In 1976, Norway gave Vinland National Center to the United States as a gift for the Bicentennial. It was modeled after the Norwegian Beitostølen Healthsports Center, which works exclusively with people who have physical and developmental disabilities, encouraging them to lead more active lives. Originally serving only those with physical disabilities, Vinland has also been providing specialized services for people with cognitive disabilities, including drug and alcohol addiction, since 1990.
Accommodations and Food
Twenty miles west of Minneapolis, on a hill overlooking Lake Independence, the Vinland National Center campus encompasses 178 acres of prairie and woods. The facility is in a long, low-slung complex. The reception area reflects a modern take on the lodge look: exposed beams, rough-hewn stone walls, fireplace, leather sofas. Each unit (separated by gender) has its own common area; Ikea-style furnishings in plain white rooms.
Clients stay in two- to four-person bedrooms that feature attached bathrooms and accessible showers. Bedroom décor falls somewhere between hospital room and motel room; an attempt to warm things up is provided by handmade quilts on the bed.
The cafeteria at Vinland serves up balanced meals designed with nutrition in mind. Snacks like peanut butter, bread and fruit are available in each of the two lounges. Clients are permitted to enjoy food in their room; lounges are supplied with fridges, microwaves, coffee makers and cabinets for storing personal food.
There are multiple televisions in the common areas and viewing privileges are liberal, as long as classes/groups/therapy are not in session. Cell phones are not permitted, but multiple phones are available for use with calling cards or to receive incoming calls. One computer is available for email in each of the two units.
Treatment and Staff
All clients must complete detox before arrival at Vinland. Once they are admitted, treatment typically lasts 42 days, but the length can be tailored to meet the needs and wants of each client. Vinland takes a holistic approach to recovery, considers co-occurring disorders, and, unlike conventional drug and alcohol treatment programs, accommodates the unique learning styles of those with cognitive impairment and traumatic brain injury. There is a particular understanding of past trauma and how common it is for people struggling with addiction, they provide trauma-informed services aimed at reducing triggers and avoiding re-traumatization.
Individualized treatment focuses on relationships, family, parenting, sexuality, anger, and grief and loss; life management issues such as computer skills for job seeking, fitness, recreation and nutrition. Recovery support and networking are also emphasized. Twelve-step methodology is offered but not mandated; case managers and clients together determine which modalities would be most effective.
Vinland National Center is fully accredited and licensed by the state of Minnesota. Its interdisciplinary team of professionals includes chemical health counselors, a psychologist Monday through Friday, an MD, a psychiatrist and a neuropsychologist—each on site once per week. Fitness/wellness professionals, vocational counselors and nurses are on campus Monday through Friday. Clients are under 24-hour supervision by human services technicians or chemical health technicians, most with two-year degrees and previous experiences; some are trained to distribute medication.
Days at Vinland follow a structured schedule of group sessions, activities and one-on-one counseling sessions. Clients wake up and eat breakfast at 7 am before mindfulness practice or exercise. Community meetings begin at 8 am. Groups are gender specific, so schedules vary for men and women, but on any given day, between breakfast and lunch, residents will attend groups focused on relapse prevention, peer feedback, personal health, life skills, stress reduction, parenting, resiliency, trauma, conquering health challenges, chemical health, creative writing and dialogue. Residents are encouraged to attend AA/NA on and off-site meetings. Dinner from 5 to 6 pm and the treatment portion of the day ends at 8 pm.
Saturday visitors are allowed from noon to 9 pm, Sundays from 10 am to noon. After two weeks, with counselor approval, clients can leave the facility on a day pass; after day 21, clients can stay away on an overnight pass.
Alternative therapies include art therapy and yoga. Outdoor activities occur once per week, year-round: clients can expect hiking, fishing and kayaking in summer and snowshoeing in winter. All clients meet with a physical therapist at the on-site therapeutic exercise center to receive an individualized workout and nutrition plan.
People with disabilities not only have a higher risk of substance misuse than the general population; they also face unique barriers to getting the treatment they need to get sober. Vinland, Norway’s gift to the US, is a boon to the chemically addicted and cognitively impaired who have many fewer rehab options available to them. It’s a clean, comfortable facility in a peaceful natural setting—a refuge for its clients.
Vinland National Center
3675 Ihduhapi Rd
Loretto, MN 55357
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