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From private home to sober community

April 17, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Mission Ridge, Jefferson County, W.Va.
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Kristin Milne-Glasser was intimately familiar with the six-bed ranch-style home in West Virginia that she identified as an ideal sober residence: The house near the community of Charles Town had been her personal home for 10 years. Her long-term vision involves creating a healing place for professionals in recovery, and especially for addiction and mental health professionals.

“We had found a strong need for continuing care for professionals who need to go into recovery and be responsibly returned to duty,” says Milne-Glasser, program director at Mission Ridge. “This program is designed for behavioral health professionals, but it is open to all licensed professionals of any kind.”

The coed residence opened for business last July; it staffs a house manager and includes ongoing drug monitoring for residents. Those residents who have not returned to their place of employment at the start of their stay at Mission Ridge are required to engage in some type of structured work (such as 12-Step service work or volunteer work).

Milne-Glasser credits Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based interior designer Megan Castillo, who has a background in institutional environments, with helping to create a highly non-institutional feel at Mission Ridge. “We want the residents to feel at home and safe,” Milne-Glasser says. “There is no box furniture; we use all home décor.”

She describes the overall interior look as “country Victorian.” The selected color schemes predominantly feature earth tones of beige, tan and green. “We brought the outside [environment] in,” Milne-Glasser says.

And the outside can be observed regularly from within the house as well, as nature can be seen from virtually any vantage point in the home. “In a word, this is serene,” Milne-Glasser says. “With our cathedral ceilings and skylights, our residents’ spirits are lifted.”

About the only logistical challenge for residents becomes apparent in winter when inclement weather can challenge the trip up the hill to the home. An on-site propane generator is installed at the home to create a safeguard against the season’s harshest effects.

Milne-Glasser says Mission Ridge’s approach is modeled after the Oxford House system of recovery residents, although the site is not directly affiliated with the Oxford House organization. “The residents must work together as a team to incorporate living skills,” she says. “The functioning of the household becomes the primary therapeutic tool.”

In her vision for building a community of professionals, she believes addiction and mental health professionals in recovery will find that the home offers a safe atmosphere for being candid about their specific issues. She says the program will work in collaboration with employers and state licensing boards where necessary.

Milne-Glasser says the self=pay program should attract individuals from West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The home rests on three-quarters of an acre, so there are not numerous on-site amenities. But Milne-Glasser is linking to or planning to connect with a variety of services that are available in the surrounding community, from a local massage therapist to a therapeutic riding program.