September 14, 2008

Therapy facility takes Narconon's place

Elizabeth Willis
The Enquirer

PENNFIELD TOWNSHIP — A new private-pay substance abuse inpatient facility has begun operation at the facilities formerly occupied by Narconon Stone Hawk, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center with links to Scientology.

Operators of the new organization, A Forever Recovery, said they are not associated with either Narconon or Scientology, although some employees worked for and managed Narconon Stone Hawk.

"I know there's been a lot of negativity surrounding Narconon and I want people to know it's not Narconon anymore," said Matt Yumoto, A Forever Recovery detoxification facilitator and former Narconon Stone Hawk employee. "Our goal is to help people get off drugs."

Founders said they have created a unique program that offers multiple paths to recovery in one location.

The new program uses moral reconation therapy, a cognitive-behavioral treatment system that has been successful, Program Director David Lee, 38, said.

Patients also can choose a faith-based, self-help or cognitive-holistic track, he said. They are encouraged, but not required, to use the facility's saunas and exercise equipment, to take vitamins and eat healthy food.

"This is a truly unique approach because no one has really tried to put different forms of recovery under one building," Lee said. "Our philosophy is: Find the niche that works for you."

The St. Mary's Lake buildings were listed for sale at $3.69 million in June, but probably are coming off the market, according to the buildings' Realtor, Roger Molenaar.

Former Narconon Stone Hawk President Per Wickstrom once owned the buildings with his wife, Kate, before the buildings were transferred to the TIA Corp. The corporation also currently owns Narconon Stone Hawk East in the former Trillium Hospital in Albion, according to online city records. A Forever Recovery is leasing the building from TIA Corp., Lee said.

Per Wickstrom is its marketing director and the center is operating under the same state licensing numbers as Narconon Stonehawk's.

But its directors' intent to help drug and alcohol addicts come clean is real. A Forever Recovery began accepting patients Aug. 15, said Senior Case Manager Paul Lawson.

The 42-year-old Ceresco man said he grew up in Battle Creek, where he became addicted to and sold drugs.

Now, after more than 10 years of being clean, Lawson said working with patients at A Forever Recovery is his chance to give back to the community.

"I believe in giving back to a community that I took from for so many years," he said.

Currently 19 patients, including two in withdrawal, are living there. The estimated average stay is 45 days and patients or their families are charged a minimum $12,500 for the program.

Lee said he hopes it will evolve to include up to 80 patients and 90 days of treatment, with support for the families of recovered addicts as well.

Elizabeth Willis can be reached at 966-0684 or