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The McLean Residence at the Brook

July 1, 2010
by root
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Waltham, Mass

Single or double? The configuration of resident bedrooms was one of several questions confronting leaders at McLean Hospital as they conceptualized a transitional-living program for persons in recovery. Their decision to locate at a facility that could accommodate single rooms for all residents diverges slightly from a notion held by many that having a roommate can benefit a client in recovery. “Some people say that a roommate is a great thing and a client should be able to accept whatever it takes to bring about recovery, but we never saw data on that,” says Nancy Merrill, program director for alcohol and drug abuse services. “If we were going to live somewhere for 90 days, how would we feel about having to share space?”

The nationally known Massachusetts behavioral health organization drew on its experience in facility renovation in selecting the site for its transitional-living program, which opened in January. McLean had formerly owned the building, which is located about a five-minute drive from its main campus in Belmont, and most recently it had been owned by an organization that ran an adolescent program. McLean discovered at the outset that it should spend some time reassuring neighbors who had apparently grown tired of noisy teens congregating outside the building.

“We had an open house just for the neighbors,” explains Merrill. “We also wanted to spruce up the outside, so we put in new landscaping and did some painting of the windows.”

The eight-bed coed facility offers a minimum of 90 days of support for those who are transitioning to a life in the community; some but not all residents are referred to the program from primary treatment at McLean. Services are offered on a private-pay basis. The facility specializes in serving individuals who have frequently relapsed or who have mental health issues that complicate long-term recovery.

Merrill says every room in the three-story brick colonial structure was renovated, with fresh carpeting installed throughout the facility. The renovations took about four months to complete, she says. McLean worked with LaChance Furniture, a local retailer in Gardner, Mass., to bring in extended-length single beds and other furniture for the facility.

Planners of the facility selected a muted color palette to emphasize a soothing atmosphere for recovery. Shades of beige predominate, and are accented with somewhat bolder salmon, rust and red colors.

The kitchen presents more of a contrast; it is done in a black-and-white motif with stainless steel appliances and a checkerboard floor pattern. While residents are allowed to make good use of the kitchen, McLean also has entered into an arrangement with a nearby restaurant owner to have catered lunches and dinners brought in-a welcome option for residents who are busy during the day resuming their studies or work-related activities after primary treatment. Residents also attend anywhere from two to five group meetings a day.

The Brook's offerings also include wireless Internet access, an off-site health club membership, and support for activity-based rehabilitation through yoga, cooking and other pursuits.

So far, the facility has attracted mainly a client population in its early-to-mid 20s, which has surprised its planners to some degree. As of this spring it was not yet operating at full capacity.

Merrill has no regrets about the decision to house residents in single bedrooms. This offers residents an opportunity for some needed quiet reflection, she says, adding that one must remember there is an important difference between quiet time (a positive) and isolation (a barrier to recovery).

Addiction Professional 2010 July-August;8(4):44-45