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“It's Not a Character Flaw“: Avera Addiction Care Center Prepares for First Residents

The empty dining room of the new Avera Addiction Care Center in Sioux Falls, with a large window, several tables and chairs.
Residents will eat dinner “family-style“ in the dining room

On Sunday, the new Avera Addiction Care Center in Sioux Falls is hosting a community open house. The voluntary 28-day treatment center offers a variety of treatments for alcohol and drug addiction.

But the new center also highlights the importance of community in the healing process.

Avera used to refer up to 25 patients a month to residential addiction recovery facilities—some of them hundreds of miles away. Assistant Vice President for Avera Behavioral Health Services Thomas Otten says that’s one of the reasons this new addiction care center is here now.

“We’re saying, by stepping into this space, we really are identifying this is a disease. It’s not a character flaw. And it’s critically important we understand it as such and try to destigmatize the care of addiction as much as possible,” says Otten.

The two-building center includes 32 beds plus a fitness center, meditation rooms, and fire pits where residents can relax and bond.

While bedrooms are private, bathrooms are shared to encourage communal responsibility. Dinners are served family style, and patients help set tables and clean up afterwards.

Matthew Stanley is the Vice President of Avera Behavioral Health Clinical Service Line. He says those aspects are important to help prepare residents for life after treatment.

“This is already protected enough when you’re here--rightfully so, we want you to be able to focus on what you need to focus on to get well. But it’s exceedingly hard when you step from a highly protected environment into what we will call the real world. Because the real world doesn’t let you gradually adjust. It strikes you at 100 miles an hour.”

Stanley adds Avera is creating an app to help residents once they’re discharged.

“That will allow their counselor here to remain in contact with them to send things like messages, even assignments to the patient. We can send screening kind of quizzes or tests to see how they’re doing,” explains Stanley.

Residents will also stay connected with the rest of their cohort.

“A lot of times just the idea that ‘I can’t let them down,’ you know? ‘We went through this together, they’re struggling, I’m struggling.’ That can be enough to keep you well," Stanley says.

The Avera Addiction Care Center is set to accept its first residents in early December.