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Former estate serves as home to new Fairbanks program

December 30, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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If someone walked into La Verna Lodge for Women (Shelbyville, Ind.) and said that it felt more like a “home” than an “institution,” they wouldn’t be too far off. The building was formerly a primary residence owned by a couple who, because of age, decided that the property was too much for them to take care of.

Mark Monson, CEO of Fairbanks, says the property came onto the organization’s radar at the most appropriate moment. About two years prior, Fairbanks had decided in its strategic plan that longer-term care was an area where it needed to fill a gap in the treatment continuum. Although residential and partial programming existed under Fairbanks’ umbrella of services for women, the team saw a need for more extended care. Since the men’s extended care program – La Verna Lodge for Men – was having great success, the organization’s leaders began to look for a place to house women for a similar program.

“We were looking for a quiet, serene property that couldn’t be seen from the road. Additionally, we wanted a place that would be a good fit for women in general, and more specifically for women who have had a history of trauma,” Monson explains.

The Shelbyville property, which sits on 38 acres of land, has a driveway that is about a quarter-mile long and is tree-lined on both sides. The actual facility is surrounded by trees and sits at the bottom of a hill, hence remaining unseen from the road. The land includes 20 acres of flat farmland, a river that runs along the property, asphalt-paved trails, and forested trails.

The program, which opened on Oct. 7, treats women 18 and older who have a primary diagnosis of substance abuse. Many of the residents also have a co-occurring disorder and Monson says the staff was prepared to treat trauma as well since 60 to 70 % of women who enter substance abuse treatment have a trauma history. Patient capacity is 10, although Monson says the property was zoned for 14 and the facility has the capability to house that number if need be.

Length of treatment at La Verna Lodge for Women is a minimum of 30 days and will extend to 90 (or beyond if a resident needs/wants more time). Since the experience with the men’s program is that average length of stay is about 77 days, program administrators believe they will see a similar average with the women.

The estate-turned-treatment-facility includes a 600-square-foot great room with cathedral ceilings and oak beams. Much of the programming takes place in this room, which also includes a coffee/tea bar. Serving as the programs “central day area,” Monson says activities that take place here could include yoga and acupuncture. 

Another key aspect of the facility is the kitchen, Monson explains. The residents seek guidance from a dietitian on the staff and then communal cooking takes place in the large kitchen. The kitchen is equipped with a large island with a grill, double ovens, a couple of large refrigerators, and large windows that allow individuals to look out into the nature while cooking.

The building also includes two other group spaces, an exercise room, a dining area, an office, three fireplaces, and five bedrooms. One bathroom was transformed into a fully-equipped handicapped bathroom. There is a great deal of custom woodwork and cabinetry throughout the facility because the prior owner owned a cabinet making company.

The house is surrounded by a wrap-around deck and has a large patio area with a fire pit that overlooks the river and the property. Originally there was a pool in the space where the patio now lives but Monson says after having many discussions with interested parties, the decision was made that since this was Indiana, a large patio would better serve the women than a pool. The patio space is large enough to accommodate 50 to 60 people, he says.

The majority of the facility is covered in glass – large windows and sliding doors allow residents and staff to see out onto the property where resident deer and eagles can be found and also allow natural light to flow in.