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Finishing touches: Fresh Start Recovery Center nears completion

By Andy East on 1/25/2020

Workers are busy renovating a downtown Columbus building that will become an addiction recovery center for expectant and new mothers, a facility that could open as soon as April.

The Fresh Start Recovery Center, located at the former post office building at 703 Washington St., will have 11 resident rooms, seven activity areas, a treatment room, a medical office and a capacity for 25 women, said Amanda Hall, senior vice president of operations of behavioral health at Volunteers of America, a non-profit, faith-based organization that will oversee the facility.

Since renovations started in November, several workers — including plumbers, welders, electricians, framers and some self-described “jacks of all trade” — have been hard at work installing stair railing, ramps, getting the building up to code, installing pipes, replacing lighting and preparing to put a new floor in the basement, among many other tasks, Hall said.

“The thing that we’re looking to the most is just truly engaging the community,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get this thing up and running, and so we’re super excited.”

On a recent visit, the ground floor of the facility was littered with tool boxes, power chords, ladders and salvaged furniture. Plywood was stacked against some of the walls. The first floor will have four resident rooms, a child watch room, an intake room, a common area, a group meeting room, among other spaces, Hall said.

Additionally, a walk-in safe in the medical office on the ground level has been converted into a bathroom.

“This floor, they’re turning over in mid-February,” Hall said. “So it will probably be furnished by the first of March.”

The glass doors that used to serve as entrances along Washington Street will be frosted and the main entrance will be along the north side of the building, Hall said.

In the basement, there are seven resident rooms, a common area that is currently full of tools and equipment as construction crews still work on lighting, ventilation and install laundry facilities and kitchen appliances in adjacent spaces.

On the second floor, administrative offices are nearly complete and have been painted a lavender color. The offices are expected to be ready and furnished by first week of February, Hall said.

“It’s really amazing all the work that has been done in a short time,” Hall said.

In August 2018, Volunteers of America announced it had purchased the building at 703 Washington St. to house the treatment center. Of the 11 resident rooms, two will be dorms that can hold up to four adults along with eight double rooms, Hall said.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority financed the $875,000 purchase as part of a $1.2 million loan that will also pay for renovation costs.

An additional $200,000 in funding was provided by the Columbus Regional Health Foundation, while program services will be funded by the Department of Child Services. The Indiana State Department of Health also provides funding for pregnant women who don’t have an open child services case.

Pregnant clients will be allowed to have up two children age 5 or younger live with them during their substance abuse treatment, the application stated. Hall said Volunteer of America officials don’t anticipate all 25 residents bringing two children with them.

“We would never have 50 kids in this building,” Hall said. “It would be too much. We do have a cut-off on kid capacity. It depends. A lot of women will come when their pregnant, so they don’t have any kids with them and some of them come with two.”

In November, a group of volunteers with Mission Columbus gathered for several hours to remove old furniture and appliances, take down towel racks and clean out what was left at the former post office, said Steve Ferdon, leader of Mission Columbus, a ministry of Asbury United Methodist Church, in a previous interview.

The 22,500-square-foot building was once utilized by the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., but more recently, it has been known as the LHP Guest House.

Currently, Hall and her team are making connections with stakeholders in Columbus, including staff at the ASAP Hub and the Indiana Department of Child Services, but they haven’t started screening for potential residents at this point.

“What we’re really looking forward to is being a valuable member in the community,” Hall said.

Visit voaohin.org/fresh-start for more information about Volunteers of America.