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We had the privilege of visiting the site of Soteria Staying Sober in June 2009. At that time the first residents had not yet arrived. (As of now, August 7, 2009, there are three residents.) The first thing we noticed was that the location of the facility was not near the location on the mailing address. The mailing address we had been given is in Arden, NC, a pleasant residential suburb abutting Asheville, NC, to the south. It turns out, that is a business office address. The facility itself is in Swannanoa, a more distant but also pleasant suburb to the east of Asheville, not far from Black Mountain and Montreat. It is situated on a hill. It is good that this is a southern location. If this were Vermont, a four wheel drive Jeep might not make the last 100 yards of the climb after the first snow of the winter. A World WarII halftrack would be a better choice. The main house is inviting, well appointed and has a commanding view of the valley.
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Founder Mike Ervin explained the program. This will be for people needing a sheltered and supportive environment for young men who have acquired the basic skills of recovery and have the motivation to apply those skills. It is not a primary treatment program. It is not for the unmotivated or those unsure about desiring recovery. The program seems well thought out for the intended population.
When the program operates at full strength, Mike intends to have two full time house managers, one covering day operation and another (living on premises) covering nights. Other duties such as time off coverage, transportation assistance, etc. would be handled by part time staff. Full time staff and, so far as possible, the part time staff would be people with recovery experience. Mike intends to cover the full time duties himself as the first residents arrive. He indicates he has staff selected for the two full time slots, so there should be no delay in getting quality staff in place.
Clinical and educational services would be off campus. Like many young adult programs, there is wide choice of educational and employment opportunities.
Impressive to us was Mike's (and his wife's) dedication to caring for people -- especially teen-agers who need an alternative to care in their family homes. We had known Mike for many years as his career progressed through both SUWS locations, Cherry Gulch (where he is still a minority owner), and a transport service, to name some of his career stops. We are clearly dealing with a mentality and attitude that is about caring and not merely about profit.
Some details about the nature and character of this operation will be left to the residents as they arrive and form a community. It is clear that the community will use twelve step work as one component; it is not clear at this time whether or not twelve step work will be the sole approach to recovery. Customary length of stay will evolve with the development of the community. They anticipate a minimum three month stay, but have client prospects currently who anticipate a substantially longer stay than that. In deciding to live at this facility or to make a referral it will be particularly important to get current information on the details of how the community is developing.
Contrasting with some other sober residences, there are no onsite educational services. There is good access to educational services with various colleges nearby. Mike plans to make arrangements with a nearby Huntington Learning Center or Sylvan Learning Center or similar facility in order to provide the help that would be available in a learning support center.
Mike discussed the possibility of a close working relationship with a similar group of sober homes. This points to the possibility of a name change in order to be more similar to the others in that group. It also means that there will soon be a parallel facility for young women nearby in northern Georgia. However part of what Mike anticipates is for him to publish when it materializes. We won't go into that here. We believe that those plans are for him to announce when he is ready.
We believe this has promise to become the facility of choice for many young men in early recovery. Our only reservation at the time of our visit was Mike's own lack of first hand experience with this population. That concern is strongly mitigated by a part time staff member with both clinical and personal experience with addiction, who is advising Mike. We never thought that Mike lacked over-all experience. He does not. We are saying this particular population will present new challenges, and Mike will have a learning curve. He understands that and is covering that base. We wish him, his wife, and his residence the best of everything.
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Disclaimer: No program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation. When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree. When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source. We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance. It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines. Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.
Last updated 7-07-09
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