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Investing in Improvements

December 1, 2006
by Brion P. McAlarney
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Therapeutic needs drive capital plans at many centers

Many of the nationally recognized leaders among addiction treatment organizations, such as Caron Treatment Centers, Rosecrance Health Network, and Seabrook House, have been known in the past for their bucolic treatment settings and historic, stately buildings as well as for their exemplary clinical programs. A visit today to these centers might prove to be an eye-opening experience, however. A strong clinical foundation at programs such as these has been augmented with shiny new buildings, facility expansions, new health and exercise centers, and refurbished grounds.

Yet these upgrades are not cosmetic, leaders of these organizations say. They are clinically driven, reflect the growing ambition and specialization of programs, and are financed prudently.

Seabrook House was founded in 1974 on the grounds of an estate in the farmlands of southern New Jersey. The estate was the home of Charles Seabrook, who founded the Seabrook Farms frozen foods company and farmed most of the surrounding area in Cumberland County. The estate consisted of a large mansion, a carriage house, and a 14-car garage. “The development of our facility from that point forward was really to build upon an old estate,” says Seabrook House President Edward Diehl. “Our treatment center [building] was never designed to be one. It was, like so many treatment centers throughout the country, a series of modifications from the original design of whatever building or buildings were acquired in order to start treatment.”

Seabrook House got to work by renovating the garage and converting it to a patient building with semi-private rooms, then erected other buildings through the 1970s. Fast-forward to 2006, when in May Seabrook opened a freestanding campus for its innovative MatriArk treatment program for mothers at risk of losing custody of their children. The program had shared the original Seabrook campus with adult residential male and female patients before being located in a new 42,000-square-foot building—a facility specifically designed for the program it would house.

“All on one floor, with a large daycare for children, it's just a beautiful facility,” says Diehl. “After having a solid 10 years of treating this population, we knew what their needs were. The building is outfitted with classrooms for learning and vocational development as well as a daycare facility with four quadrants, infants through school-age, that can accommodate as many as 80 children.”

The MatriArk building has two wings with the capacity to treat 48 mothers. The women's living spaces resemble efficiency apartments, with two bedrooms and a kitchenette. By moving this program, which allows mothers in residential treatment to have their children housed with them during their stay, to an adjacent but separate campus, Seabrook was able to reclaim its original campus exclusively for adult male and female residential programs. It was able to expand its residential and detox bed capacity from 50 to 77.

Seabrook also is constructing a new 3,000-square-foot lecture hall in its counseling center building, placing all patient services on one level. It previously had used a basement room for lectures. “It addresses our ability to accommodate a wheelchair-bound patient as well,” says Diehl.

Seabrook also is expanding its medical department building, Scanlon Hall, by 2,500 square feet to provide more private evaluation and medical services space for psychiatrists and addiction medicine specialists.

In addition, a new 125-car parking lot adjacent to Seabrook's campus will pull parking from internal areas of the campus and help create a college campus-like environment, with only foot traffic between buildings, says Diehl. The captured parking areas will become landscaped gardens, with benches and fountains. Seabrook also is restoring a maze of pathways that run through the campus, including one area designed to be used for meditation.

New priorities at centers

At its main campus in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, Caron Treatment Centers has invested more than $20 million in the past five years on physical infrastructure, and plans to invest another $20 million over the next four years. “It includes obvious visible things that you would see today that you would not have seen four years ago,” says Caron President and CEO Douglas Tieman.

The additions include a 20-bed unit tailored specifically to young adult males ages 20 to 25, a new medical unit, a new admissions unit, a new dining hall, a new auditorium, and a new physical fitness center. Caron also has refurbished all bedrooms and bathrooms on its 200-bed campus to bring them up to 21st-century standards, and has installed new HVAC systems and generators in existing buildings.

With the redone campus, which sits atop a mountain, Tieman says the incredible aesthetics are now accompanied by real comfort, convenience, and much better patient flow and segmentation.

“It's set up to provide a much better treatment experience. And the physical fitness center, dining hall, and auditorium, since we're a longer length-of-stay facility, greatly enhance the stay,” says Tieman.

At Caron's Renaissance Institute of Palm Beach in Florida, work is under way to double capacity from 65 to 130 beds by 2008. As is the case with most established facilities, the demand for treatment is strong. The extended care program at Renaissance always has a waiting list, says Tieman. “We've been there three-and-a half years and we routinely have a one-to-three week waiting list to get in, which is the major driving factor for expansion there.”