The Bluffs: turning lives around

Congressman Bill Johnson (left) and Dr. Richard Foster discuss the treatment program at The Bluffs during a July 20 tour of the facility.
By Nancy Schaar
FPS Correspondent
Congressman Bill Johnson (left) and Dr. Richard Foster discuss the treatment program at The Bluffs during a July 20 tour of the facility.

U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson received a first-hand look at the faces of addiction when he toured The Bluffs July 20.

The facility opened last October as a treatment center for addiction in the former Atwood Lake Resort and is part of Addiction Campuses.  Other campuses are located in Texas, Massachusetts and Mississippi.

Dr. Richard Foster, chief executive director of The Bluffs, who accompanied Johnson on the tour, explained the services offered to addicts, how their treatment differs from other treatment centers and how successful teaching A Balanced Life program has been.

Foster said the facility is currently at capacity for the number of employees. By October of this year, he hopes to increase the number of employees to 175, hiring an additional 65 to 70 people. Those include nurses, counselors and personnel in every department at The Bluffs.  Capacity is 160 patients.

“Addicts are not who you think they may be.  They’re not just the homeless; they walk beside you every day.  We have successfully treated 500 people so far,” said Foster.

Johnson said the services provided by The Bluffs are important. The Congressman viewed the dining hall with a sweeping view of Atwood Lake, where female and male patients dine separately.  The former bar of Atwood Lodge is now a lounge where patients enjoy the incredible view, have a snack or watch television or a ball game with other patients.

The Bluffs also has a boat docked at Atwood Yacht Club and residents greatly enjoy a ride on the lake.  Other amenities include a music room and an art room.  Exercise is an important part of the treatment plan at The Bluffs.

Johnson asked where the patients go when they leave The Bluffs.  Foster said some will go to a half way house and many don’t go back home but start a completely different life.

“The patient’s bodies are adjusting to being without drugs or alcohol.  Residents are assisted with medication if needed by the professional nursing staff.  Many forms of exercise are used to help the patient become healthy.  Then we deal with how to live a different life,” said Foster.

“We have a doctor in Congress who was never given any classes on use of medications. We have to identify and educate and have treatment facilities like this available,” said Johnson.

The Congressman noted he likes to see how taxpayers dollars are spent and how to make those dollars stretch.  He said once a patient has received physical treatment, spirit and mentality need treated and they will be on the right track.  He believes faith based treatments have a better success rate because it changes lives.

“This is very impressive. We need more. This is very comprehensive. This is privately funded. This is not someone waiting for Washington to fund this. You saw a need and did something about it,” said Johnson.

Johnson was proud that he recently helped get a bill passed in Congress called the TEACH Act.  TEACH stands for training, education and community help.

“The aim is to help in the recovery of substance abuse disorder. Opioids claim the lives of 115 Americans everyday. The health professional education system and the community partners are prepared to prevent as well as treat and aid in recovery from substance abuse,” according to Johnson.

“I have found in my experience one common thread among productive treatment centers are faith based.  They need a life change, a heart change. There are federal grants for faith based treatments,” said Johnson.


“When patients arrive at The Bluffs they are already physically and emotionally beat up. We get them feeling better physically first. Then they get to work to help them make the changes needed to be successful in their recovery,” said Foster.

For one former patient of The Bluffs, treatment and recovery not only changed his life, but provided a career change as well.

Karson Neal came to The Bluffs as an alcoholic.  He was raised and lived in Washington and Oregon where his family still resides.


“I was an iron worker and I drank too much. I wanted to see if I could quit.  My parents helped search for a place,” said Neal.

Following his successful treatment, he returned to his old job and spoke to Brian Sullivan, public relations manager for Addiction Campuses.

A short time later, Neal was approached by Addiction Campuses about a position at the facility. He took necessary classes and training and became the Alumni Coordinator for The Bluffs.

Neal broke into a big grin as he said he also met a beautiful young woman who also received treatment from The Bluffs.  Now they are engaged and planning a life together.

Neal is in charge of graduation ceremonies, performs new patient orientation and reviews for Google and Facebook.

“We are the only campus not to have any patients relapse or die following graduation,” said Neal.  He believes the area, the facility and the view all contribute to the success of their graduates.  “The beauty, the calming affect of the hills, the lake, the nature trails – they all help the patients to a recovery,” he said.

BJ is also a graduate of The Bluffs treatment program.  She has been sober for seven months and does not see any chance that she will go back to her old way of life.  BJ asked to remain anonymous.

She’s a stay at home mom with children. Her husband and all of her family have been very supportive through her treatment and recovery.

“It just snuck up on me. I tried AA (Alcoholics anonymous). I tried counseling.  They didn’t work for me. I kept going back,” said BJ, who served her country in the military and said she was a people pleaser and always put other people before what she might need.

The program at The Bluffs focuses on a self re-set. “You learn yourself again. You learn how amazing you are,” according to BJ.

“Through the hustle and bustle you lose yourself. Here the focus is on you and what you need.  It’s very casual here, very comfortable and not what you would expect rehab to look like,” she continued.

The Balanced Life program fit BJ, her life and her alcohol addiction.  She found what worked for


“When you leave here, they give you the tools so that when you do leave, you can handle it.  Counselors are available and I see one every couple of weeks. They have outlets for help,” she said.

Addiction has been part of her family. BJ says she has what she needs now and is looking forward to staying healthy and sober.