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Hartford HealthCare Opens New Substance Use Disorder Recovery Center

November 22, 2023

It’s easy to access alcohol and drugs like opioids in Connecticut. But access to high-quality recovery treatment has been hard to find.

Until now. A ribbon-cutting at Hartford HealthCare’s Ridge Recovery Center in Windham Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, signaled a change affecting the lives of thousands with substance use disorder.

“This began with a great vision,” Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeffrey Flaks told a crowd gathered for the event. “This is a perfect setting where people can get help from empathetic, caring people delivering world-class recovery care, and doubles the size of our program for people with substance use needs.”

The Ridge, scheduled to open to patients in December, is the result of years of planning to transform the former Immaculata Retreat House at 289 Windham Road into an upscale, in-patient substance use treatment facility with 52 beds nestled on 60 wooded acres.

“We’re trying to enhance our ability to care for all people. This is a great commitment to this region, and a commitment to having one standard of excellence across our system,” Flaks said.

Speaking in the facility’s interior sanctuary – with walls rising two stories to a dome capped with stained glass windows reflecting the building’s legacy – James O’Dea, PhD, senior vice president of Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network, said the space’s new purpose continues its legacy as “a place of renewal, rejuvenation and healing.”

It’s also going to meet tremendous need, added Kristie Scott, vice president of operations for Rushford, part of the Behavioral Health Network. Connecticut has seen a 306% increase in drug-related deaths alone in the past decade.

“When I was in school in the 1990s, there were about 20,000 overdose deaths a year,” said John Santopietro, MD, Behavioral Health Network physician-in-chief. “Now, we have 100,000 plus — most of which are opioids.”

Consider, he added, the following statistics:

  • One in four Americans has a mental health issue
  • One in six has a substance use disorder
  • Of those, only one in 10 will get treatment due to stigma or lack of access

“A place like this for people with a substance use disorder is a miracle. For colleagues, it’s a place for them to do what they’re called to do. For me and people like me, it says we do the right thing,” Dr. Santopietro said.

The Ridge is part of the system’s commitment to the eastern part of the state, said Donna Handley, president of Hartford HealthCare’s East Region. She called the facility “another step forward for the healthcare and people of Windham County.”

The brief ribbon-cutting event was attended by town, region, state and congressional leaders, including U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, who noted that in rural areas, “trying to connect people to the services they need is hard.” The Ridge, he added, is a significant step to addressing a need.

“You get it,” Courtney said to Flaks and Handley. “You know you’ve got to go where the people are, and you’re addressing this issue in a meaningful way.”

Few know the need for access to treatment services better than Herbert Boyd Jr., who will draw on lived experience to work as a recovery support specialist at The Ridge.

“I’m a person who’s used in this area and also helped in this area,” he told the crowd. “I am hopeful and excited as we embark on this journey … and remember the lives we will touch as we help reconstruct brighter, healthier futures for people in recovery.”

Highlights of The Ridge include:

  • Three-tier, comprehensive recovery program from medically monitored withdrawal management through residential treatment and sober living accommodations
  • Private single rooms with bath
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Medication management
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Emotional and spiritual support, including art and pet therapy, meditation, sound healing and financial counseling
  • Recreation and fitness options, including a full Planet Fitness workout center, walking trails, yoga and movement classes