Just about everyone who attended the ribbon cutting of the new Mount Regis Center either knew someone with addictions or had a family member affected.
That’s why the more-than 100 who attended the Feb. 27 ceremony were so pleased to tour the spacious, modern facility on Elizabeth Campus in Salem, two days before patients arrived.
“I’m so glad to see new medical residences are being built on a radiating spoke plan, with lots of windows opening to the outside,” said Salem Planning Commission Member Dee King.
Others who didn’t want to be quoted by name remarked they hoped it would be the only time they see the inside of an addiction center, but added, “You never know these days. Addiction is so widespread and it’s growing.”
As Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Dr. Jack Barber told the crowd, “The opiate crisis is all over the state in pockets…The upside of the opiate crisis is it is drawing attention to the problem,” adding that alcohol is the most commonly available drug.
The first people to tour the new Mount Regis Center were invited guests – ranging from Salem Planning Commissioners, Salem City Council Members and city staff, to representatives of other substance and counseling agencies.
Later Monday afternoon the center was opened up to the community for tours and refreshments.
The new center which can house 48 patients compared to the old center’s 24 was completed in record time after a devastating Dec. 30 late-night accidental fire. The fire was determined to be from an improperly put-out cigarette, and gutted the 100-year-old historic previous home in South Salem on Kimball Avenue known to many in the community as White Cross Hospital.
Layton Construction out of Nashville, Tennessee, brought in scores of extra workers to finish the already started construction in six weeks on Knotbreak Road, between the Salem YMCA and James E. Taliaferro Sports and Entertainment Complex that includes the Salem Civic Center.
“Foreman Shane Grymes and crews pulled off quite the miracle. I was focused on the patients the day after the fire and he called me,” Mount Regis Center CEO Curt J. Lane said. “He said, ‘We’re meeting this morning at 8 a.m. and figure out how to get that building done for you,’ ” Lane explained.
Mount Regis’ parent company, Acadia Healthcare Inc., paid a reported $700,000 additional for extra crews and construction firms in order to speed up completion. Meanwhile, the 18 in-house patients who escaped the December fire and others waiting to get in for residential treatment were transferred to other treatment centers.
Those waiting to start their four-to-six-week voluntary journey had to wait a little longer. A free weekly support group did meet at the former TrustPoint Insurance building on Market Street, and Mt. Regis’ near neighbor, Bethel Baptist Church, and provided immediate needs such as food, clothing, shelter and other needs immediately after the fire.
“Pastor Hilton Jeffreys and his congregation are heroes for what they have done for us and our patients,” said CEO Lane. The church’s lead pastor gave thanks for the safety of the patients and the new building in his invocation at the ceremony.
Commissioner Barber pointed out in his remarks that Mount Regis over the years “took the lead in figuring out how to soften the effects of detox.” He said the facility was also instrumental in promoting the formation of drug court courts, which help addicts and alcoholics seek successful treatment and change rather than only locking them up.
He said he hopes “this kind of model [Mount Regis Center] will spawn many others. The opioid problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.”
Curt Lane expressed special thanks to Salem Fire & EMS who responded within minutes of the Dec. 30 fire call, and the other area fire departments that assisted in keeping the three-story high flames gobbling the old wooden Mount Regis Center from spreading to the office area of the building and nearby residences.
A combined Salem Police and Fire Color Guard posted the colors to start the ceremony. One of the people recognized by name at the ceremony who had previously been kept anonymous was Registered Nurse Al Slater, the nurse in charge the night of the fire, who got the patients up and out of the building. Slater said he was just doing his job.
The ceremony took place in the dining room portion of the new center, and was followed by a ribbon cutting outside and in front of the white-columned brick building.
Among those taking part were Salem Mayor Randy Foley, who in earlier remarks gave a brief history of the Mount Regis Center, which dates back to days as a tuberculosis sanatorium. He congratulated the center for being a part of Salem there on the Elizabeth Campus, which gets its name from an early 1900s women’s college associated with the Lutheran Church.
Last year, Salem City Council approved rezoning that portion of formerly city-owned property for use as a residential addiction treatment center, over the initial objections of nearby residents who were concerned about alcohol and drug users in treatment being housed near a Montessori school on the same campus and established residences surrounding the property on nearby streets.
Once Mount Regis representatives explained their plans, including security of the locked residence where patients are voluntarily admitted, most of the visible community opposition quieted down.