Steve Bryan tells a compelling story. “I have a friend who is a selectman in New Hampshire. He told me his stepson is addicted to heroin. My friend said he had taken [the young man] to treatment 11 times in nine years, dropping him off at the Manchester Fire Department. By law, the fire department has to house him for 72 hours while they look for treatment programs. Every time, after three days the stepson ends up back home.”
“That got the conversation going.”
Bryan has a history of working to develop affordable housing. Now he has partnered with longtime friend and colleague John Christian, who has spent the last decade providing substance use disorder and mental health services with Modern Assistance Programs. Christian explains, “For the longest time, if someone was in New Hampshire or even Maine, we were bringing them down to Massachusetts for treatment. We saw a huge need for treatment closer to home for them.”
Official statistics bear that out. In 2018, New Hampshire ranked third in the nation for opioid-related deaths per capita but had the second-lowest level of access to substance-use treatment.
Christian continues, “When Steve talked to me about New Hampshire, it made perfect sense to work together to try to develop some treatment beds up there.” Bridge Street Recovery was born.
Bryan explains that, traditionally, there are two distinct, separate modalities for addiction treatment. “One is high-end, insurance dependent. Those facilities tend to be very well run. The other is for people who are uninsured, like my friends’ stepson. Those facilities have a hard time keeping their doors open.”
Bryan and Christian thought there might be a third option, a hybrid model that would treat both groups, with beds for the insured helping subsidize beds for the uninsured. They worked out a plan, then looked for space.
For years, Bryan had passed the defunct Highland Inn in Bennington, New Hampshire. One day he realized it was the perfect location for their new intensive outpatient/partial hospitalization treatment facility. It had three buildings with 16 rooms each, a commercial kitchen and dining room, offices, and a large common area. “It seemed like it was meant to be.” They sought financing from BlueHub and received a $862,500 loan.
Bridge Street Recovery has 32 residential beds for stabilized clients who have completed medical detox, and who are receiving partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment services. Eight additional beds provide transitional housing for clients who are also receiving ancillary services, such as vocational training; they can stay up to 24 months.
The Bennington site will work in partnership with the Bridge Street Recovery medical detox facility in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Together, the two facilities will create a continuum of care, from in-patient treatment to transitional housing to outpatient treatment. As Christian notes, “Often, people who have ‘graduated’ from residential treatment still aren’t ready to rejoin their community. During early sobriety, when they are more at risk of relapse, this provides some separation from temptations. It keeps up the intensity of treatment before they go home.”
Bryan and Christian have designed Bridge Street to be replicable. “Because the detox unit is considered a medical facility, there are a lot of design idiosyncrasies; it’s like building a miniature hospital. All those bugs have been worked out, and we know the number of beds we can deliver treatment to while maintaining the delicate balance between income and expense.” Bryan smiles, “We spent a lot of time thinking about that half of the puzzle. If we found another place in New Hampshire or Maine, we could just pick up the set of drawings and start building.”
That is likely to happen. As Christian adds, “It’s our mission: expanding treatment availability to as wide a group as we can offer it to.”