interior space, enhancing the sense of place.
On the outside, the campus offers a park-like setting in which participants can take advantage of central Florida’s climate in numerous ways. The grounds offer several options for outdoor activity, from basketball and tennis to walking or swimming. “Exercise is part of everyday activity for everybody,” says Woods.
With participants staying in the program for an average of three months, the home-like feel offers them great comfort. Asked how participants who have experienced treatment elsewhere comment on the surroundings, Woods says, “They feel more relaxed. They like the fact that there’s some individuality to their room, and that it’s not institutional.”