Founded in 2014 in Sun Valley, California by local philanthropist Lauri Burns, actor and addiction recovery advocate Russell Brand and film producer William Johnson, The Teen Project’s Freehab is a 40-bed non-profit residential treatment facility for young women between the ages of 18 and 26. Burns, who is Freehab’s president, has been in recovery for more than 29 years. After coming out of the foster care system at the age of 18, she ended up homeless and addicted to drugs. After she turned her life around, it became her mission to help other young people whose experiences parallel those from her own past. Throughout the years, Burns has taken in 47 foster kids, and treated them as her own. The Teen Project also has satellite facilities in Venice and Hollywood, which serve young male clients.
Accommodations and Food
The Freehab facility is a huge warehouse building that once housed as a drug rehab for men. The location was strategically chosen because it is in a relatively rural area. This provides the young residents with a break from the street life and a new environment for recovery and healing.
Since Freehab operates on a four level system, newly admitted clients reside on the first floor. After they complete their first phase, they are moved to the second floor. The facility has yellow clinical hallways and the rooms are each unique in décor. Clients are assigned double or triple-occupancy rooms, and each room includes twin beds, colorful comforters and closet space. Residents are provided with personal lock boxes for their valuables.
One room has a blue mural of Buddha embossed on a green chalkboard. The Buddha is a permanent fixture, but clients write affirmations and express their feelings, with chalk, on the blackboard. Freehab has several other distinctive rooms including the meditation room, which has an eastern flavor, the Marilyn Monroe room which includes a flat screen TV and a colorful lithograph of Monroe and the Maroon 5 room which includes couches, books, framed artwork and vintage-style furniture, all donated by the rock band Maroon 5. The building includes a huge meeting room, which holds daily 12-step meetings and panels. There is also a small outdoor patio, which includes colorful flowers and plants. Smoking is permitted outside the building, during designated breaks.
A chef prepares the food inside an industrial kitchen. A team of rotating clients assists the chef. Residents are served three meals a day inside a dining room. Breakfast features eggs, cereal and coffee (only served in the mornings). A typical lunch entrée includes Cobb salad and fruit, while dinner ranges from enchiladas to pasta. Staff also keeps a sharp eye out for clients who might exhibit signs of an eating disorder.
Treatment and Staff
Potential clients at Freehab undergo a comprehensive assessment and must be clean and sober for a minimum of three days. Those needing detox are provided with appropriate referrals. Women on medication-assisted treatment, including Suboxone are not admitted. Length of treatment is between six months and a year, and is broken down into four phases.
During the first phase, which lasts anywhere from 30 to 60 days, clients are not allowed personal phone calls. They must get a sponsor and meet with her twice a week. Treatment includes 40 hours of group therapy week, individual therapy (per client’s needs), case management and attendance at daily 12-step meetings. At Freehab, evidence-based modalities, specifically EMDR, CBT and Motivational interviewing (MI) are incorporated during treatment. Group topics include morning gratitude, relapse prevention, healthy thinking, domestic violence, life skills, healthy relationships, self-esteem and emotional triggers.
Phase two parallels the first level, and lasts between two and three months. During this time, clients are allowed two timed phone calls in the evenings. During the third phase, clients receive eight-hour weekend passes, and are encouraged to look for work or attend school. Treatment schedules are less intensive during this phase. During phase four, clients prepare to re-enter society. They are working or going to school. Cellphones and laptops are permitted.
At Freehab, random drug and alcohol screenings are conducted. Residents who have relapsed are immediately dismissed from the premises. However, they are allowed to return after a period of 30 days, provided that they are willing to work on their recovery and that they are clean and sober.
Clients participate in regular physical activity including yoga and exercise. Weekly aftercare groups are provided, and often alumni return to provide support to the other girls.
Other services include GED preparation and tutoring. The young women at Freehab are prepared for life beyond treatment, with on-site job skills training and job placement assistance available.
Freehab is a labor of love on the part of Lauri Burns, who was able to overcome overwhelming odds and completely change her life. Freehab is one of those rare places where staff goes way beyond the call of duty to help their clients receive a second chance at a new way of life. Behind those innocuous warehouse walls in Sun Valley, this is truly a recovery gem.
8140 Sunland Blvd
Sun Valley, CA 91352
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