For Sheldon Miller, MD, chief medical officer of the Timberline Knolls residential treatment facility for women southwest of Chicago, the environment in which care is offered serves as the foundation for the clinical program. The 43-acre Timberline campus in Lemont offers residents, staff, and visitors alike a profound sense of peace that permeates the experience of the program, Miller believes.
“As soon as you arrive here, you get an immediate feeling of quiet and calm,” Miller says. “It has a nice leveling effect on how you're feeling that day.”
Timberline Knolls, which operates separate programs for girls ages 12 to 18 and for adult women on the site, opened in March 2006. The campus's rolling hills and lakes (it was the former site of a quarry) and its previous use as a psychiatric hospital gave planners of the addiction treatment facility a landscape with a multitude of possibilities.
The facility has implemented a phased-in renovation plan that will eventually result in a bed capacity of about 100 women in four dormitory-style lodges. Two of the buildings have been renovated thus far; they feature use of calming colors, furniture with a home-like feel, working fireplaces, and a two-story atrium where residents can relax and meet with visitors. “What we don't have is an institutional feeling to anything,” Miller says.
Also on campus are a fully accredited school called Timberline Knolls Academy and an art studio located in a former home on the grounds that also houses a cafeteria. Visitors to the studio are immediately taken by the striking beams that hold up the studio's high ceilings, Miller says. Timberline Knolls employs an art therapist who runs therapeutic groups for clients.
“I'm amazed over how good these clients with no previous art background are,” Miller says. “The girls adore it; we haven't had anybody who did not want to be involved.”
Many of the women who receive treatment at the facility have resided in institutional settings in the past, so the unlocked facility with the attractive campus certainly represents a change. As clients proceed with their recovery and gain privileges, they are allowed to spend time unaccompanied on the grounds, which feature gazebos, bridges, and walking trails. Miller says he will often spot a therapist conducting a one-on-one session with a client under a tree, in a scene reminiscent of what one might find on a college brochure.
“This presents a very different effect for the client,” he says of the outdoor sessions. “It tends to take some of the edge off.”.
Miller is impressed with the progress that has been made on the site and thinks it has sent a strong message to the patients Timberline Knolls serves. “This makes a statement to patients about what we think of them,” he says.