Recovering in style
Skyway House opens luxurious new substance-abuse treatment facility
A few miles north of Chico Municipal Airport, there is a house on a property just off Cohasset Road that could pass for a vacation resort. Comprising 40 acres of land overlooking the Northern Sacramento Valley, the grounds are crisscrossed by hiking trails, and include a small lake, a fire pit, a volleyball court and a horseshoe pit.
The house itself is large and modern, with four bedrooms—the largest of which is outfitted with a Jacuzzi-style bathtub—a bright and open recreation room, a sizeable kitchen and southern-facing windows throughout.
Though the grounds are beautiful and the house itself decidedly luxurious, the property is no vacation destination. In fact, when residents check into the Skyway House’s new six-bed drug-and-alcohol-addiction recovery facility, Serenity House, they may well do so during their darkest hour.
It is the hope of Serenity House’s counselors and staff that, by admitting themselves for a lengthy treatment period ranging from 30 days to half a year, clients are turning the page on a destructive and unhealthy chapter in their lives. During a CN&R tour of Serenity House on Jan. 9, the day of the facility’s ribbon-cutting celebration, Skyway House Executive Director Jennifer Carvalho explained the nonprofit’s approach of “treating the whole person.”
“Part of helping clients with the recovery process is teaching them a new way of life,” she said, noting that a recovering addict faces a broad array of psychological, biological and social challenges. Often, such individuals have long neglected wellness basics like exercise, a regular sleep schedule and eating well.
And so the staff works to create a family atmosphere based on simple activities some may take for granted, such as going for a walk, reading, and sitting down to share a meal with friends and family.
“One of the areas people who are in active addiction neglect is food—how they eat and when they eat,” Carvalho said. “We really try to get them on a scheduled meal time, sit down three times a day for a healthy meal. … It’s also important our clients are getting fresh air and exercise; they’re really trying to get back some vital health.”
Edward Sprague, director of treatment services, said two counselors are on hand 24 hours a day, leading group therapy and education sessions and providing one-on-one attention. “Treatment plans are individualized; it’s not a cookie-cutter kind of treatment,” he said. “With the small client-to-staff ratio, we can really tailor to specific needs.”
As a nonprofit organization, the Skyway House has offered outpatient services, recovery or “transitional living” residences and residential services for addiction treatment to the greater Chico community for 20 years.
Since the transitional-living options involve staying in a large group room with multiple bunk beds, Skyway House has long referred clients looking for more private treatment out of the area. But clients often express a desire to “stay local, stay engaged with their business or visit their family and friends,” Carvalho said. So, over the past few years, the organization explored ways to serve “the population that wanted a more discreet treatment episode.”
After an exhaustive search for the right facility, Skyway House struck a leasing agreement with a woman who, with her husband, built the home that is now Serenity House for rearing their children—now grown and moved on. Recognizing the property’s appeal, the owner considered possibly renting the house as a yoga retreat; as such, she is “amenable to what we’re doing here,” Carvalho said.
The location is ideal in that it’s close to town—making group trips to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or visits to Bidwell Park easily manageable—but isolated enough that “clients are shielded from the world here while they’re getting well,” she said.
Serenity House’s first three clients moved in on Jan. 6, Sprague said, and they have settled in nicely. “They see what we all see—it’s a very nice house and view—and already, the three clients have really started to bond.”
The companionships formed between residents are an important benefit of the small number of clients and extended stays, Carvalho said.
“They go through this really stressful, life-changing experience together, and they really do bond and support and uphold each other.”
Treatment plans at Serenity House are available in 30-day increments and run between $6,000 and $12,000, depending on length of stay, whether the client wants a shared or private room, and how much of the cost is covered by insurance. (Carvalho emphasized that separate treatment options are available at much lower price points, as well.)
“Twenty years ago, Skyway House was only a six-month program because all the data shows the longer the treatment episode, the more successful the client will be in long-term recovery,” Carvalho said. “We really want to encourage [clients] to stay here as long as they can.”
There is a screening process, Sprague said, to determine whether the client does indeed have a substance-abuse problem and wants treatment for it. In other words, Serenity House is reserved for those genuinely in need of help, though Carvalho acknowledged the facility likely would also appeal to those under less tumultuous circumstances.
“In fact, I’m thinking about checking myself in,” she joked.