Set in the countryside on the north shore of Oahu Island, the Bobby Benson Center has been helping youngsters rehabilitate since 1991. What makes this four-acre campus so unique is its founder, Major Dave Benson of the Hawaii Police Department, who opened this facility after losing his son Bobby, who struggled with substance abuse. To honor his son’s memory, Major Benson made it a mission to open a place specifically for young adults with addiction problems. With all the recovery homes out there, this is an oasis for adolescents (between the ages of 13 and 17) to comfortably and safely heal and get on the right track.
Accommodations and Food
Treating up to 30 kids at a time, The Bobby Benson Center also has an educational facet so kids won’t fall behind in school. The actual living quarters (referred to as “cabins”) are four buildings—two for boys and two for girls. Being a spiritual place, the center has given each cabin a Hawaiian Serenity Prayer-inspired name—Maluhia, Apono, Wiwo’ole and Na’auao. Two teens are assigned to a closeted room and they each have their own bathroom. Every multi-room cabin has a common area complete with television (computers are available in the classrooms).
Staff members drive the kids down to the beach where they can swim and have fun as one of The Bobby Benson Center’s missions is to show young people that sobriety can be enjoyable. All staff liaisons are certified in water safety, as well as recovery-based training.
The Bobby Benson Center has a few on-site cooks who ensure all food groups are available and concessions are made for kids with food allergies. Breakfast can include bagels, yogurt, cereal and fruit. Items such as chicken burgers are served at lunch—it’s cafeteria-like food. Ultimately, menu items vary, but all meals are sanitary, healthy and adhere to nutritional guidelines. Snacks (granola bars, candy bars and similar treats) are available between meals and are also used as a reward system—say, when a client hits a milestone in their program. While sugar is given to residents, caffeine is not.
Treatment and Staff
When checking into this facility, outside electronics aren’t permitted; however, there is a house phone kids can use in 10-minute increments three times a week. A pre-approved contact list must be submitted and cleared prior to phone use. During the first 30 days, clients may contact their legal guardians only.
As a precaution, co-ed activities are kept to minimum—e.g., a special event or holiday party. Girls attend school in the afternoons while boys go to class in the mornings (everyone receives four hours of education daily).
Pre-approved visitors are allowed on campus once a week—Sundays between 11 am and 5 pm. If standard visiting hours aren’t manageable, family members can make other arrangements via the resident’s therapist.
The Bobby Benson Center is designed to be a six- to seven-month program though some have completed treatment in three to four months while others have stayed for an entire year. The focus is on trauma-focused CBT (the assumption being that all residents have been through some traumatic incident). Unlike other facilities, the staff works with their residents to determine the cause of substance abuse.
Instead of focusing on 12-step, the staff encourages and empowers residents to develop their own plan. Kids collaborate with therapists to create goal-oriented plans—for example, to figure out why they’re in treatment and what they want to accomplish during their stay. When a milestone is reached, they’re rewarded with an outing or a day pass to go see their family. Within the chemical-dependency groups, however, residents work the 12 steps even though this is not Bobby Benson’s overall method.
Some meetings are held on-site, but most are off campus grounds. While they’re not required, off-site NA and AA meetings are offered to residents. Clients who work active programs will receive liberties like off-site access to see their families. Sponsorship and SMART recovery are available within the chemical dependency aspect of this facility.
Group meetings and one-on-one sessions are provided and individual therapy occurs usually once a week. An on-site nurse is available, and a licensed doctor is only two miles away from the facility (residents are transported to his office when needed). While a five- to seven-day detox is provided, this program doesn’t administer relevant pharmaceuticals, preferring to have the kids come down naturally (though assistance and care is given to them). Dual diagnosis support is available once residents have had psych evaluations from Bobby Benson’s clinical director.
The family program entails a once-a-week session with a therapist—this can be done via phone or video conference if an on-site session isn’t possible—so that family members can be educated and kept apprised of their child’s progress.
Multiple, highly credentialed staff people provide round-the-clock service to ensure kids are cared for in every way. The clinical and administrative teams are available Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4 pm. Youth counselors are with clients 24/7.
On a typical day, residents wake up at 7 am; breakfast and meds are from 7:30 to 8 am, leisure/recreation is from 8 to 9 am; group therapy is from 9 to 10:30 am and then there’s a short break until 10:45 am. If there’s an outing, lunch is provided there. Dinner is served at 5 pm and residents can play games or watch movies afterward. Lights out is at 9:30 pm.
Off-site outings include horseback riding, going to the movies, BBQ’s and group therapy at the beach; extra-curricular activities occur on Wednesdays.
As part of residents’ physical education credit for school, an on-site gym is available but it’s mostly the boys who use it while the girls run laps around the facility. Bobby Benson communicates with each client’s school to determine where they left off in their studies.
The Bobby Benson Center is a triple score for recovery. Residents will discover a sober side to life while having fun and sustaining their education (and hey, living in Hawaii can’t hurt). The owner’s passion for the cause is evident and the facility he’s created admirable.
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