Shands will convert Residence Inn into treatment facility

The Residence Inn on SW 13th Street in Gainesville has closed to lodgers in anticipation of becoming a treatment center for those seeking to overcome substance addiction and eating disorders.

ROB C. WITZEL/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 3:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 3:14 p.m.

The Residence Inn on SW 13th Street was closed to lodgers last Wednesday in anticipation of the facility reopening as a safe harbor for those struggling with drug addiction and eating disorders.

Officials at Shands at the University of Florida said they expect to close on the purchase of the inn sometime before the end of the month. The treatment facility that will be housed at the inn is expected to open in July 2012 after being renovated to be an extension of the UF&Shands Florida Recovery Center.

It will "provide rehabilitation care in a manner similar to the world-renowned Betty Ford Treatment Center in California," said John Pastor, assistant director of the Office of News and Communications at UF&Shands.

It is expected that half the patients enrolled in the program will be health care professionals from around the country who have already received some treatment for their condition and are in the next phase of their recovery, Pastor said. Already, health professionals come from 40 states to UF's treatment program, Pastor said. The other half of its patients will be local patients, university officials said.

This inn had been one of two Residence Inns in Gainesville that offers lower daily rates for long-term stays. Marriott, a national hospitality chain, manages the properties but does not own them. A company spokeswoman said the decision to close the SW 13th Street lodging was likely the decision of the property owner and referred questions to the local inn.

UF Associate Professor Scott Teitelbaum said he's excited about putting residential accommodations and outpatient services under one roof. The move will allow the Florida Recovery Center, which he oversees as medical director, to add 18 new positions to its 35-member staff. He expects that the center will become a place for further research into the science of addiction and recovery.

"The university and Shands are making a statement that they are investing in research, teaching and treatment," said Dr. Teitelbaum, also vice chair of the UF psychiatry department and chief of the UF Addiction Medicine Division. "It's great to be a part of that."

Dr. Kevin Wandler will direct the eating disorders part of the treatment center.

The facility will be near the Sid Martin Bridge House, also a drug treatment facility, which is overseen by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Inc.

The Bridge House was named in honor of the late state Rep. Sid Martin, whose son, John Martin, said he wishes the new center well — with one caveat.

"It would concern me if it takes away some of the mission of the Sid Martin Bridge House," he said, adding that he doesn't currently have a connection with the Bridge House.

Teitelbaum said he expects the two facilities will be working together in the future.

Anne Geggis is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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