Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan had its start more than a century ago, when a Lutheran pastor opened a home for orphaned children in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. Today, the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America minister to all manner of people in need; from 196 sites, they provide services to the aging, the disabled, the mentally ill, resettling refugees, struggling parents, the homeless, adopted and foster children, and addicts. The Fahrman Center is the coed component of three residential treatment programs run by Lutheran Social Services in Wisconsin, along with the Genesis House for men and Affinity House for women.
Accommodations and Food
The Fahrman Center is located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 90 minutes east of Minneapolis, and occupies a dark brown building with three stories and 24 bedrooms. They accept adult men and women over the age of 18, keeping them largely separate with gender-specific bedrooms, common rooms, workout rooms and smoking areas. Clients sleep two to a room in twin beds, so 48 clients can be accommodated at a time.
The basement and the third floor are the male residents’ territory. In the basement are a weight machine and a treadmill, as well as Foosball and Ping Pong. The third floor lounge has a TV and movies, jigsaw puzzles, cards, books and various board games. On the main floor are both the women’s exercise room and lounge. The exercise room is not much better equipped than the men’s, with just a treadmill, exercise ball and bike and the lounge is basically the same. Smoking is allowed, but only in designated areas. Men smoke in the so-called “butt hut” behind the Fahrman Center and women in the gazebo.
Three meals a day are included in the program’s monthly cost. Dinners are all catered and made for residents: favorites include lasagna and chili. Clients prepare their own breakfast and lunch; groceries like cereal, fruit and deli meat are provided. Two clients are assigned the task of setting the table and cleaning up every day.
Treatment and Staff
The Fahrman Center offers a 21-day residential inpatient program as well as an extended, transitional living program for substance abuse. In the 21-day program, clients focus on recovery for 12 hours a day, attending group and individual therapy between 8 am and 8 pm. Many clients begin in the intensive residential program and scale down to transitional care, but it is possible to begin care at the less intensive level. The Fahrman Center does not offer detox; clients are expected to be medically stable and any co-occurring disorders must be “well managed.”
The beginning of every client’s stay is an individual meeting with a counselor, where they receive an intake survey and a goal-oriented treatment plan. They are given two notebooks, one for journaling and one for recovery-oriented homework. In the first several days, clients make a shortlist of people to invite to the one-day family program. Upon admission, clients are assigned daily household chores in addition to making their beds every morning and doing their own laundry, including washing their own sheets and towels.
A typical day at Fahrman Center starts with a 7 am wake up, followed by bed-making, showering and breakfast. At 7:45 am, the house comes together for meditation before splitting up into gender-specific groups. Morning group runs from 8 am to 9:30 am, then clients have half an hour of free time before their second group between 10 am and 11:30 am. This second group is coed and alternates every other day between a teaching video and time for studying or individual counseling sessions. Between 11:30 am and 1 pm is lunch and free time. Visitors are allowed between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm. This is the only time of day before 8 pm when clients are allowed back in their bedrooms.
Between 1 pm and 2:30 pm is the third group of the day, which is a lecture, yoga, relapse prevention or family dynamics. After another half-hour break, there is a final group from 3 pm to 4 pm, which is Trauma Recovery, Exploring Spirituality or Employment Readiness, or time for individual sessions. Dinner is at 5 pm every day except Sunday, when it’s at 4. After dinner, there is a group meeting at the house; clients who wish to attend 12-step meetings have the option to do so Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The Monday, Wednesday and Friday meetings are off campus. After 8 pm, clients have free time until lights out at 11:30 pm.
Clients in the transitional living phase of treatment, which could last for several months, have the same schedule and follow the same rules before 9:30 am and after 4 pm. During the day, they are either working or looking for work; they are expected to be employed within three weeks. Men and women in this phase of treatment have increased privileges (good behavior permitting).
The staff-to-client ratio at the Fahrman Center is approximately one-to-six during the day and one-to-15 at night when only two support staff are on duty. During the day, five counselors and one case manager are available, meeting with clients one-on-one and running groups. All counselors are licensed drug and alcohol counselors; case managers are not licensed, but are experienced in the addiction field and assist counselors in groups and with administrative work.
Music and art therapy, yoga, meditation, hiking and other off-campus recreation, as well as movies and lectures in the community, are just some of the extras offered at the Fahrman Center. Clients also have access to the on-site exercise rooms, free weights and recreational lounges. Weather permitting, they can also play basketball, volleyball, horseshoes or Frisbee golf outside. Residents are welcome to bring musical instruments such as guitars and activities like sewing to occupy their free time.
The aftercare program provides clients with continuing care for up to a year after primary treatment ends, at no extra cost. This continuing care means participation in a weekly group for alumni that focuses on the maintenance of sobriety.
Lutheran Social Services offers highly structured treatment for men and women in early sobriety. Whether clients stay three weeks or three months at the Fahrman Center, they are expected to participate actively in their own recovery by following the prescribed house rules and managing their responsibilities, whether that’s just showering and showing up for group or going out to find work. The highly structured days and extended care options make the Fahrman Center a good option for recovery that is not complicated by dual diagnosis issues.
3136 Craig Rd
Eau Claire, WI 54701
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