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Former conference center lends calming qualities to new treatment space

June 11, 2015
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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Beauterre Recovery Institute — Owatonna, Minnesota
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Residing on 182 acres, the former University of St. Thomas Daniel C. Gainey Conference and Center in Owatonna, Minn.—about an hour south of the Twin Cities—reopened this past January as the Beauterre Recovery Institute. Acquired by Meridian Behavioral Health in May 2014, the property consists of the Gainey home (a replica of a French Norman country house) the conference center, a classroom building referred to as The Mews, two smaller houses and stables.

Stephen Cantwell, Beauterre's director of marketing and business development, says two goals of the project were to utilize a unique space to do something that wasn’t currently being offered in the state and to improve and update the property in order to serve a specific treatment population: residential patients 18 and over, licensed professionals, and recovery patients. According to Cantwell, the team specifically looked for areas of land, homes and conference centers that provided serene landscaping. 

“We were really lucky to find what we did,” he says. “We wanted a site that would put people at ease and have that calming effect. The fact of the matter is that aesthetics matter, but not just aesthetics as in a nice home or a nice facility, but also the landscape and the grounds.”

Focus on nature
Surrounded by well-manicured prairie land and rolling hills, the treatment facility feels like it’s in the middle of a forest somewhere in Colorado even though it’s right off the highway, says Cantwell. Along with two bald eagles that live on site, the facility boards 10 horses and has equine rings and arenas that contribute to patient equine therapy. The facility’s campus also features a golf driving tee, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, a gravel and rock-based labyrinth, horseshoe pits and a bonfire pit.

Additionally, there are walking and hiking trails throughout the campus as well as a river behind the site for fishing. Cantwell says in the wintertime, residents have gone snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And when patients are in Beauterre’s dining space, he adds, the eagles can be seen flying down to their nest while the horses graze in the pasture. 

“Instead of it feeling like an institution or hospital, you’re in this environment that is conducive to healing,” he says. “As soon as a patient steps onto the campus, it allows them to immediately lower their defenses. This is a place where they can really find themselves and work with our staff to set them up for success moving forward.”

Beauterre was also fortunate to retain the conference center’s maintenance staff and five-star chef. “Not only do they care about the facility, but they believe in what we’re doing,” Cantwell says.

Ongoing renovations
Because it was formerly the conference retreat center, residential accommodations were already incorporated into the space, as was a warm, therapeutic setting typically desired in a treatment facility, Cantwell says. Very little had to be done to bring the building up to safety codes, he adds. However, adjustments were made to the space in order to make it more handicapped accessible. 

“We had to do redo the entire ramp up to the main entrance—which in the winter months was a little bit tricky—and we also added handicap parking right by the main entrance,” Cantwell says.

The next phase of renovations on the property includes bringing the horse stables up to code and turning its Mews into an administration building; it was being used for break-out sessions and classes.

“We’re going to renovate the inside, which will allow us to do our intake and admission work right there,” says Cantwell. “Then we’ll be able to move a lot of the admission and administrative operations out of the actual Gainey home, which is up the road and more set-back and secluded.”

What this will do, he says, is add a level of privacy to the actual treatment center and make it feel more home-like with less foot traffic from administrative staff walking throughout as well as families coming in for admissions. Cantwell says that the Gainey home, which is currently being used as the administrative side of Beauterre, will be opened up to incorporate additional patient lounges as well as a space for learning areas where patients can be taught cooking skills, for example.

Data-driven approach
In addition to equine therapy, Beauterre offers health and wellness activities, acupuncture, massage therapy and yoga, as well as multiple other therapeutic modalities such as Health Realization, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The most important aspect of Beauterre’s treatment approach, however, is its incorporation of evidence-based, data-driven practices rather than a focus solely on 12-Step treatment.

“We’re in an industry where there has been a lot of success around a 12-Step approach, but we also know that it doesn’t work for everybody. We didn’t want to open our doors and be like everybody else or limit an individual’s access to treatment by only offering one type,” says Cantwell.

Beauterre uses an array of assessments as well as neuropsychological testing and pharmacogenetic DNA testing to tailor a personalized care plan to each patient. Additionally, any patient who relapses within 60 days of their graduation from treatment is welcomed back for a two-week stay free of charge to undergo what Beauterre calls Recovery Restoration, an intensive maintenance track that assesses patients' needs and provides personalized care.