MAYS LANDING — Crowds of people wandered through bedrooms with vaulted ceilings and private bathrooms, spacious community rooms designed for activities like yoga, brightly lit meeting rooms and an open area for food and lounging.

This is what owners and directors of Recovery Centers of America at Lighthouse are hoping people see when they come in for addiction treatment after the organization recently expanded its footprint at its Mays Landing complex.

The treatment organization’s flagship location went from 53 beds to 133 in an expansion officials say is to address the rising demand and need for short- and long-term treatment with a focus on inpatient services.

“We want to get people back on their feet and get their lives back together,” said David Dorschu, Lighthouse CEO. “With those services, we can treat people from the beginning. The neighborhood model is that people should be able to receive treatment as close to home as possible.”

Officials hosted an open house Sept. 27 and invited community members to check out the 65,000-square-foot center’s multifloor expansion with upgraded features and luxury-style residential rooms for men and women seeking inpatient substance use disorder treatments.

Brian O’Neill, Recovery Centers’ founder, said $25 million to $30 million was invested into building and staffing the addition. Officials said they hope to grow its current staff of 180 to 240 employees by the end of the year.

The organization, which acquired the existing Lighthouse recovery center in 2016 and has since expanded with centers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts and Delaware, offers inpatient drug and alcohol detox and residential treatment as well as outpatient services.

The centers also host programs for first responders, family support and health care professionals.

With the increased number of beds, Dorschu said they can treat more people from start to finish and provide a continuum of care that is sometimes disrupted when patients have to switch organizations at every step of recovery.

Dawn Belamarich Berry, Lighthouse clinical director of inpatient and outpatient services, said the new rooms give the center more space to hold 12-Step meetings and activities for residents that may aid in their recovery.

“We want this to be a safe place and have a sense of community for people coming here,” she said. “Because if you don’t feel that way, how are you encouraged to make changes?”

Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler, who attended the opening, said the treatment center “set the bar high” for addiction services in the area. The Sheriff’s Office recently partnered with Lighthouse for its Hope One addiction mobile outreach van.

Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick, whose son Duncan was once a Lighthouse client and died from a heroin overdose in 2014, said the county’s opioid epidemic has devastated many families, but communities are doing more to help people get into recovery and stay there.

“My hope is that my son didn’t die in vain,” she said, choking back tears. “I use my voice as an advocate and hope that everyone who comes here finds success in recovery.”

Contact: 609-272-7022 Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Staff Writer

Previously interned and reported for, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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