The following article appeared in The Caledonian Record on January 11, 2021, and was written by Staff Writer Robert Blechl. It is shared on our site with permission from the paper.
A new manager could soon be running the Friendship House addiction treatment and recovery center in Bethlehem, and an expansion of the number of treatment beds is part of the plan.
Before assuming management, the Owings Mills, Maryland-based Amatus Recovery Centers must first obtain its license from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.
If all goes well, the licensing process could be completed by mid-February, Chris Foster, regional executive director for Amatus, said Friday.
“The Amatus Recovery Centers family is excited about the opportunity to expand services to the North Country,” he said. “We are diligently working with AHEAD and state agencies to bring this project to fruition. We know how important the Friendship House has been to thousands of families. We look forward to carrying on the mission, goals, and vision that the Friendship House has always maintained. Additionally, we are looking forward to expanding the overall residential treatment facility bed count in the state of New Hampshire.”
The Littleton-based Affordable Housing, Education and Development Inc. (AHEAD) will continue to own the property.
Amatus, created in 2015, runs 14 recovery centers in six states, including the two recovery centers in New Hampshire — the Bonfire center in Dover, and the Blueprint recovery center 90 minutes south of Bethlehem in Concord.
In New Hampshire, Foster learned about the Friendship House, which had been managed by the North Country Health Consortium (NCHC) from late 2017 to December 2020, and saw an opportunity to help the state of New Hampshire with addiction treatment and recovery services, said Amatus spokesman Thomas Gill.
“In everything we’ve done, we determined an area that needed services or had a lack of services and we went out there and started a facility in an area that needed assistance,” said Gill.
The Friendship House is a 32-bed facility on 16 acres that provides substance use disorder treatment and recovery services to low-income residents seeking treatment.
Upon receiving its license, Amatus will provide medically monitored intensive in-patient services, clinically managed high-intensity residential services, partial hospitalization services, intensive out-patient services, case management, alumni and continuing care and family programming.
The plan going forward is to increase the services to include 24/7 admission and make a substantial build-out of the facility to accommodate 14 to 16 new beds, a cost that will be borne by Amatus because there is a need, said Foster.
There are currently 28 residential beds and four special detox beds, the latter of which can be made into a residential treatment area with two more residential beds to house two more clients, he said.
“That will bring it to 36 beds, then we’ll bring additional beds with construction,” said Foster. “We will be adding a higher level of detox and a higher level of care. These are all things we can do while still operating.
Employees are expected to total 42.5 full-time equivalent, and Foster is in touch with recent NCHC employees of the Friendship House, before NCHC moved its services to another location, who are interested in returning under the Amatus management.
Split-staff members that are stationed throughout the state will include an executive director and clinical director, as well as outreach representatives and alumni.
“We have a proven model that works and we treat almost a thousand clients throughout the country,” said Foster. “We will make a comfortable, temporary home for our clients. We are very excited about expanding our services to the North Country and doing what we do best in other areas and bringing it to New Hampshire. We are here to help and be another resource.”
In November, the NCHC, the former Friendship House manager, announced it would be moving its substance use disorder clinical services out of the Friendship House by the end of December, following financial difficulties made all the more challenging from the coronavirus pandemic.
At that time, it was announced NCHC’s services will continue in another location and the state would seek another entity to manage the residential treatment, intensive out-patient, out-patient, and impaired driver care management program that are planned to remain at the Friendship House.
The original Friendship House began in the 1960s at 2957 Main St./Route 302.
It was previously managed by the Tri-County Community Action Program, which was at the helm for three decades until TCCAP encountered financial difficulties.
In October 2017, a grand opening and ribbon cutting was held for the new and larger Friendship House, a total $5.5 million project that involved several community partners.
Residential treatment beds were expanded from 14 to 28, in an area of New Hampshire that local health care officials said is in desperate need of more treatment beds.
The new facility is the first of its kind north of the Notch and the only addiction treatment center in a 65-mile radius.