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Safe haven: The Haven residential treatment center prepares to open doors 

Floor-to-ceiling windows show off agricultural fields, sand dunes, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s all you see as you walk through the front door. 

The second thing you notice is the multi-level deck. Then, it’s the patio chairs with big red cushions, just waiting for someone to hunker down and think about life—to feel at peace. It is, after all, called The Haven. It’s supposed to be a place of safety and refuge. 

click to enlarge ROYAL TREATMENT:  A Mesa home overlooking a valley to the Pacific Ocean will soon become SLO County’s only state-licensed in-patient residential treatment center. The Haven plans to open for business at the end of June. - PHOTO BY AMY LEVINSOHN/WHITE WOLF STUDIO
  • ROYAL TREATMENT: A Mesa home overlooking a valley to the Pacific Ocean will soon become SLO County’s only state-licensed in-patient residential treatment center. The Haven plans to open for business at the end of June.

This gigantic home overlooking Pismo Beach and Oceano is one of three such private homes that The Haven is planning to open by the end of June. Each will provide something you can’t currently find in this county: in-patient care for addiction. It will be the only state-licensed residential treatment center in San Luis Obispo County.

Depending on what the client needs and what insurance or cash will pay for, The Haven will offer the standard 30-, 60-, or 90-day programs, according to Residential Director Lisa Collins. 

Collins said some people just need more than out-patient centers can give; they need a higher level of care, and the only way to do that used to be to send them to Santa Barbara or the Bay Area.

“And it’s tough for people to go that far,” she said. “It just was frustrating to see people who really needed residential, and there’s just no where to go. Basically, they need somewhere to go, somewhere to live where they can be safe from their addiction.” 

They also often need somewhere to go that’s close for family members, not only so they can visit their loved one, but also so they can work with therapists and counselors as well. 

The Haven will treat patients aged 18 and up for substance addictions of all kinds: alcohol, heroin, meth, etc. The center’s medical director is Dr. Ken Starr of Ken Starr MD Wellness Group Addiction Therapies and NAD Therapies, where Collins used to work. Patients will be treated by the credentialed counselors and therapists at the Wellness Group’s office in Arroyo Grande as well as in-residence peer support specialists and nurses.

Two of the residences will be located on the Mesa and one will be in Arroyo Grande. One of the homes will also act as a detoxification facility, where patients can stay between four to 10 days, rest, get medication as needed, and heal. Once they get what they need, patients would then have the ability to move into one of the male- or female-only houses.

There will be no more than six people in each home at a time, with a nurse and peer support specialist staffing the residence 24 hours a day. There will be 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous-type sessions (not open to the public), something called SMART Recovery: Self-Help and Recovery Management, as well as other methods of treatment.

“We’re not a strictly 12-step program. Some places are; we are not—because AA doesn’t work for everybody,” she said. 

Yoga, equine therapy, adventure therapy, art therapy, a personal gym, a pool, an in-house chef, and aftercare support services are all part of the deal. 

“We want these to feel like homes, and since you are supervised 24 hours a day, it makes it so that you’re not in your active addiction,” Collins said. “We want them to experience fun outside of addiction.”

Peer support specialist and certified counselor Joseph Hetzel chimed in, saying there would be trips to places like Laguna Lake, the ability to go surfing, and people could even skydive if they wanted to. 

“A lot of people don’t realize that there’s fun outside of addiction because they’re locked in,” Hetzel said. “They’re locked in a vice.” 

To find out more information, visit or call the office at 202-3440. The Haven’s office is located inside Ken Starr’s AG office at 107 Nelson St., suite 102.

Fast fact

• Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) will host an informational town hall meeting on the End of Life Option Act to answer any questions about the new law, which went into effect on June 9. The meeting will take place on June 24 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Morro Bay veterans hall, 209 Surf St. in Morro Bay. To RSVP, contact the senator’s office at 549-3784 as there will be limited space.  

Editor Camillia Lanham wrote this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send news tips to

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