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Posted: Jan 4, 2006 11:27


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Wickenburg, Arizona
Glenna Conway - Assistant Director of Marketing

Visit Report By: Kristie Campbell, December 14, 2005

The main campus of Gatehouse Academy is located in the downtown area of the small Arizona community of Wickenburg. As we pulled into the parking lot of the administration building, we were greeted by the Assistant Director of Marketing, Glenna Conway. Gatehouse Academy is appropriate for students ages 17-25 with chemical dependency, and in many cases, dual diagnosis issues.

After a quick trip into the office to sign the necessary resident privacy forms, we headed out to the Hassayampa River Ranch where residents spend the first three months of the program. At the "Ranch," residents work intensely on the first three steps of the 12-Step program. The Ranch campus is located about 30-minutes from the Gatehouse main campus on a winding, bumpy, gravel road. As soon as we arrived at the Ranch, we immediately began our tour of the men's cabin. The cabin houses up to 16 residents and has a separate room for 1 staff member. Next, we walked over to the women's cabin where up to eight young women live with an in-house staff member. The women's cabin had a full kitchen, living room, several bedrooms and a cozy back porch where all the residents gather and talk. Both cabins were kept neat and tidy, but the women's cabin was much cozier. The entire ranch is operated on generator power; however unless a staff member told you this, you wouldn't even realize it.

After viewing the cabins, we visited the 15 horses living on the Ranch campus before walking up to the "birdcage," a building where residents spend several hours a day studying the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous. When we walked in, the residents were in a circle discussing their patterns of addiction while working together to assist each other in finding potential solutions. We left the birdcage and headed up toward the main house where the men eat their meals. The entire ranch felt cozy and warm, and had a safe feeling that made me want to hang around all day.

Because we'd arrived late, we only had time for a short visit at the Ranch before heading back to continue our tour of Gatehouse's main campus. Once back in Wickenburg, we drove over to the admissions building where six groups of parents were attending a family workshop. Gatehouse hosts family workshops at the student's four-month mark, then again every three months or so until graduation. Each group of families who participate in the workshops generally move through the program together. This allows the families to create their own support network throughout their young adult's treatment process.

The main campus of Gatehouse Academy spans over several blocks in downtown Wickenburg. Students live in group homes where they are taught responsibility, life skills, social skills and work ethic, while receiving therapy and clinical services.

The Gatehouse facility falls under the jurisdiction and scrutiny of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Assurance and Licensure Services and Office of Behavioral Health Licensure. Gatehouse is listed in the non-licensed "Level 4 Transitional Agency" category, meaning they receive support to assist clients in managing crisis, or enhancing the client's independent living skills. Gatehouse is also licensed as an outpatient agency for its division of therapeutic and clinical services.

Residents live at the main campus for approximately nine months after completing the ranch portion of the program, after which they are eligible for the four-month Internship Program. Upon completion of the Internship Program, if they express an interest, interns may apply as Junior Staff, which allows them to actively participate in all departments at Gatehouse. The main campus houses up to 70 residents where the young adults continue their work on the 12-Step program and begin working on academics. Both high school and college tracks are available to students. A couple of blocks up from the main campus are 25 additional horses the students care for and use in a variety of management tasks.

As we found during our visit, the Gatehouse schedule blends the daily 12-Step meetings, morning work ethic, therapy, physical workouts, life/ social skills training and recreation, participation in school, and clinical, medical and psychiatric services. We talked with a group of students dressed in karate outfits on our way to view the group homes. As they left campus and walked toward their karate class, you could see the pride these students had in themselves. We left the admin building and crossed the side street to walk through the girls' housing, which included a couple of tidy cabins and young women busily preparing dinner in the kitchen. The dinner table was set for 13 young women, and those who weren't cooking were busy straightening up the kitchen for easy cleanup.

On the other side of the administration building sat several group homes for the young men, and I found it ironic that the men's houses were much cleaner than the women's. The men were also busily preparing dinner while showing off their newly acquired skills and singing along to Christmas carols on the radio. I was impressed with how candid and responsible the residents appeared, because everyone we talked with made excellent eye contact and seemed genuinely appreciative of the Gatehouse recovery program.

After chatting with several students for a short while, we headed back to the administration building where we had a chance to talk with one of the main house-parents. As someone who had been sober for 13 years, she was the perfect mentor for the residents at Gatehouse Academy. I feel comfortable using Gatehouse Academy for the young adult who is struggling with chemical dependency issues and needs a supportive community to learn how to live a healthy life.

After a wonderful day of visiting with the students, touring the campuses and chatting with various staff members, we climbed into the car and drove away from Gatehouse. It had been a relaxing day that left the feeling of hope for the future of the residents.

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