In the early 1970s, Gadsden, Alabama, minister Ray Crowder noticed an overwhelming drug problem among local youths. In collaboration with the Etowah Baptist Association and Gadsden Kiwanis Club, Crowder installed a “hot line” phone in his own home. After being deluged with calls, he acquired grant money from the Alabama Department of Mental Health and, in 1974, The Bridge was born. Today, there are two residential locations for young men in Alabama where Crowder’s vision for helping young addicts find recovery is being realized.
Accommodations and Food
The Bridge offers treatment for clients ages 12 to 18 at a three-building residential center on 72 acres of land in Gadsden in northern Alabama, and at a campus in Mobile, on the Gulf Coast, where there are two residential buildings on more than 40 acres.
The Bridge campuses provides cottage-like living and treatment conveniently under one roof. Two or three kids share a room, sleeping in twin-sized beds, sometimes in bunks. The rooms are spacious enough to be furnished with separate desks, chairs and bulletin boards for each child. Rather than media rooms, therapy spaces are equipped with flat-screen TVs to provide treatment-oriented visual aids. Once a week, residents enjoy a movie, but watching TV isn’t part of the curriculum here.
The Bridge makes sure that every meal has a protein, starch and a vegetable. The menu features cafeteria-style items such as heroes and hummus, pizza, hot dogs and vegetables. There is milk to drink and fruit for dessert. Caffeine isn’t permitted at all. During holidays, staff members provide limited candy and chocolate.
Treatment and Staff
The Bridge’s program length is based on individual need. Clients typically begin treatment with a high level of structure and few personal freedoms. As they progress through the program, they are able to use the tools they have learned to step down to a lower level of care. Some of the prominent treatment modalities used at The Bridge include CBT, Motivational Interviewing (MI) and guided writing exercises provided by The Change Companies, the developer of an interactive journaling system. Rather than EMDR, The Bridge opts for Seeking Safety for clients with trauma.
Both the Gadsden and Mobile campuses have a peer-support specialist who educates residents on the 12 steps, the recovery community and sponsorship. Meetings are optional. The Bridge holds meetings on-site and provides transportation to off-site meetings. However, traditional AA/NA is just one component of their program. Residents also receive group therapy, activity therapy, peer support and individual therapy. At a minimum, clients are given 90 minutes of individual therapy per week, but more is provided if needed.
Because many of their clients are under 18, The Bridge provides mandatory, educational services—all transcripts are transferable upon completing the program.
In addition, The Bridge co-ordinates services from a medical doctor, a dentist, psychologist, psychiatrist and optometrist for all clients. Typically, these professionals come once a week, but The Bridge facilitates off-site visits in the event of an emergency. Both locations have dual diagnosis capabilities.
The Bridge believes family is fundamental to recovery. On weekends, families participate in groups and visit with their child afterward. There’s also the opportunity to have individual family sessions with a counselor. Depending on the situation, clients may or may not be present during counseling. As a courtesy to loved ones who can’t be present, family sessions are offered throughout the week via Skype.
Residents begin their day at 6 am with moderate exercise and chores—beds need to be made and floors swept. Breakfast is at 7 am and school classes start at 8 am, running for four hours. After a noon lunch, clients attend a four-hour series of groups, followed by a physical activity. They then return to their living quarters for showers and spiritual time, then dinner. From 8:30 pm, residents get free time until lights out at 9 pm.
Each location has 15 counselors plus licensed clinicians, peer-support specialists and treatment aides to ensure staff are available 24/7. All counselors and clinicians are highly credentialed. Though a boys-only environment, The Bridge’s staff members are mostly women. The client-to-staff ratio is eight-to-one.
For extra-curricular outings, The Bridge clients take trips to the beach, the park, restaurants and movie theaters. Kids attend the Senior Bowl football game in Mobile, where they meet the coaches and players. Planning for the future is an important component of The Bridge’s program; clients are taken on tours of colleges to talk about academic options and military personnel visit the campus to discuss careers in the armed services.
For exercise, residents can use a basketball gym, outside volleyball court, soccer balls, kick balls, Frisbees and more. Or if they prefer, they can simply walk the grounds. Mobile residents can use the campus lake for canoeing, fishing, hiking and therapy sessions, though swimming is prohibited. And as an added bonus, Mobile residents visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama’s primary marine education and research center. Both locations’ residents help out at animal shelters, food banks and other places.
In addition to their residential facilities, the Bridge also provides outpatient treatment services for both adolescents and adults (male and female).
The Bridge not only treats young people for addiction, they go the extra mile by providing higher-education opportunities and community service, giving clients purpose and life experience. This program promotes family, peer relationships and finding fun in sobriety. The Bridge looks like a great resource for kids who are struggling to get sober.
3232 Lay Springs Rd
Gadsden, AL 35904
3401 Newman Rd
Mobile, AL 36695
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