ROCKINGHAM — Samaritan Colony received verbal approval from Richmond County Environmental Health on Monday to construct its new substance abuse treatment center for women on land adjacent to its current location, and is currently looking for an architectural firm to produce designs for the building.
Additionally, Gov. Roy Cooper in December approved Samaritan’s request for 14 more residential treatment beds to be added to North Carolina’s 2018 State Medical Facilities Plan which will be used by the new facility.
The women’s center will be the first of its kind for Richmond County and will fill a major need in the area, as many local leaders noted at a roundtable meeting with state Attorney General Josh Stein to discuss the opioid crisis in November. Samaritan Colony, a nonprofit 12-bed residential substance abuse treatment center which began accepting patients in February 1975, currently only serves men.
In a letter sent to the governor in July urging him to approve the additional beds, members of Daymark Recovery Services wrote in support of the change: “The female residents of our county who currently need residential addiction treatment must travel substantial distances away to either Path of Hope in Lexington … which is an hour and twenty minutes’ drive; or all the way to R. J. Blakely, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center in Butner.”
The letter continued: “Women become discouraged because the waiting list at Path of Hope is often six weeks, and most women don’t qualify for a bed at R. J. Blakely if they do not need hospital detoxification.”
“This has been a dream of ours for quite some time,” said Harold Pearson, director of Samaritan Colony. The topic would often come up in board meetings, Pearson said, but it never came to fruition because they didn’t have the land. Then in 2008, Samaritan received grants from the Cole Foundation and the Richmond Community Foundation to purchase 19 acres of land next to its current location needed to expand its septic system — land they could put to use.
The women’s facility will have 100 percent female staff, Pearson said, though — at least initially — it will not have former residents as staff like the men’s facility. Pearson said all but one of Samaritan’s staff members, including him, are recovering addicts.
One of those former residents-turned-counselors is Robert Smith, who first passed through Samaritan Colony when he was 25, returning in 2003 and working with recovering addicts ever since. Smith said he often gets calls from women needing treatment.
“This is such a need,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than somebody seeking help and doors not being open.”
The board first agreed to support a women’s facility in July. It formed a committee that would work with Pearson and his wife, Constance, who is spearheading the project.
Pearson said the board will choose an architect within the next month. Once plans are provided, Pearson will have an estimate of the cost and will begin to apply for grants. The new facility will also be funded through other fundraisers and donations. He added that the women’s center will be more cost effective than the current facility which had to be re-purposed and go through several rounds of renovations.
Samaritan will submit a certificate of need application by May 15 which will begin the review process on June 1. Pearson estimated in November that the facility could be up and running “maybe two years down the road.” Since news the board was pursing a new facility became public, Pearson said they have received numerous positive comments from people who are “so grateful this is going to happen.”
Residents have to be sober for 72 hours before being admitted to Samaritan. Once admitted, they are introduced to the 12-step recovery program, the same as Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, which incorporates a spiritual element. The residents have a full schedule from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to keep them focused on their treatment goals, which include removing things from their life that support their addiction and learning about the nature of the disease, according to Smith.
Smith added that when he first started working as a counselor, 11 of the 12 men in residence at any given time were addicted to crack cocaine. But in the last seven years, he said, those 11 of 12 are addicted to opioids.
Located in a wooded area off of Highway 220, Samaritan Colony is a “serene setting with no interruptions” so the residents can “focus on what they need to focus on,” Pearson said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]