Ballad Health’s Strong Futures residential rehabilitation program officially opened its doors Sept. 20 in Greeneville.
Strong Futures is an addiction rehabilitation program for mothers with children.
According to Ballad’s Senior Director of Addiction Services Dr. Michael Bermes, a woman must be a mother to be admitted to the residential program. This also includes stepmothers, pregnant women, or those who have had their children removed from the home but are working toward the goal of reunification.
The program is located on the remodeled fourth floor of the former Takoma Hospital.
During a tour of the facility in September, Bermes said it was important that the space feel different than other rehabilitation facilities. The focus is on having the residents feel as independent as possible by being able to do their own laundry and cook for themselves.
The fourth floor of the former hospital was transformed into a residential space for up to 12 women. Of the 12 rooms available, two are suites which have two rooms each, one room for a mother and one for a young child. The other 10 rooms can house a mother and an infant or toddler comfortably.
Each of the 12 rooms in the facility has a changing table, a small refrigerator, and a safe for the purpose of securing medication. In the two suites, the child’s bedroom has a bed and a crib. Cribs can also be placed in the other 10 rooms if needed.
Ballad’s Vice-President and CEO of Behavioral Health Services Tammy Albright said in September that keeping mothers and children together is a priority for the program.
“We want children to have the best life they can, and we want to give the mothers skills that will help them have a positive impact on the community,” Albright said.
Bermes agreed that the emphasis on family is what sets Strong Futures apart from other programmes.
“This is all about the families,” Bermes said.
In addition to residential rooms, the facility has two dayrooms for the relaxation and rest of the patients.
One dayroom is meant for mothers to use mainly by themselves to read and relax. The other dayroom is geared more towards the recreation of children. It contains toys and room for play.
Also included on the fourth floor is a large kitchen where instructors from the University of Tennessee Extension Office will come to teach residents how to cook. A laundry facility is also included where residents can do their own laundry as well as a study room with computers so residents can work toward getting their GEDs or pursue other educational opportunities. There is also a common area where residents can eat and socialize with one another.
Albright compared the arrangement to living in a condo or dormitory, and Bermes said Ballad patterned the facility after the Ronald McDonald house in an effort to make the fourth floor of Takoma functional and comfortable.
The program was first announced by Ballad in January 2021, and outpatient services for addicted mothers began in May while renovations to the fourth floor were completed.
According to Albright, four women who were treated as outpatients were able to move into the facility in September.
Local judges from around the region toured the facility in August and were impressed with what they saw.
Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice for district 1, which consists of Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties, said she wanted judges across the 10-county service area Strong Futures serves to see the facility and learn about the program when she visited in August.
“We are always looking for assistance with housing and treatment programs, and this is a perfect solution for the people who want to change their lives,” Rice said. “We could probably fill it up today.”
According to Bermes, one-month-long recovery programs serve a purpose, but for many they are not effective enough. Mothers can stay at the Strong Futures facility for up to 15 months and children can stay who are 5 or younger.
Strong Futures opened last year as part of the Nisonger Children’s Network and has served over 800 women and family members in its first year through its two-generational approach, according to Ballad.
The Strong Futures program serves Greene, Carter, Cocke, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties.
“Addiction is a cancer to our whole society. It creates disfunction, economic disaster and pain,” Bermes said in September. “It is our duty to provide this service to the community.”