La Paloma Commits Millions to Renovations


A local facility that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment of substance abuse and mental health conditions is in the midst of a nearly $3 million renovation project.

La Paloma, formerly called Foundation Associates, treats patients with concurrent conditions such as cocaine addiction and depression or anxiety.

The center recently was branded as La Paloma as part of a transaction in which Foundation Associates became the parent company for the facility and two others in California: one in Palm Springs and one in Malibu.

In light of the changes taking place on the campus, an open house is planned for Sunday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the center on Lamar Avenue. Recovery professionals and community representatives have been invited to view the sprawling campus.

Big spending

The 60,000-square-foot Memphis center, which sits on 12 acres, also is in the midst of a half-million-dollar cosmetic renovation and with plans to spend a couple million more on infrastructure improvements.

“The campus as it exists is stunning,” said Robert Waggener, chief operations officer for Foundations Recovery Network and CEO of La Paloma. “Because this is a 1919-era facility, we’ve got basic infrastructure needs such as heating, air, plumbing and electrical that’s got to be renovated as well. We will be spending several million dollars more, in addition to the half-million-dollar renovation, because we will be adding at least 16 (detoxification) beds and some 16-bed cottages on the rear of the property that is undeveloped.”

About 3 acres of undeveloped land are behind the main building at 2009 Lamar. The cottages will be used for people who need care beyond the expected 30 to 60 days of primary care.

La Paloma offers detox, residential treatment, partial hospital and intensive outpatient treatment. The call center operation also is handled at the Memphis location, fielding about 2,000 calls a month. The new construction is expected to take about a year to complete and will add another level of treatment after patients’ primary care ends.

Some history

Foundations Recovery Network, which is based in Nashville, was one of the pioneer organizations in introducing dual diagnosis treatment, Waggener said, because the organization’s founder, Michael Cartwright, himself struggled with mental issues as well as drug dependency.

“He was dually diagnosed and he would go to traditional 12-step (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, where he was told he absolutely could be on no medication if he wanted to be in recovery, and he struggled with his mental health conditions and he would go see psychiatrists that would want to put him on mood stabilizing medication,” Waggener said.

After Cartwright’s ordeal, he launched the organization that has completed 11 federally funded research studies into what works for integrative treatment.

To treat the mental and substance abuse issues separately is to under-treat patients, according to the Foundations Recovery Network Treatment Model. The model is based on years of research carried out by the organization and focuses on highly individualized treatment models.

What’s more, 65 percent of people who have substance abuse or dependency issues also have at least one concurrent mental disorder, and 51 percent of people with a mental disorder also have at least one concurrent addictive disorder, according to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“Typically, addiction and mental health have been treated as two completely separate (illnesses), not integrated at all,” Waggener said. “And, in fact, generally (patients are treated) with conflicting treatment recommendations. That has now evolved since the early 1990s into what people call dual diagnosis treatment.”

Change over time

La Paloma’s treatment techniques are unique not only because of the dual treatment option, but also because of the approach to treatment.

“We’re using a model here that we now call the Foundations Recovery Network treatment model that’s based on proven research as to what truly works with this population that has such complicated disorders, mental health conditions and addiction treatments that need to be treated at the same time in an integrated fashion,” Waggener said.

The Foundations Recovery Network treatment model treats each client using a very individualized approach and lots of hand-holding for clients who may not, at first, be motivated to change. The emphasis, then, is on the client and not necessarily on the tools needed to help the client.

“The basic premise (of the treatment model) is more about the relationship between the clinician and the patients than it is about the tools that we use, and it is really more a matter of style of interaction with our patients,” Waggener said.

“What we see with our patients is that they generally come in with very little motivation for treatment, with extremely poor coping skills that they have learned in very dysfunctional environments in their life,” Waggener continued. “And that generally results in what most people call manipulation, but we see that as them expressing a need to have their needs met. And so our challenge is to … meet patients where they’re at when they come in the door.”

La Paloma receives patients from all over the country, getting referrals from mental health specialists as well as traditional treatment centers such as the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Only 30 to 40 percent of its patients are from Memphis and the surrounding area.

When it was founded, the center treated mostly patients who had government-funded health care coverage such as Medicaid and Medicare. As part of the change taking place at La Paloma, the center no longer will accept those forms of payment. In the future, it will only accept private insurance and cash payments.

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