It’s a pleasant ride through Bethlehem, Connecticut, where the roads are lined with pumpkin patches and dairy farms, on the way to treatment center Newport Academy. It’s so easy to forget the solemnity with which most families make the trek.
Newport Academy treats teenagers struggling with serious mental health, substance and alcohol abuse issues. The academy was founded in California, in May of 2009, by ambitious 33-year old Jamison Monroe, who comes from a wealthy Texas family and has struggled with his own substance abuse issues. Patients quickly filled the beds in Orange, California, flocking to Newport Academy from all over the U.S. To meet East Coast demand, Monroe opened his Connecticut facility last year.
Not every kid does well in the scare-‘em-straight wards of grim hospitals. Monroe wanted to create a beautiful and safe 12-bed residential facility to treat male and female young adults, ages 12 to 20 years old, separated by gender. Patients follow a regimented program with 20 hours of counseling, which includes group, individual and family sessions, coupled with 12 hours of therapeutic activities including yoga, art, music, and equine-assisted therapies. Patients also complete three hours of schooling in Newport Academy’s classroom five days per week, overseen by a teacher. In this way, treatment doesn’t adversely affect their school lives when they ultimately move on.
It all adds up to an appealing alternative for families of means. But it costs. The typical 75-day treatment period for patients at Newport Academy can cost in excess of $95,000, though Monroe claims his in-house insurance department can help recoup two-thirds of the fees through private insurance.
Monroe understands the struggles of his patients and their families. He got clean in 2005, after years of struggling with alcohol abuse and being in and out of treatment centers, his own experience eventually informing his business. “Drinking or doing drugs is a release for them, but the problems are still there, so we have to get to the underlying issues,” he says. “I see all these kids come through here and their stress is unbearable.”
On that front, Monroe can also relate. He recalls the pressure of growing up in his wealthy Texas family. “My father and grandfather went to college, where they were both all-star athletes, and then became successful professionals. That was what was expected of me,” he says. The pressure to conform was intolerable so, as a freshman in high school, Monroe started drinking and smoking pot. He was still making the Dean’s list and, even with a hangover, managed to score a 1320 on his SATs. “My dad was always working and my mom was in denial about my addiction,” he says. For a while, he got away with it.
Until Monroe was booted from a Texas prep school, for trying to steal a copy of an English final, a drunken plan gone awry. He eventually graduated, but his life again began to fall apart in college at the University of Texas. A number of arrests and DUIs later, the wake-up call finally came. “One night, I woke up in jail, and didn’t realize how I got there. I had gotten a DUI and I finally thought to myself, ‘Wow, my life is scary,’” he says.
Even so, it still took Monroe a total of five treatment centers and four arrests, to straighten himself out. “Alcohol helped with my anxiety, it filled a void and was my social lubricant,” he says. In short, it was tough to give up. “It wasn’t until I had a really stellar clinical team that treated my self-esteem issues and taught me healthy coping skills that my treatment finally took hold.” That experience was transformational for Monroe, he came to love the field, and the seeds of his own business and calling, Newport Academy, were sown.
On a recent tour of Newport Academy, landscaping crews were diligently laying pavers around the two buildings, to frame flowers and shrubbery planted this summer, and prepare for the pre-winter driveway paving. While the outside is a work in progress, inside healing is well underway. The girl’s home opens to a living room with vaulted ceilings and a fireplace. Off this main room are modest double-bedrooms with patient’s artwork and pictures of relatives adorning walls and bureaus. An enormous industrial kitchen, separates the patient side from the administrative wing, and serves up all organic meals. The boy’s building is less quaint, and was put up after Monroe purchased the property. It’s a ranch built more for function than aesthetics, with relatively bare bedrooms funneling off a living room and housing the day school, a few counseling offices, and a fitness center.
But arguably the biggest selling point for anxiety-stricken teens is the grounds. Weekends are spent traipsing the 65-acre plot’s wooded trails and a pond is fully stocked for fishing. Local trips are spent kayaking and horseback riding.
Article originally published on Barrons