Indiana, PA - Indiana County

A SOBERING STORY: Planning under way for new facility

by on June 01, 2014 1:58 AM

A nonprofit organization is looking to convert a former personal care home into a residential drug treatment center.

The hope is that the 51-bed, men’s only center in Cherryhill Township will be able to begin accepting patients later this summer or early this fall, if all goes according to plan.

The SpiritLife Center at St. John’s Manor, as it is being called, is a project of the nonprofit startup SpiritLife Inc., which is renting buildings and grounds at the Eastern Orthodox Foundation’s Penn Run campus.

Behind the nonprofit is executive director Louis E. Wagner Jr., who said he wants to fill a “void” in drug and alcohol treatment. He said he became aware of the void after his family was impacted by the ripple effects of substance abuse.

He said that as it is, the treatment system is limited in its ability to provide adequate continuity of care, owing to insurance, public funding and financial constraints.

Those who suffer from addiction are lucky to find their way into a month’s worth of treatment, yet, he said, it can take a year for the brain’s reward pathway, which is closely associated with addiction, to begin to heal. And, he added, it can take another year before a person’s recovery gains traction.

What’s needed, he said, is a long-term, holistic facility that treats mind, body and spirit.

“That’s the void we hope to fill,” Wagner said.

He said the facility will be nondenominational and faith-based. And it will primarily employ the 12-step treatment model. He said the nonprofit has been working closely with local officials, drug and alcohol agencies and other treatment providers.

Wagner said the long-term goal is to create a regional treatment campus, one that takes advantage of the foundation’s 208-acre property and its central location within southwestern Pennsylvania.

He said SpiritLife plans to build out its operations in three phases, the first of which entails the establishment of its 30-bed residential treatment program and the opening of a 21-bed detoxification unit.

The second phase calls for the opening of a transitional housing unit for men who are in early recovery as well as the establishment of an outpatient program.

A possible third phase includes the re-opening of a homeless shelter that the Eastern Orthodox Foundation had operated.

“SpiritLife is committed to ensuring the continuation of the charitable mission of the Eastern Orthodox property,” he said.

Wagner said the organization is seeking working capital from a variety of sources, including donors, lenders and strategic partners.

He said some banks have expressed a willingness to offer up some loan money, but the catch is that SpiritLife will have to come up with somewhere around $250,000 in initial support before they’d extend a commercial loan or a small business loan.

Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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