Silver Hill Hospital

By The Fix staff 03/25/11

Set on 42 bucolic acres in New Canaan, Connecticut, is the picturesque and patrician 16-building campus of Silver Hill Hospital, which specializes in dual-diagnosis treatment and has a new chronic pain and addiction center.

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One of the more iconic buildings on the Silver Hill Hospital campus. Photo via
Location : New Canaan, Conn.
Phone : (866) 542-4455
Price : $30,000
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

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As befits a real, working psychiatric facility—and unlike many other rehabs—Silver Hill Hospital has lots of medical doctors crisscrossing its grounds on a daily basis. This means that residents get plenty of attention paid to their meds, in addition to healthy helpings of one-on-one time with therapists and 12 full-time psychiatrists. One alumni even reported that a specialist came in to do cognitive testing on him. Although docs do not live on site, residents are able to see them in person on a daily basis—one psych is present 24/7—and to connect with them by phone if need be.

But whereas all this medical attention makes some patients feel especially well-cared-for—“The docs were great, always around and helped straighten out my medication regimen,” said one—others reportedly felt like they were over- or mis-medicated during their stay at this Connecticut drug and alcohol rehab.

As for who’s occupying Silver Hill’s 68 beds, the only common denominator is income: Most patients hail from privileged backgrounds, although a few do come here on scholarship. Otherwise, the place is predominantly white, with a roughly even gender split. “Ages varied … from 20-something opiate users to middle-aged alcoholics,” reported one alumni. Another, a college kid at the time, noted that residents included stockbrokers, doctors, lawyers, housewives and fellow students.

Meals at Silver Hill are served cafeteria-style, albeit in a dining room with tables set and cleared by staff. Favorite dishes include Southern-style barbecue ribs, stuffed capons, fried chicken, panini sandwiches and the traditional breakfasts, including scrambled eggs and omelettes, toast, bacon, sausage and fresh fruit. Even if the day’s menu isn’t to your liking, you can always make a sandwich, or dig into your own supply of snacks (which residents are allowed to bring with them). Caffeine junkies are out of luck, though, as the only coffee on campus is decaf, and the same goes for sodas. Other drinks on offer include lemonade and Crystal Light.

One resident noted that while meals are made with fresh ingredients, they tend toward comfort food, and are not especially health-conscious. “There were so many snacks and sweets,” said one former resident. “When you are battling addiction it makes it harder to ignore these items.” That said, if an individual has eating-disorder issues or specific nutritional needs, he or she can meet with Silver Hill’s licensed dietician to work out an appropriate food plan.

Most residents bunk in a double room with a roommate, although private rooms are available for an additional cost. Both the men’s and women’s residences at Silver Hill were renovated in 2011; the men’s house is all heavy wood beams and thick leather furniture, while the furnishings and décor in the women’s house is somewhat lighter, with a big porch overlooking the “Silvermine River” (really just a large stream). Housekeeping staff take care of the heavy-duty cleaning, yet residents are required to do daily light chores, such as—in addition to making their beds and keeping their bedrooms neat—filling the bird feeder or straightening up their house’s living room.

Daily life at Silver Hill is highly structured and scheduled. “There is some down time, but you’re usually always doing something,” said one former resident—and that “something” includes quite a lot: “Safe, cathartic and meaningful” group therapy; dialectic behavioral therapy (DBT); educational classes, on topics including coping mechanisms and on how substances affect the brain and body; and off-site early-morning AA meetings and evening AA and NA meetings in Silver Hill’s Martin Center. Residents who are smokers are allowed to light up at designated times in the designated outdoor “smoking gazebos” which dot the campus.

Time not spent engaged in treatment can be occupied by recreational activities including fitness and meditation classes; a gym, tennis courts, basketball court and an indoor swimming pool; billiards and Ping-Pong; and yoga, massage, acupuncture, reiki and Pilates—the latter for a fee. But despite all of these optional activities, the emphasis is firmly on treatment. “This is not a spa,” said one alumni.

To keep in touch with friends and family, residents are allowed to use house phones at their discretion, so long as it’s not during group time or meetings. You can watch TV after 5 o’clock daily, and most of the day on weekends—again, just so long as your channel-surfing doesn’t conflict with group—while Facebooking and emailing can be done on several communal iPads in each of Silver Hill’s six residences.

As befits a Northeastern, science- and medicine-based rehab like Silver Hill, “religion is basically ignored,” as one former resident put it. That said, clergy are made available if patients wish to speak with them—including Silver Hill’s LCSW chaplain, who also runs the hospital’s family program—and there is a small, pretty chapel on-site which holds optional services on religious holidays, primarily (thus far, at least) for those of the Christian and Jewish traditions. But that’s about as far as it goes, religion-wise, other than the standard-issue 12-Step emphasis on finding and relying upon a higher power of one’s choosing.

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