A Brief History of St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers
In June of 1940, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement purchased the property known as Rumsey Cottage in Saranac Lake, NY to establish a friary and a novitiate. The compound of 28 acres and several Tudor style buildings was secured for $12,000.
Following the trends of the times, the Friars instituted their own schools of philosophy and theology, which earned the right from the New York State Board of Regents to confer degrees to prepare candidates for the priesthood. St. Joseph’s School of Philosophy, as the institution became known, continued until St. Pius X Seminary opened at Graymoor in 1960. In 1970, Fr. J. Leon Kotsko proposed to the General Chapter that the Friars establish a center for the treatment of male alcoholics.
Fr. Carmine Giuliano received the assignment of creating the program, and on February 9, 1971 St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center opened in the former Novitiate building, “to serve God by promoting healing and recovery for all persons who suffer from the disease of alcoholism and chemical dependency,” and to “prudently use resources to provide treatment and advocacy for those who lack the necessary resources.”
The first class was comprised of six men who arrived for a three-to-five-month period of treatment.
To facilitate the graduates’ return to society, a half-way house was established in Poughkeepsie in 1973, followed by houses in Schenectady and Syracuse. A year later, another such facility opened in Waterbury, CT.
Until 1975, all costs of the program were borne by the Friars, and by gifts from able graduates. The Center’s growing reputation, however, soon lead to referrals from other than just St. Christopher’s Inn at Graymoor and included social services sources from throughout the State.
Following Fr. Carmine, Fr. Emil Tomaskovic arrived in 1981 to assume the role of Executive Director. St. Joseph’s growing reputation for lasting treatment contributed to both Fr. Carmine and Fr. Emil becoming sought after lecturers at SUNY schools on the subject of alcoholism.
In 1981 the Family Program, the first residential family treatment component in the State, was begun and continues today teaching co-dependent individuals about the disease of addiction. Six years later, a separate building housing up to 16 visitors was constructed to provide families a more therapeutic space to learn and to heal.
To more fully serve the community, Outpatient clinics were established in 1986 in Saranac Lake, Malone, Elizabethtown, Ticonderoga, and Lake Placid. This expansion was followed in 1991 by the construction of a new residential wing to the Glenwood Inpatient site that doubled treatment capacity.
In 1989, Father Emil was called by the Friars to serve as the Minister General of the Friars of the Atonement. Atonement Father Arthur Johnson, CASAC, arrived in the North Country from Los Angeles that October to become the agency’s third CEO. Father Art served as President and CEO of St. Joseph’s until 1999.
St. Joseph’s continuum of care extended further with the opening of Joseph’s House Supportive Living Facility in 1998 in Poughkeepsie.
By 2005, the Fellowship, St. Joseph’s alumni organization, enjoyed a membership in excess of 4,000 men and women.
Mr. Karl Kabza joined St. Joseph’s in 2000 as CEO and served with devotion until 2007 when Bob Ross became the agency’s fourth Chief Executive Officer bringing with him 30 years of addiction treatment experience.
St. Joseph’s became an independently governed agency, with full authority succeeding to St. Joseph’s Board, in 2008.
In 2009, St. Joseph’s earned recognition as One of the Best Places to Work for in New York State, an honor the agency enjoyed again in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, and just recently in 2019.
Also in 2009, St. Joseph’s was one of only three addiction treatment facilities in the State to receive funding to construct an addicted veterans Community Residence for service men suffering from both addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The very next year, New York State and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, awarded $12,000,000 in capital funding to acquire from the Friars of the Atonement, and renovate, the Glenwood campus’s main, 53,000-square-foot building.
In 2013, St. Joseph’s opened its sixth Outpatient Clinic in the town of Keesville in recognition of, and to meet the needs of, the transportation difficulties many clients faced while seeking treatment.
In 2014, the Col. C. David Merkel Veterans’ Residence opened to serve male veterans and their families.
Also in 2014, the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce designated St. Joseph’s as the community “Best Business of the Year”.
And, in March of 2016, St. Joseph’s received a $5.5 million capital grant from the New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Corporation to establish an 18-unit supportive housing facility in Malone, NY.
In 2017, in response to both the increase in need for care for younger residents, and the economic advantages of combing services under a single entity, Massena’s Rose Hill Adolescent Residential Treatment Program became a new service of St. Joseph’s continuum of care. Importantly, under this new relationship, the number of beds available there have increased from 14 to 28.
Our Community Services offerings have grown significantly, as well, and include Outpatient opportunities in Malone, Massena, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Mountain Lake (Lake Placid), Ticonderoga, Elizabethtown, and Keeseville. St. Joseph’s provides Jail Treatment in both Essex and Franklin Counties; while we offer transitional / supportive housing at Joseph’s House in Schenectady; at “90 Elm” in Malone, which includes such services as on-site classes offered by North Country Community College; at McCauley House in Massena; Harvey House for male Veterans in Saranac Lake; and Joseph’s Manor, for young mothers and their children, in Ticonderoga.
And just this past month, St. Joseph’s opened our Open Access Center on the campus of AMC in Saranac Lake which provides, among other services, members of the community in need the opportunity to begin to discuss receiving care for themselves or a family member from a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate.
As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, co-chair of the state’s task force on heroin and opioid abuse noted during the opening of a similar facility in the western region of the state, “Opioid addiction is our gravest public health threat, claiming more lives than gun violence and highway accidents and straining community resources to their limit.” She followed with the concept of OACs including the critical need to eliminate barriers to potentially life-saving treatment and support. Plans for St. Joseph’s OAC include being in operation 24 hours each day of the week.
An additional entity of St. Joseph’s OAC is our Mobile Treatment Units, which provide transportation to treatment, and deliver treatment, throughout the rural counties of Essex and Franklin.
Further extending our presence in community settings, we have counselors working each day at Paul Smith’s College, on the NCCC campuses in Malone, Saranac Lake, and Ticonderoga; and Barnabas House in Malone.
And in the spring of 2020, St. Joseph’s will dedicate the Robert R. Reiss Community Services Center – a multi-function facility including a detoxification unit, the permanent home of our Saranac Lake Outpatient clinic, and the permanent location for the OAC.
As well as bricks and mortar, St. Joseph’s continues to grow each and every day with such additions to our programming as telehealth services that efficiently cover our rural service areas, the inclusion Medication Assisted Treatment, and just this past week, the beginning of the eighth Leadership Academy, which is our internal management curriculum to identify future leaders and help in identifying their individual potential.
The story of St. Joseph’s is one of vision and progress, of expansion and strategic growth. Most meaningfully, though, the St. Joseph’s of today is a legacy of the founding Friars and of Fr. Carmine’s mission so beautifully expressed in his words, “We are called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”