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New central Ky. recovery center transforms old college campus

Officials believe it to be the largest facility of its kind in the country.
Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 11:56 AM EST
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ST. CATHARINE, Ky. (WKYT) - Different paths brought men to the Crown Recovery Center in Washington County, and they all have things they are learning now that they are here.

“Teach us how to be a man and live in society,” one man said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

The new facility is Addiction Recovery Care’s latest effort to help drug users heal from addiction. ARC already runs more than 30 addiction treatment centers, largely in eastern Kentucky. The new center allows them to reach an entirely new population, leaders say.

The center has 250,000 square feet of space, officials say, on a 52-acre campus that used to be Saint Catharine College. Now the campus is home to what officials believe is the largest facility of its kind in the country, with treatment capacity for 750 people.

“When you’re caught up in addiction, many will have a moment of clarity,” said Pat Fogarty, senior vice president of operations. “A lot happens in addiction in a week. It’s a very precarious position, it’s a very dangerous position. We want to act immediately when someone seeks that help. We want to be available.”

But it is not just about the capacity; officials say what Crown offers is an effective way to deal with addiction, and also to break down stigmas and barriers to treatment. The facility offers a four-phase treatment plan, including detox, recovery, life skills and job training.

“They don’t belong in a jail cell,” said John Wilson, community CEO. “They belong behind a desk somewhere or in a factory somewhere. They can give back. We just need to help them, we just need to give them the tools to beat addiction.”

Crown Recovery Center has begun helping more than a hundred clients since it officially opened in November. Officials say the only thing capping their numbers right now is the need to hire more staff.

Still, just being there has already brought back a spark to what had been a quiet campus since the college closed in 2016.

“There was no sound,” Fogarty said. “There was no noise. It was just this enormous property sitting still, seemingly abandoned. Now we have life, and there’s hope built back into it.”

And it still largely has the feel of a small college campus, complete with many amenities: ping pong and pool tables, a cafeteria and classrooms, lecture halls and dormitories. Officials say that is part of what makes the experience effective: a therapeutic environment where people are treated like human beings.

“We’re not going to treat them like outcasts or like they need to be locked away,” Wilson said. “These are good people here, and they’re people who are brothers and sisters and neighbors.”

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