LACONIA — Riverbank House, a residential community for men seeking to recover from addiction, has embarked on an expansion that will create a campus along both banks of the Winnipesaukee River just north of the Church Street Bridge.
Randy Bartlett, who founded Riverbank House in 2012, has acquired a half-dozen properties bordering the river, which he said yesterday will ultimately expand the capacity of the facility from the 16 beds it began with and the 36 beds it offers today to 65 beds.
Riverbank House is headquartered at 96 Church Street, an impressive three-story mansion of 5,446 square feet topped with a widow's walk, where last year Bartlett built a tree house, overlooking the river and linked to the building by hanging walkways, as an office and retreat.
In 2013, Bartlett acquired a two-family residence at 35 Messer Street and this year purchased the homes on either side of it at 29 and 39 Messer Street along with the commercial property housing Winnisquam Printing, which sits on a 0.40 acre lot with frontage on both Messer Street and Church Street. And he acquired the residential property at 16 Riverside Court abutting 96 Church Street. Except for the apartment building at 23 Messer Street, next door to the commercial building, all six properties are contiguous and all front the river, together forming the two arms of a "U" joined by the Church Street Bridge. Bartlett said that he will build a footpath connecting the properties.
"We really lucked on the real estate," Bartlett said. "We approached the owners and told them 'we have a little mission going here' and asked 'would you like to sell your property?' We are very grateful they were willing to sell," he continued," and no one overcharged us."
"We trying to develop a full spectrum of care for recovering addicts," Bartlett said. He stressed that the "length of stay is the single greatest predictor of success in overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol." Riverbank House offers a five-month program, grounded in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Principles of Buddhism followed by up to 18 months of transitional living. The program, he described as a "structured regimen in life style and recovery with a spiritual component," emphasizing that there are many roads to recovery, each suited to different individuals.
While most of the property will provide housing, the commercial building will be renovated and converted to house a yoga studio, gymnasium, cafe and meeting room. Bartlett said that he also plans to add a licensed psychiatrist qualified to treat drug and alcohol addiction, who would work in the building, which will require a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Riverbank House is private, for-profit corporation. According to Sober.com, a directory of rehabilitation facilities, it accepts only self payment — not insurance — and its costs range between $2,400 and $4,000 per month and the average length of stay is between 60 and 180 days. Riverbank House notes that its fees are less than 30 percent of the cost of the most effective facilities identified by Open Minds Consulting in 2011 and less than 10 percent of the cost of "high end facilities."
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