“You don’t have to be miserable in recovery,” explains the CEO and chief medical officer of The Ridge, a year-old residential treatment facility situated on an estate property about 25 miles from downtown Cincinnati. Jeffrey Stuckert, MD, says that this philosophy guided the decision-making involved in converting a former family home to a 14-bed residential program that uses a therapeutic community approach in which patients stay at least a month.
“If you want a hospital setting, where you eat cafeteria food served on a tray and you’re never leaving the campus, this is not for you,” says Stuckert. Group sessions are conducted in a spacious family room with natural light streaming in, not in an office-like environment. Patients have the run of a surrounding 50 acres where deer and fox roam; the patients routinely go into the community for activities such as fitness.
Stuckert’s organization, which also operates the Northland outpatient program about six miles from the residential campus, acquired the estate property for the residential program in the fall of 2010. Renovations took about two months, and the facility opened in February 2011. Virtually all residents in the coed facility have a roommate while they are in treatment.
“We discourage private rooms,” says Stuckert. “We think isolation is a part of the disease.”
The 10,000-square-foot residence, which Stuckert likens in exterior appearance to the White House, served as a primary residence for a couple of families before its present use as a residential treatment program. Most of the interior renovations involved adding bathrooms and touching up the painting and flooring, he says.
About half of The Ridge’s patients have had a prior experience in primary treatment elsewhere, and Stuckert says most are “kind of blown away” when they see the facility for the first time. Some patients self-pay for their treatment, while others access out-of-network insurance benefits.
Stuckert says operators of the facility have had to do very little to alter the exterior surroundings. A pond on the property is stocked with fish, and there are numerous walking trails and a large swimming pool.
“We have about 15 deer in the area; they walk right on the pool cover,” says Stuckert. Also in the wintertime, the bare trees uncover striking valley views.
The facility’s kitchen represents an important center of activity. A great deal of planning and resources go into meal preparation, coordinated by an executive chef. “All of our patients gain weight while they’re here,” Stuckert says. “Most are malnourished when they come in.”
Residents visiting the kitchen also see consistent words of hope in the stenciled “Every day holds the possibility of a miracle” message located there. It is one of a couple of signature features inside the center, with the other being a red ceramic statue that has come to be known as the “Thank You” statue. As patients prepare to leave The Ridge, they sign and date the statue in removable magic marker in order to thank the staff and their fellow patients for the support they’ve received while in treatment.