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Rural treatment center celebrates $1.2 million expansion

CANDO, N.D. - The thought of patients traveling hundreds of miles to a drug and alcohol treatment center surrounded by farm fields and shelter belts in rural North Dakota once seemed outrageous to Glenda Springsted-Spencer.

CANDO, N.D. - The thought of patients traveling hundreds of miles to a drug and alcohol treatment center surrounded by farm fields and shelter belts in rural North Dakota once seemed outrageous to Glenda Springsted-Spencer.

Four years later, the Center for Solutions on the northeast edge of Cando is celebrating a $1.2 million expansion. Patients are coming from as far away as Arizona _ which also seemed unlikely to Springsted-Spencer when she was asked to move her treatment program from the city to the country.

"The board contacted me and said, 'How about Cando?'" Springsted-Spencer said, referring to the Towner County Medical Center board of directors. "I said, 'Where's Cando?'"

The Towner County town of about 1,300 people is about 100 miles west of Grand Forks.

Among those who found it were officials from Hazelden, a well-known Minneapolis area treatment center that recently referred patients to Cando. Springsted-Spencer has something she never thought she would need _ a waiting list.

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Center for Solutions doesn't advertise.

"The word of mouth is getting around," said Springsted-Spencer, who earlier directed a treatment program in Minot. "It's pretty amazing when you think we started with just three patients."

The 10-acre rural setting is ideal for patients and employees, allowing for comprehensive therapy with few distractions, said Allison Hofstad, who doubles as an addiction counselor and occupational therapist.

"I wouldn't do this job anywhere else," she said.

The center began in cramped conditions in a rural farmhouse, which is still part of the expanded facility. Now it has spacious meeting rooms, offices, dining room, two-person bedrooms with individual bathrooms, and a large patio area with picnic tables.

"It has improved the conditions for all of our clients," said Josie Lee, a residential tech supervisor.

The center has 15 full-time employees, including six licensed addiction counselors and a registered nurse. One of the counselors, Tyler Giffey, 23, was one of Springsted-Spencer's former clients in Minot. That experience led him to go into counseling.

Giffey said he wondered about moving to Cando.

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"It's not necessarily my ideal choice of places to live, but you can't find a center like this anywhere else," said Giffey. "It's what brought me here."

Gene Nicholas, a member of the Towner County Medical Center board, said the board believed the center could fill a need for addiction services and help sustain the medical center. Board members also believed it would complement other services, including a retirement home, clinic, chiropractor, dentist and a day care center.

"We're like all rural communities, looking to do what we need to do to survive," said Nicholas, a farmer and former state legislator. "With the expansion here, hopefully we're doing it because it will not only enhance profitability but improve people's lives."

Nicholas said he believes the location has helped the center's reputation.

"We wanted that rural isolated setting. Once we found it, it has just taken off from there," he said.

The clients range in age from 14 to 70. They are doctors, lawyers, farmers, students and people without jobs, Springsted-Spencer said. Alcohol and marijuana are the leading addictions, but Springsted-Spencer has seen an increase in the number of people hooked on prescription drugs.

"There is no typical addict," said Lisa Neameyer, a case manager. "They come in every shape and size, from all walks of life and all ages."

Although the center accepts third-party insurance, some of the patients have been paying for services with a credit card.

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"That's just the craziest thing that I've ever heard in my life," Springsted-Spencer said. "But they want it. And if they want to get better, they're going to pay it."

Nicholas said Springsted-Spencer's program is unique because it focuses on factors that led to the addiction, rather than the addiction itself. Patients are not given a specific time or steps to completion.

"We're not working with the alcoholic we had 20 years ago," Springsted-Spencer said. "At least 90 percent _ or even 95 percent _ have more going on than just the addiction. There's depression, anxiety, learning disabilities. Some can't read and write. They have low self esteem."

Nicholas believes the Cando center's success rate is higher than other addiction facilities, but Springsted-Spencer said she doesn't want to rely on anecdotal evidence. She's hired a Minot State University professor and psychologist to research the efficacy of the program.

"We want to find out what's working here," Springsted-Spencer said. "You have to have the numbers."

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