New rehab center moves closer



The most noticeable part of what will become The Bluff Plantation upscale rehabilitation center is that it is really on a bluff. There is no hint from the road or fairly flat front, but stepping through the spacious main house the backyard offers a breathtaking view of a steep drop-off to heavily wooded bottomland that leads to the Savannah River.

“I walked back here and I was blown away,” said Tina Black, the vice president of operations for Georgia for RiverMend Health, which will operate the center as part of Georgia Detox and Recovery Centers.

Above the din of saws and workers scuttling to make minor renovations and repairs, the center is moving closer to opening and will be part of an expanded system of treatment for addictions in Augusta and throughout the state, officials said.

The 178-acre site off Bennock Mill Road has been purchased for $2.5 million, according to records.

The property is undergoing renovations to make sure it complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act and other health care regulations before it can turn in its completed application, probably between mid-June and early July, said Monica Demitor, the CEO of RiverMend Health.

“As soon as that license is issued, then we will commence business,” she said. “I would say it’s going to be the fall. I look at it as best case is August, worst case is October.”

The center, which will initially house about 24 recovering professionals such as physicians, is already advertising for positions such as nurses and is recruiting, Demitor said. One position, its Chief Medical Officer, is already filled.

Dr. William Jacobs, who is also on the faculty at Georgia Regents University, came on board about three weeks ago and is already meeting other providers in the community, said Joe Ricci, the administrative director for behavioral health for Georgia Regents Health System.

Jacobs also will serve as the medical director for Georgia Detox and Recovery and will help revamp the
addictions curriculum at GRU for medical students and residents, Ricci said.

“He’ll have a number of roles,” Ricci said. “He’s going to be a very busy guy.”

In addition to Bluff Plantation, Georgia Detox and Recovery will have intensive outpatient programs around the state, including sites in Athens and in Augusta at GR Health’s campus, Ricci said.

“Our situation here in this region, and it is pretty much this way anywhere outside of Atlanta, is that there is such a paucity of addiction treatment services available (that the need is great),” he said.

Well before it opens, Bluff Plantation is already drawing considerable notice, Demitor said.

“There’s lots of interest,” she said. “Most of the interest is from out of state.”

In the meantime, Bluff Plantation is being readied. Black showed off the airy main house with a great room and large fireplaces where patients can socialize and hold group therapy, and a smaller den off to the side that can be used for group therapy or just relaxing. Because addiction is an isolating disease, there is an emphasis on getting patients to talk and open up, she said.

“A big part of the healing is community and being connected,” Black said.

The serene wooded setting, with little sign of civilization across the broad vista, is also part of that.

“It’s amazing how off-the-beaten-path this feels,” Black said as she looked out at the view.