A gem for those battling burdens
By Kyle Mooty
No one wishes to have a dependency of others, particularly something as heavy as an addiction to some form of drugs or alcohol substance, or maybe a burden such as mental health issues.
But if you need to recover, it might as well be some place as pleasant as Plum Creek Recovery Ranch (PCRR) of Lockhart, which is likely why the facility is so successful in its quest to lift the burdens of those in need.
But the scenery of Plum Creek Recovery Ranch, once the estate of the late Dollie Cole, is only a fraction behind the facility’s success. The staff, many of whom have also experienced such aforementioned burdens — including support, medical and emotional expertise — has drawn praise from residents who have recovered there as well as peers in the recovery field.
It is truly a gem in Caldwell County that some people unfortunately must experience in order to reboot their lives.
The ranch, located at 519 Briar Patch Road, is a 200-acre spread with several buildings, including a pool, gym, on-site chef and dining area, a commons area, two ponds – one stocked for residents to fish – walking trails, and other amenities. There is also an outside deck area that overlooks much of the ranch.
“It (the deck) is such a beautiful spot for people to just kind of hang out,” said Sarah Hogan, Executive Director of Plum Creek Recovery Ranch. “Our residents can walk a path through the back of the property alongside the two lakes. They can use the buddy system. One lake has good fishing in it so the residents will use that as part of their health and wellness activity. The pool is also part of their health and wellness activities.”
The dining room serves all fresh food for residents and staff.
There are 46 beds at PCRR with gender-specific separations for a variety of reasons, including clinical and patients with traumatic backgrounds.
PCRR treats abuse disorders as well as mental health issues. It has an experienced medical team and leading specialists in addiction care.
“Our residents have very scheduled days, so from the time they wake up they have something to do before they go in at night,” Hogan said. “We have a comprehensive family program and aftercare services available.”
PCRR has an integrated, holistic approach for treating the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – using evidence-based programs backed by research that proves its effectiveness. The Masters-level clinical staff is trained in substance and disorders, strategies for last recovery, and issues that surround addiction.
Hogan said the wellness program at PCRR is “robust,” noting there is physical fitness, nutrition counseling, equine therapy, yoga, and mindfulness meditation.
Each resident awakes between 6-6:30 a.m. and lights are out at about 10:30 p.m.
“We have an 18-bed detox unit and a 12-bed female unit,” Hogan said. “The other beds are for whatever is left for the male unit. That can change. On average, typically we see more males than females. Typically, it’s about 70-percent males.”
Detox services started at Plum Creek Recovery Ranch in November. Hogan said it is looking to offer outpatient services for another level of care when people leave PCRR so they can have access to continue on an outpatient basis.
There are five licensed therapists at PCRR, and three of the ranch’s leaders are also licensed.
The Medical Director is Dr. Carlos F. Tirado of Austin, who specializes in psychiatry and addiction.
“(Dr. Trivaldo) has 17 or 18 practitioners that work under his umbrella,” Hogan said. “We do all telehealth here. We have access to medical providers as well, so not only psychiatry, but they also get to be seen by a medical provider if needed. Especially in detox, our residents are seen daily by a medical provider.”
Nurses – eight in all at PCRR – provide 24/7 coverage for residents.
“We also have residential support staff,” Hogan said. “Those are the staff that will be on the floor supervising our clients as they kind of move about their day. They are really here to engage the clients and make sure that the facility is safe because they are the ones who are with the residents most of the time. If you’re a resident here, you get 30 hours of programming a week.”
The average length of stay is 28 days for residents, but some do stay longer and some less.
Residents must be a minimum of 18 years of age, and PCRR has residents ranging from 18 to the later 60’s.
“From 18 to the 20’s is a very vulnerable time in people’s lives; you see where the addiction is starting, especially with the opioids and what’s going on with Fentanyl,” Hogan said. “We continue to see the younger population because some of the Fentanyl is specific to the population. For a while we were seeing a lot of alcohol abuse disorder, but lately it’s been opioids. Fentanyl with the young population is absolutely there.”
Residents are usually referred to PCRR, but they can come in on their own. Plum Creek takes most major insurance plans, or it will accept private pay.
Consultations are free and 100 percent confidential.
“It’s all voluntary,” Hogan said. “They can leave if they wish, even after they come in. We encourage people – obviously they came here for a reason – to stay and try to work through their treatment here. The good thing about it is you have people who are really wanting to get help. They don’t have some kind of external motivators getting them here.”
As for treatment, residents get 30 hours of programming services, 10 hours of which are therapy, and 10 health and wellness activities.
“Therapy is the core of the program, the therapeutic aspect,” Hogan said. “They also get medication management through Dr. Trivaldo’s group. They get psychiatry evaluations every week.”
The number of staff at Plum Creek Recovery Ranch is 40, which includes grounds people, admissions department, core staff, and the administrative department.
“One of our goals is to bring specialists people out here,” Hogan said. “Our yoga therapist comes in and she’s a contracted service that we have. We also have contracted equine therapy. We work with Horse Links in Bastrop if someone is interested in that service.
“In the evenings we bring in different speakers, such as people who are in recovery themselves. They may come out and talk about AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), or come out and talk about Celebrate Recovery, or different types of recovery models. Typically, at someone’s core, something has happened. When they were 5 and in kindergarten and someone asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, they didn’t raise their hand and say, ‘I’d like to be addicted to drugs.’ We take that approach here where people have experienced something in their life that may have contributed to their addiction. That’s important because it’s the foundation of what we do every day.”
The facility is the envy of many within parent company Signature Health Care, which has operations throughout the country. Plum Creek Recovery Ranch is the only free-standing facility for substance abuse. Its sister facilities are San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare and Georgetown Behavioral Health. There are five such Signature Healthcare companies in Texas.
Being part of Signature Healthcare is important, Hogan said, due to the resources from which Plum Creek Recovery Ranch can pull.
“I’ve worked at Warriors Heart (near San Antonio) with all military and First Responders,” Hogan said. “It’s a really nice facility. But this setting is how it should look for people to get well. When I came for my first interview here, I said this is a place where people come to get well. The aesthetics are really important to your feeling, and if it doesn’t look nice, or clean and isn’t inviting, it’s hard to really overcome that. The idea is when they come here it should feel comfortable and more like a home environment with treatment around it.”
Hogan said once the needs outgrow the 46 beds currently available, the plans are to expand on the property.
Hogan is a licensed professional counselor. Most of her professional career was in San Antonio.
“I feel like I grew up career-wise with the local mental health authority there, the Center for Healthcare Services,” she said. “We provided services to people with serious mental illness and disorders. I worked directly for people who were homeless and people with mental illness and addiction. I got my license and started running clinical teams. I worked with people who were highly acute, repeat hospitalizations, eventually transitioning to more of an oversight in the mental health system in San Antonio. It was a really cool initiative where local and private payers got together to fund innovative programs outside of what the State of Texas would fund.”
Hogan came to Plum Creek Recovery Ranch in August 2022.
“We have a great staff and a really good facility,” Hogan said. “We’re just trying to let the people know that we’re here. People are still learning about us.”