Emerging from a thicket of ancient trees, a slender road winds upward, and visitors will come upon a 45,000-square-foot facility atop a nearly 60-acre pasture.
Encircled by freshly cut grass, flocks of flowers and the occasional turkey and duck passersby, the state-of-the-art Hartford Healthcare Ridge Recovery Center will open this fall in Windham, providing residential substance use disorder treatment.
The Ridge is a facility being renovated and designed to treat individuals suffering from substance use disorders stemming from alcohol and opioids. Under the Rushford Mental Health Clinic umbrella, the new recovery center will aim to be a place for privacy and healing and will double treatment capacity for people within Connecticut and throughout New England, officials said.
“The scourge of addiction and people with substance use disorder problems has impacted the country and certainly here in the state of Connecticut,” said James O’Dea, president of Rushford and senior vice president of addiction services for the Behavioral Health Network at Hartford Healthcare.
“We’ve been concerned about having insufficient access to people who need medical withdrawal treatment or detox and so this is a commitment that Hartford Healthcare is making to create better access, provide excellent care and make sure that it’s accessible to people of all backgrounds,” he said.
As of 2022, Connecticut had a little over 1,450 accidental intoxication deaths and ranks as one the top of the top states for alcohol and other substance abuse disorders, data show. Within the state of Connecticut, about 11% of teens drink and nearly 9% use drugs. With a mission to reduce deaths and usage, The Ridge, which was previously the Immaculata Retreat House, was bought in March 2018 to fulfill that mission.
“In the state of Connecticut, over 1,500 people have died from opioid overdoses in the last few years and more people die from alcohol related causes. When you look at the number of people dying from either of those causes and other substance use related causes, that is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Craig Allen, medical director at Rushford and vice president of addiction services at Hartford HealthCare. “Without treatment, people run the risk of really great harm to themselves and their families.”
The newly renovated facility will house 16 detox beds, 18 residential beds for females and 18 residential beds for men, 16 withdrawal management beds for men and women, two large suites for extended stays, a sanctuary for prayer, open dining hall, a fully furnished gym donated by Planet Fitness and a half a dozen outdoor trails for walks and hikes that branch off of the grounds of the facility. With three medical providers and two nurses per shift to aid patient care, The Ridge will have a total of about 75 people on staff, officials said.
“I identify as a person of recovery,” said Wendy Lang, referral liaison specialist at The Ridge Recovery Center. “I have a very strong understanding of what happens when someone is admitted and what the process looks like for them. There isn’t the shame in an addiction that we have seen in the past.”
In addition to the licensed addiction and medical experts, The Ridge will be a place of education for other medical providers who can learn the latest and most effective techniques for helping individuals with substance use disorders.
The Ridge will focus on the medical assisted treatment that includes more than just medicine, Allen said.
“We’re open to building on these cutting edge ideas, but the foundation for our treatment is medical and evidence based treatment,” Allen said. “We’re open to all these other holistic approaches.”
Upon stepping through the doors to the facility, an individual will be greeted by a nurse and will begin the inpatient process, then may start on medication to manage symptoms, and receive a full evaluation the following morning. Following the mental and physical evaluation, individuals will expect 30 hours of treatment a week including: individual and group therapy, exercise, and holistic treatment.
“Recovery begins at the inpatient process,” Lang said. “All the pressure of the world will leave and individuals will be exposed to nature and privacy in the process.”
Those participating in the program will also have a dietitian who works on individualized meals. Visitation from families is highly encouraged and will be incorporated on a monthly basis. With a strong emphasis on making sure the treatment at this facility is accessible to all, The Ridge accepts many insurances and have modest copays for those who have Husky or government-issued insurance, officials said. Even though insurance does not cover extended stays, Kristie Scott, LCSW, vice president of clinical operations at Hartford Healthcare, says the facility “encourages the full continuum of care” and will allow individuals to stay as long as they need.
In part, the treating of admitted individuals begins with “why/”. Allen and O’Dea emphasized the importance of understanding the underlying issues that may explain a person’s current substance use condition as a vital part of treatment.
“You can have someone go through withdrawal management for three to five days and they’re no longer going to suffer from withdrawal symptoms from that drug. But, that hasn’t treated the urges, cravings, anxiety, conflicts, and whatever has been leading them to use those substances,” Allen said. “The changes that take place in the brain can take a long time to reverse.”
With a strong connection to the community and local hospitals, The Ridge has a tight network of experts willing and able to help those struggling with an alcohol, opioid or other substance use condition. For those unable to be admitted or find that the new facility is not for them, then current staff will work alongside those individuals to help them find a new home.
“The Ridge truly opens doors for people with recovery, it is a game changer,” Lang said.