Focus and Health Care

Renovated Sanford House offers a new life to women

The pre-Civil War house provides a home-like environment.

October 31, 2014
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Sanford House
Sanford House was restored to its former splendor in an effort to offer patients a non-institutional setting. Courtesy Terry Johnston Photo

An old house that is a Heritage Hill architectural icon is giving women a chance at a new life.

Located at 540 Cherry St. SE, the recently restored Sanford House opened its doors last week as a private, 10-resident treatment center for women dealing with alcohol and drug dependence.

Incorporating a holistic and comprehensive treatment approach, Sanford House was designed exclusively for women who are seeking recovery services from a substance use disorder in a comfortable and intimate setting.

Sanford House offers a 30-day onsite residential program for 10 women at a time, as well as outpatient counseling and an intensive outpatient program.

The private women’s center was founded by David and Rae Green, who discussed the establishment of a women’s recovery facility before discovering the historic home in Grand Rapids.

A licensed professional counselor with a specialty in alcohol and drug abuse certification, Rae Green spent several years working with women in residential treatment centers, implementing new services to meet individual needs, according to a Sanford House statement.

Green said roughly 10 percent of Americans struggle with a substance abuse disorder, and 4 million women develop a dependence on alcohol or drugs out of approximately 9 million struggling with misuse, while only 14 percent of them receive treatment.

More than 6 percent of women in the United States met the criteria for substance dependence as of 2009, according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey.

“What we wanted to provide was kind of a comfortable, inspiring setting for women to come and really focus on themselves — focus on restoring their lives, restoring the lives of their families, which have often been damaged through the course of addiction,” said Green.

“One of the things we are learning is women heal and traverse the journey of recovery much better in a welcoming environment. Confrontational methods don’t work the best for women, so we provide an all-women environment where women can begin to rebuild their self-esteem.”

The Hazelden Foundation’s Butler Center for Research published an updated study in 2011 looking at the prevalence of substance abuse and dependence among women. Treatment for substance use disorders in women is often complicated by the presence of other disorders such as depression and anxiety, according to the press release.

“Women are two times as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety,” said Green. “We really look at that component as well when we treat women.”

With the onsite 30-day residential treatment, women receive clinical oversight during the day with certified supervision at all times. The initial $20,000 per month cost for each woman is comparable to Hazelden, the Betty Ford Center, or a hospital setting, Green said.

“It is pretty comparable and yet it is an environment where it is very non-institutional, very home-like. We have taken this 1847, pre-Civil War, Grand Rapids home and touched every surface,” said Green. “We restored it to its gracious setting with the hope that women can come here and feel comfortable, roll up their sleeves, and do the hard work that it takes to begin the healing process.”

Designed for women 18 and older, the program exposes clients to recreational, educational, creative, cultural and social activities to reduce the feeling of isolation. Treatment services provided include bio-psycho-social assessments, customized treatment plans, counseling, support group sessions, meditation, and consultations and medication management with physicians.

The rationale behind integrating traditional goal-oriented treatments with recreational and creative influences and outings is due to how isolating the disease of addiction can be for women, according to Green.

“Women often drink or use medication in private, so the disease can flourish and be more acute by the time they reach the treatment level. The isolation creates a situation where they are not comfortable going back into the community and daily things that bring joy to life,” said Green. “We are integrating, as part of the program, in the hope that we can inspire them as they begin that early healing process.”

At the end of the 30-day program, which can fluctuate depending on the individual, residents receive personalized long-term recovery and aftercare plans. The Sanford House also provides outpatient counseling and an intensive outpatient program held in the carriage house at the rear of the property. Additional services include individual counseling, family counseling and support groups.

With a majority of referrals coming from women searching for treatment options online, Green said the treatment center is conducting an ongoing marketing campaign for professionals and referrers in Michigan and other states.

“Women will find us; 80 percent of people who find treatment have found it through the Internet. We have a website that has a lot of information on it, partly because that is how people are comfortable searching,” said Green.

The staff at Sanford House includes professionally licensed and credentialed clinicians, a physician, admissions counselor, manager, residential supervisors and a full-time chef. Another unique aspect of the treatment home is the ability to provide a master’s-level clinician on staff during the evening hours, while providing a staff of three or four during the day, according to Green.

“It sort of sets us apart that when the clinical team leaves at 5 o’clock, there is still a master’s-level person here, whether they are taking the women to an outing, maybe a 12-step meeting, or to other support systems,” said Green.

“The other thing that we have here is a chef. She plays a key role in helping the women get healthy again as well as teaching some things about nutrition, and even going as far as putting cooking back into the recreation area.

“We are trying to capture all of the recovery options so the women who come to Sanford House can discover what is the right path for them in their journey,” said Green. “We have learned there are many, many paths to addiction and there are many, many paths to recovery.”

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