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Surrounding recovery with nature

February 28, 2014
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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When one hears the word “lodge,” a few ideas come to mind: warm; nature sights and sounds outside of the windows; home-like, big quilts on the beds; wooden furniture. For Black Bear Lodge (Sautee, Ga.), the newest Foundations Recovery Network program, these features all have been incorporated.

Black Bear Lodge -- formerly Black Bear Lodge Suites and Cabins -- was purchased by Foundations in November 2013. The property was previously owned by a developer in Atlanta who had built it as a wedding resort. After the property fell to bankruptcy, Foundations stumbled across it as it was in the market for a new residential facility location.

Jennifer Angier, chief operating officer at Black Bear Lodge, says Foundations’ outpatient program in Roswell, Ga., was sending an extreme number – hundreds – of patients out of state to receive the type of care that Foundations provides (a 30-to-45 day model with dual-diagnosis treatment). “We also knew that Georgia is an incredible place to heal; it’s a really serene and peaceful environment,” she explains. “Many people come to the mountains to get away from what’s happening in their lives so when we found this place, all of that came together and seemed right.”

The previous owner left everything – furniture, wall art and decorations, etc. – as he wanted whoever owned it next to have it in the same form. Angier says that the organization has been fortunate to have been able to maintain the integrity of the campus.

The biggest renovation involved the nursing station, which will be surrounded by glass so the outside environment can remain as visible as possible. Since acquiring the campus, Foundations has been focused on staining and preserving what already existed, erosion control and landscaping improvements, and opening up the facility to emphasize nature.

For example, a low ropes course is being built on campus, hiking trails will be utilized in therapy, and a fire pit exists at the highest point of the property where patients and staff can sit together to reflect and relax. The outdoor pool is surrounded by cabins and trees and will have a completely glassed-in fitness center connected to it so that patients can exercise and experience the mountains at the same time.  

The hardest part of the renovation, according to Angier, was “finding the right pieces to fit.” Staff searched for and found handcrafted bedding and beds, log headboards, and log cabin dressers.

Living options for patients

The program, which is currently projected to open in late March, will treat men and women 18 years and older. At this point, Angier isn’t certain what type of patients the program will attract, but acknowledges that there is a significant problem with young adult opiate dependency in Georgia – young adults who need longer term treatment – so she expects to see some of that population at Black Bear Lodge.

Black Bear Lodge will have 85 beds, making it the second largest Foundations program. Patients in the program have a wide variety of ways to experience the community. For example, there are:

  • Four three-patient cabins
  • One four-patient cabin
  • Three eight-patient cabins
  • Bear Paw- which can house 13 men
  • Bear Cub- which can house 12 women

In the larger housing facilities, patients will be two to a room. These facilities also include large recreational areas and have porches looking out to the mountains. All of the smaller cabins have a wrap-around porch, a fireplace, a group room, and a kitchen area. Primarily driven by safety concerns, facility operators will place patients in one of the housing units depending on their needs. Some patients might flourish in a setting with one or two other women, while others might benefit more from being in a cabin that houses 12. Eventually, patients will most likely be grouped according to more specific reasons, such as a trauma history, Angier explains.

Maintaining safety

Inside each of the living spaces, patients and visitors will find décor that is unlike that of many treatment facilities. Angier says the goal is to create a place “that is close to some place they would want to be for 30 to 45 days, where they can feel human again.”

The organization has relationships throughout the state of Georgia and throughout the country for patients who may require a higher level of care. “We’ve made an extra effort to reconnect with the local facilities to remind them of our work and so we have those relationships in place for when we may need them. If patients come here and are struggling and need more, we can set them up with those different levels of care,” she explains.

She says if the patient is in a state of mind where they are of danger to themselves or others, this won’t be the right facility for him or her. Patients will be monitored with 15- or 30-minute checks and they will be assessed daily.

Police have been on-site every night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. since Foundations bought the property. Moving forward, Angier is unsure whether the police will continue to monitor the campus when the patients arrive. “We have no plans to stop that, but we’ll continue on and decide what we need as time goes on,” she says. She explains that there will be security, it’s just a decision of whether it will continue to be from the local sheriff’s department or whether the Black Bear Lodge staff will take over.