The founders of a Washington coast substance abuse treatment center are hoping to bring their holistic treatment model to Camas.
Thomas Feldman and Christopher Paulson, co-founders of the Discover Recovery residential treatment center in Long Beach, Washington, have applied for a conditional use permit through the city of Camas to convert the Fairgate Estate assisted living home into a 15-bed convalescent home for adult professionals seeking 30- to 90-day residential treatment for substance abuse disorders.
Feldman, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has a background working for nonprofit and private residential treatment centers, and Paulson, a licensed therapist who worked as the clinical director for a Malibu, California treatment facility, bet their life savings on their 2-year-old Discover Recovery center in Long Beach.
“This is our passion,” Feldman said. “We wanted to help people. That’s what we’re in this for.”
Opening a residential substance abuse treatment center in a small community like Long Beach or Camas is not always a straightforward proposal, though.
“Going into any community presents positives and negatives,” Feldman said. “Obviously, there is a stigma around drug treatment and mental health (disorders). In Long Beach, there were some people who were on their heels … but we wanted to work with the community. We’ve donated to causes for kids in Long Beach, helped build a new fence for the police department and are in the process of working with the school district to (establish) a scholarship for college kids. We want to help people and help the community. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Camas treatment center proposal is a bit different from the Long Beach Discover Recovery center in that it would focus on a more professional segment of the population.
“There is a need for small treatment centers in Washington state,” Feldman told the Post-Record this week. “For people who are looking for treatment, especially for adult professionals — doctors, lawyers and other professionals — who want a highly individualized treatment experience without having to go to California or Utah, there are not a lot of facilities in (the Pacific Northwest).”
While the Long Beach center is able to treat people who do not have many resources in its 40-bed facility, the Camas residential treatment center would be much smaller — with 15 beds — and would incorporate many alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, nutritional therapies and EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, therapy, which is used to help people heal from emotional and post-traumatic stress disorders.
“We’re big believers in the 12-step program, which has worked for a lot of people, but there are other, more holistic approaches,” Feldman said.
The Discover Recovery model focuses on treating the whole person, Feldman said.
“Recovery is more than just putting an end to alcohol or drug use. It’s a journey by which to undo the damage of habitual substance abuse, thereby restoring the body, mind and soul to a state of lasting health,” the center’s Long Beach literature states. “While abstinence is certainly part of the recovery process, Discovery Recovery … provides holistic treatment programs to help our clients overcome their addictions. This model of care is focused on healing all aspects of self, including the mind, body and spirit.”
Reaching out to Camas neighbors
The proposed 15-bed Discover Recovery inpatient recovery and treatment center would be located at 2213 N.W. 23rd Ave., in Camas, the current site of Fairgate Estate, a former bed and breakfast and wedding venue that was converted to a 15-bed assisted living center in 2014.
Feldman said the site itself, combined with its proximity to the urban Portland-Vancouver metro area, appealed to the Discover Recovery co-founders.
“Fairgate Estate is a beautiful place,” Feldman said. “We were looking for a site closer to a larger city like Seattle or Portland — where there are more resources — and we thought this property was perfect. It is the right size, in a great location, and since it has been used as an assisted living facility for a long period … it won’t need any big improvements other than cosmetic changes.”
The site is located next to Dorothy Fox Elementary School, in the city’s Prune Hill neighborhood. Some neighbors have expressed alarm in social media sites like NextDoor over a proposal to site a residential treatment center so close to young children.
“There is a lot of stuff on NextDoor,” Feldman said. “There are a lot of positive comments about what we’re doing, but there will always be people who have concerns.”
Because the NextDoor comments are only visible to neighbors with a Prune Hill address, the Post-Record was unable to contact neighbors who have concerns regarding the Discover Recovery proposal.
The Discover Recovery co-founders say they are confident they can help alleviate any fears the community might have.
In a letter sent to neighbors near Fairgate Estate, as well as on the treatment center’s Camas website at discoverrecovery-camas.com, Feldman and Paulson have said Discover Recovery “has taken measures to address potential concerns and to minimize possible negative impacts on neighbors,” including prohibiting residents from leaving the facility without a pre-approved, scheduled outing; not allowing family or friends of residents to visit the facility; installing cameras throughout the facility and monitoring those cameras “24 hours a day;” stuffing the facility with medical and clinical professionals and having at least two staff members, including a nurse, on-site 24 hours a day; and making sure programing for Discover Recovery will not include activities at an adjacent park or on Dorothy Fox property.
“We want people to know that what we’re doing is providing a much-needed service for those in need,” Feldman said. “This type of program is unique and special. We hope people will see this as a positive for the community. We also want to give back to the community and get involved in volunteer work. We know a lot of people are struggling right now, and it is important to (Paulson and me) that we are able to fully integrate into the community, as we’ve done in Long Beach.”
Although he and Paulson would normally host town hall meetings to get to know neighbors in-person, Feldman said the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on that type of outreach. Instead, the Discover Recovery founders have created the discoverrecovery-camas.com website to help answer questions, and urged neighbors to reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the city’s application review process, a sign stating the proposed site-use changes was posted in front of the property on Feb. 4. The city deemed the Discover Recovery application “technically complete” on Feb. 12, and the application is current under review.
The proposal will soon go through the city’s public hearing process with Camas hearings examiner. Notice of the hearing will be published in the Post-Record as well as on the city’s website, and neighbors will receive letters notifying them of the public hearing dates.
Feldman said he and Paulson hope to open the Camas treatment center in early June.
“We are confident we can get through whatever concerns the community has,” Feldman said, “and can help alleviate their concerns once we’re up and running and doing a lot of good, positive things for the community.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to show the public hearings will be in front of the city’s public hearings examiner, not the Camas City Council. The Post-Record strives for accuracy and regrets the error.