A Message About Our Purpose
Every day across the nation, pharmacies deliver medication to the homes of thousands of Americans.
The homes are just that – places where people live. They are not urgent care facilities or hospitals or treatment centers. Rather, they are simply places where people live – and that is exactly what Water Gap Wellness in Smithfield Township is, a temporary home for its few dozen guests.
And yes, while medication is delivered regularly by pharmacies to Water Gap Wellness, causing needless unease to some in the community, it most certainly is not a treatment facility – despite what some may have heard. Please allow me to explain, as there has been a lot of confusion, misunderstanding and misinformation about Water Gap Wellness, which has provided new life, new jobs and new hope for the long-dormant property that once was home to Delaware Water Gap Country Club.
Water Gap Wellness you see, is an Inn, at 288 Mountain Road in Smithfield Township (near the Delaware Water Gap border). The Inn, as its policy and as required by law, does not discriminate in providing accommodations to anyone. It complies with all state rules and regulations, and it pays its lodging and property taxes. And its guests receive no treatment at the Inn.
Water Gap Wellness Center is a licensed treatment center that is a few miles away in East Stroudsburg. And that is where – and only where – treatment is provided for drug, alcohol and other issues.
But, as I noted, there is concern in the community about the Inn. There is concern about the pharmacy deliveries, the storage of guests’ medication that is on-site, vehicle traffic and the culture at the Inn. I believe that these are all unfounded concerns.
Pharmacies regularly deliver medications to guests of Water Gap Wellness. Inn guests have valid prescriptions from licensed health professionals for a variety of ailments, and they get the prescriptions filled and delivered to them. And, as mentioned, that is no different than what occurs every day throughout our nation – approved, necessary prescriptions being filled and delivered to thousands of Americans.
It is also important to note that the medications delivered to Water Gap Wellness are the possessions of the people to whom they are prescribed. They are not the possessions of Water Gap Wellness, and Water Gap Wellness does not dispense them.
Water Gap Wellness holds each guest’s medications in an individualized basket, in a locked cabinet, in a locked room, and it provides safekeeping for that medication regardless of whether the resident showed up with it on his first day at the Inn or if it was prescribed by a doctor during the course of his stay.
And that, of course, is a good thing. It’s legal, it’s proper, and it’s sound. Holding medications for safekeeping does not change in any way the fact that these medications are not Water Gap Wellness’ medications. They are guests’ medications, and when it is time for the guest to access their medicine, they go to a “window,” where a Water Gap Wellness employee retrieves the basket, watches the guest take the prescribed dosage and then returns the basket to its locked cabinet in the locked room.
Yes, there is vehicular traffic in the area of the Inn, but certainly there is less traffic than when the property was an active country club. There are vans that twice a day transport guests from the Inn to the outpatient treatment center in East Stroudsburg. That occurs six days a week.
And there is some delivery truck traffic because, after all, it is an Inn. We feed people, and we need a variety of supplies, such as providing guests with clean towels and sheets.
But, as we say, the traffic is less than when the country club was in its heyday.
Water Gap Wellness is proud of the proactive and positive culture it creates at the Inn.
When a guest arrives at the Inn, his or her possessions are searched and subject to confiscation. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from: All medications (even including aspirin and daily vitamins), any products that contain alcohol and any other substances that potentially could be harmful to anyone at the Inn are confiscated.
It is a sober environment, and it’s a safe environment. And it’s a culture that Water Gap Wellness leans into every day.
Advantages For The Community
The Inn provides many steady and good-paying jobs to members of our community – something that almost didn’t happen.
In 2019, in anticipation of Water Gap Wellness receiving its conditional use approval for detox and residential treatment, the Inn hired staff including a licensed practical nurse. But Water Gap Wellness never made it that far to provide treatment. COVID-19 delayed all Smithfield Township supervisor meetings and any action in the courts was delayed until the summer. It was, and continues to be, a very difficult time financially for all of us.
But we found a way to adapt. A way to move forward. A way to remain open. A way to keep people gainfully employed and not lay them off.
We still opened, but solely as an Inn, and a new space was found and renovated a few miles away in East Stroudsburg, to provide treatment. This pivot allowed us to save jobs by redefining roles, such as taking on administrative rather than health care functions or by becoming drivers of vans.
Investing And Hiring Locally
Meanwhile, we continue to invest in the expansive property at Water Gap Wellness in Smithfield Township, and we’re doing so with local companies.
With the help of 58 contractors – all local – we renovated the entire Inn and are renovating the lodge. We’ve added sprinklers in every building, as well as accessibility for the handicapped, and upgraded all utilities and building systems.
Plus, we have a crew of men working every day to clear the downed trees and debris that have accumulated on the property after 10 years of neglect.
It’s not just property taxes that Water Gap Wellness pays to fund our schools and government agencies and services. The Inn also pays a lodging tax that helps to promote tourism in the Poconos, and, as we know, tourism is the leading economic driving force in our region, creating tens of thousands of jobs.
In addition, the Inn pays sales taxes and its employees pay income taxes at the national, state and local level. All of these monies go to making our government viable and able to provide much-needed services for everyone, especially during these challenging times.
A Valuable Health Service
Of course, we are not just about creating jobs, helping the local economy and adding tax revenue to our schools and government agencies. More importantly – through Water Gap Wellness Center in East Stroudsburg – we provide a crucial service to our community.
Every year in America, there are more than 48,000 suicides, more than 81,000 deaths from overdose and more than 95,000 deaths related to alcohol. It’s a growing health care crisis, and since the East Stroudsburg Center opened in March it has helped more than 400 people get their lives back on track, to reconnect with their families and loved ones, to gain the confidence and the skills to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
That is never an easy task, but it is especially difficult during this time of COVID, when so many people are anxious, depressed and scared for their future. It’s no wonder that the Center already has earned a reputation for providing the highest quality of care and professionalism.
It was a huge challenge to open the treatment center in East Stroudsburg last March during the pandemic. And yes, we are not perfect, noting that the state warned us last year not to have counselors go to the Inn to coax guests out of bed to go to East Stroudsburg for treatment. We thought it was a well-intentioned effort to help – but after learning it was not permitted, we took immediate corrective action to prevent it.
But we successfully navigated our way. The management and treatment teams at Water Gap Wellness Center in East Stroudsburg have proven that they are seasoned and dedicated professionals. They have proven that they can deliver treatment that inspires meaningful, life-changing, lifesaving improvements in people’s lives. And they have proven they can do so in a nurturing and attentive way that is safe for all, including for the community.
And now we hope to provide treatment on-site at the Inn for our guests. Our mission to help our guests would be less complicated and more easily managed. There would be no daily transportation of clients for treatment.
Residential programming would be longer, seven hours per day seven days per week, versus five hours per day six days per week. It’s a more intensive treatment day, every day, so guests are afforded very little free time. And with residential treatment, there are more structured rules in the treatment setting, including 24/7 security and surveillance staffing, therapists (who would be on-site every day) and support staff who are trained in de-escalation techniques.
In short, if we were able to provide treatment on-site to our guests, we could do even more in our journey to help others, to fight the insidious combination of addiction and depression that is roiling many of our communities.
We could do even more on our faithful path to help, to be part of the solution.
And all as we strive to be a valued, trusted and respected citizen in our community.
A partner in our community.
Joseph Schlim, CEO Water Gap Wellness
Water Gap Wellness
What: An Inn in Smithfield Township, with up to 50 guests, that does not treat guests and does not dispense medications.
Jobs: The Inn has dozens of employees who earn good, steady wages. It hopes to eventually hire even more people.
Investment in the Property: The Inn has been renovated and the lodge is being restored. All buildings and systems were upgraded, and the grounds and landscape are being cleaned up after years of neglect.
Local labor: The Inn has hired 58 local contractors for renovations and improvements.
Tax Revenue: The Inn pays property taxes to fund schools and government agencies, and it pays lodging taxes to fund tourism, the leading industry in the Poconos.
Sister Location: The Inn has a sister location, Water Gap Wellness Center, a licensed outpatient treatment facility in East Stroudsburg. That is where, and only where, treatment is provided.