THE Riverina's first privately owned drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic has opened its doors after a long fight against the odds.
Debbie Cox has been battling the courts and community for about three years now as director of the Riverina Recovery House.
Her proposal was hit with rejections by Wagga City Council and the NSW Land and Environment Court, as well as multiple submissions by community members disapproving of its existence.
However, in April last year, the development application to turn a home into the post-detox drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre at 199 Gurwood Street was approved.
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With renovations, staffing, and logistics finally complete, Mrs Cox said it "felt really good" to be ready to begin taking residents.
"I'm so thrilled, it's been a long journey but one that, in the end, will allow us to help people," she said.
Mrs Cox said the home had a heavy focus on creating a family environment.
"We understand residents need their own space, but they also need cohesiveness," she said.
"Many of them may have never had a real family environment, or have forgotten what it was like over the years, so they lose self worth and confidence and we hope we can bring that back to them."
Mrs Cox said they were preparing for a slow start with a few empty beds.
"We need to ease into this and iron out all the wrinkles, see what works and figure out how to make this the best facility we can possibly bring to Wagga," she said.
Residents will pay $10,000 per month to stay in the home, but all living expenses are included.
"That cost will cover all their meals, therapy from highly qualified therapists which will be in-house 24/7, and all of our courses and workshops on offer, plus constant care and guidance," Mrs Cox said.
Over the course of getting the facility approved, major issues of contention focused on community safety, property values and proximity to licensed venues.
Mrs Cox said, while she did not dismiss their concerns, she hoped they would soon see for themselves that it was a worthy service.
"There's nothing I can really say to those in the community who are concerned about this facility," she said.
"Hopefully, over time, they will learn that this is not a danger to the community, the residents are just normal, everyday people wanting to change their lives."
As for those looking to become a resident, Mrs Cox said there was nothing to be afraid of.
"This is the beginning of the rest of their lives," she said, "but they have to be 100 per cent ready for a fresh start coming into this home, they must be committed."
Clinical Director Trish Storrier has a vast history of working in rehabilitation facilities, and said their main goal at the Riverina Recovery House was to provide a sense of respect, value and trust.
"The program is quite structured, because a lot of people's lives through addiction is quite chaotic," she said.
"So getting structure, routine and discipline back helps their bodies and minds have an alternative pattern to what they developed during addiction."
Ms Storrier said there was a heavy focus on what to expect coming out of an addiction, and education around their new lifestyle.
"There will often be a grieving period, as they grieve the loss of their old lifestyle, and grieve the loss of the substance because, in many ways, it has been their friend which has helped them avoid whatever it is they've been trying to avoid," she said.
"Now that it's gone, we are here to help them learn how to live constructively without it."
Ms Storrier said the facility was also heavily focused on a holistic approach to wellbeing.
"We encourage a lot of exercise and good physical health, even things like helping them learn to shop on a budget and cooking with our chef, as well as getting involved in the community with gyms and yoga studios," she said.
"But one of the most important things is developing specific relapse prevention plans tailor-made to their life.
"We can't have a formula which applies to everybody, because everyone's circumstances are going to be unique."
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Ms Storrier said her belief was that "sobriety is not sustainable if it's based on avoidance".
"It is only sustainable if we look at their reality, so we ask them to walk us through a day in their life - who will they bump into, what challenges are they likely to face?" she said.
"Then we work on strategies to face those situations, so that when they inevitably bump into people they used to drink or use with, or even just go back to their family who still live by their old routines, they are comfortable to stick to their plan."
Running a recovery home isn't cheap, and Mrs Cox said there is no funding available as a private facility. She urged the government to consider supporting similar services.
"There's private schools that get funding, so why can't our private facility?" she said.
"There are a lot of facilities out there that charge upward of $30,000 a month, and I've been told it will be tight for us, but we want to be there for those in need, so it would be amazing to see extra support."