If there were a motto at High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, it might be summed up in the words of CEO Janina J. Kean: "Every human being, if they get the proper care, can recover from substance use disorder."
"That's not to say they can't relapse, but repeated recovery is possible," Ms. Kean said.
Founded in 1940, with the input of Bill Wilson, a recovering alcoholic, High Watch was the first recovery center to use the 12 Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The AA belief is that through service, fellowship and a spiritual component, when you follow the 12 steps you can change who you are. By continuing on the 12 step path, you can maintain sobriety, said Dawn Bellante, communications director at High Watch.
The wooded, 200-acre campus is a residential, acute-care center for addiction and co-occurring psychiatric disorders. The atmosphere is that of a bed-and-breakfast.
It has 78 beds with one therapist for every 15 patients, a fully-licensed clinical team and nurses trained in medical, substance abuse and psychiatric care.
In order to keep overhead down, Ms. Kean explained, High Watch does not accept insurance.
High Watch was included in Psychology Today's 2012 "Best Treatment Guide: The Referral Guide for Professionals."
Under the leadership of Ms. Kean, High Watch has expanded its mission.
The first goal is still putting the disease of "substance use disorder" in remission and providing patients with the tools to lead healthy lives.
Added to that has been an education component.
"The vision of High Watch as it is now is Janina Kean's" said Dr. Oreste Arcuni, director of addiction medicine. "I have learned from her."
"She has brought the highest degree of love and support and incorporated the latest scientific developments in substance abuse, while keeping the core 12 Step Program in place."
Ms. Kean is a board-certified advance practice nurse practitioner in psychiatry and mental health, with a masters degree from Yale University.
She came to High Watch in 1998.
Those two are leading High Watch on its enhanced path.
"Science has encouraged us. It has been realized that brain cells can regenerate," Dr. Arcuni explained. "With time, proper nutrition and new medications now available, the brain can regenerate cells and heal."
"Substance use disorder is a chronic disease," Ms. Kean explained, "marked by periods of remission and then periods of exacerbation.
"It is a disease of the brain where surges of dopamine -- a neurotransmitter -- makes the person feel fantastic. Then the dopamine leaves the system and the brain craves more dopamine," she explained.
"We now have medications that can cap off the dopamine receptor sites so those surges don't occur," she said.
The "four pillars" of the High Watch program:
Instructing patients in treating themselves to overcome this chronic disease through the 12 Step Program;
Treating the neurobiology of addiction;
Treating co-occurring disorders;
Educating and healing the patients' families.
"High Watch is based on a culture of acceptance," Ms. Bellante explained. "Love, beauty and the culture of acceptance and support for everyone permeates the whole High Watch experience."
A new comprehensive care center was recently completed on the property, housing offices, a conference-community room, individual therapist offices, a nursing wing and medical treatment room, as well as a pharmacy.
Nurse practitioner and social work students, as well a professors from universities and colleges including Yale University and Hunter College now also study or lecture at High Watch.
"Dr. Arcuni and I realized we could use this facility as a campus that could train future practitioners of substance use disorder," Ms. Kean said.
For more photographs, check www.newmilfordspectrum.com.
For more information on High Watch Recovery Center, 62 Carter Road in Kent, visit the website www.highwatchrecovery.com or call 860-927-3772.
Photography by Trish Haldin