Modern addictions, same goal at new Fort Myers substance abuse center

When clients and staff recently moved into the new Transitional Living Center at Southwest Florida Addiction Services in central Fort Myers, they abandoned a 1960s-era duplex from the Leave It to Beaver era, when “family crisis” meant Eddie Haskell got caught swiping a beer from the old man’s stash.

In the modern era, a family crisis rooted in substance abuse is more likely to involve prescription painkillers or tranquilizers stolen from the Cleaver’s medicine cabinet. Those are today’s drugs of choice, in addition to cocaine and alcohol, according to Kevin Lewis, Chief Executive Officer at Addiction Services.

Thursday, Lewis’ staff unveiled the new 5,067-square-foot home-style residential treatment center to the public during an open house. The Grand Avenue building is three times the size of the previous structure, which has since been demolished.

With its ten bedrooms and six bathrooms decorated in soothing sand-and-sea hues, the bright and airy two-story dwelling and its serenity garden feel more like a retreat than a place to huddle into the hard work of recovery.

The 12 to 16 individuals who live in the center face more than substance abuse. Some are homeless, others have failed at outpatient treatment, and about half are struggling to cope with the added challenges of bi-polar disorder, depression, or attention deficit disorder, Lewis said.

The treatment goal is to draft a “blueprint for a stable recovery that addresses, in addition to substance abuse, each person’s housing, educational, and employment needs,” Lewis explained. He said the blueprint is then tested, challenged, revised, and re-drawn to accommodate the obstacles that threaten a fledgling clean-and-sober lifestyle.

Residents’ weekday schedule begins with a call to “Rise and Shine” from 5:45 to 6:20 a.m., followed by 30 minutes of exercise before breakfast at 6:55 am. The rest of each highly structured day includes individual and group counseling sessions, meditation and modules on relapse prevention, spirituality, and life skills. Thursday, center residents participated in a ropes course off campus, an effort to protect their privacy during the tour.

The minimum age for acceptance into the program is 18. Men and women are housed separately, and a waiting list already exists for placement at the center, according to Lewis.

Ten of the center’s 16 beds are subsidized by county or state funding. Since few insurance companies pay for 28 days of residential treatment, according to Lewis, some clients pay for treatment with their own funds.

Construction for the center was funded with $463,000 from the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, through the Lee County Commission, and with donations from local businesses, churches, and individuals.

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