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Ryan Libbey, a former patient at Lakeview. His mother Jennifer Cote gave NHPR permission to publish photos of her son's injuries.This series was the basis for a collaborative investigation by NHPR and Reveal, a new investigative public radio program and podcast produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit newsroom based in California, and PRX. Click here to read the investigation and listen to the documentary, "A Mountain of Misconduct."0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8db50000In September 2014, Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center in Effingham, N.H. came under scrutiny for abusing and neglecting some of the people it cares for – children and adults with brain injuries and developmental disabilities.NHPR has been looking into these accusations, and it turns out the state had warning signs about series problems at this facility going back to the early 1990s. In this special series and continuing coverage, reporter Jack Rodolico examines the scope of the problems and the state's role in Lakeview's story.

Addiction Treatment Entrepreneur to Purchase Lakeview Rehab Property

File Photo

The 72-acre, sprawling campus of Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center - with about a dozen buildings overlooking lakes and mountains - has always been used as a place to treat people with brain injuries or developmental disabilities. But there has always been controversy too.


In 1992 the FBI raided the site when they suspected the original owners of fraud. And then last year, after the Disability Rights Center put out a scathing report on Lakeview’s practices, the state shut it down. The place was notorious for poor care. But Eric Spofford hopes to change all that.

"What I would say is this isn’t the same song, different verse," says Spofford. "This is an entirely different album."

Spofford plans to open Green Mountain Treatment Center on the former Lakeview grounds. The Effingham facility has been vacant since regulators shut it down last year. The center will operate a 30 to 90-day residential program for up to 75 men and women who are dealing with addiction – from heroin to painkillers to alcohol.

"So the entire management staff is different, and most of the direct care staff is as well," says Spofford. "Not to mention that we’re treating an entirely new population."

What I would say is this is not the same song, different verse. This is an entirely different album. - Eric Spofford, CEO, Green Mountain Treatment Center

Spofford knows something about that population. Since 2008 he’s run Granite House in Derry, a sober living facility for young men in long-term recovery. In 2015 he opened a 20-bed inpatient facility called New Freedom Academy in Canterbury. And then there’s his personal story. 

"I was one of the, I guess you could call it, the pioneers of the opioid epidemic in the late 90s when, at 14, I tried my first OxyContin, which almost immediately started an opioid addiction, which escalated to heroin as it does for so many," says Spofford.

Spofford used heroin until he was 21 years old, when he found long-term recovery. He’s now 30 and his business is growing fast as the state scrambles to create more treatment for opioid addicts. New Hampshire is ranked 49th in the country for access to drug treatment.

Credit YouTube
Eric Spofford, owner of Green Mountain Treatment Center, testifies about the opioid crisis before a Senate committee in December 2015.

A Political Moment

The huge spike in opioid deaths in New Hampshire has given Spofford’s business a political boost. Senator Kelly Ayotte invited him to D.C. to testify before a Senate committee last month. Ayotte said Spofford's recovery story "shows you that there is hope."

And Spofford secured the Lakeview facility with the help of Governor Hassan’s outgoing drug czar, Jack Wozmak.

"My connection was that I was loath to see what seemed to be a relatively good facility lay dormant at a time when we had this need," says Wozmak. 

The drug czar put Spofford in touch with Lakeview, and they quickly made a deal.

I was loath to see what seemed to be a relatively good facility lay dormant at a time when we had this need. - Jack Wozmak, N.H. Senior Director for Substance Misuse and Behavioral Health, a.k.a Drug Czar

Spofford gave me a peek at the 69-page lease and sales agreement. Lakeview’s owner – a man named Chris Slover in Austin, Texas – will be the landlord until Spofford has the money to buy the place outright, something Spofford hopes happens this year. Local tax records indicate the land and buildings are assessed at about $5,566,100. Spofford says he’s begun extensive renovations at the facility.

No Beds in Carroll County - Yet

This pending sale would mark a change for not only this facility, but for Carroll County as well. Lakeview employed 350 people, making it one of the largest employers in the region. Green Mountain Treatment Center will employ about 100, including a few former Lakeview staff. This will bring desperately-needed treatment for addiction to a rural part of the state.

Jennifer Selfridge, the regional prevention coordinator for Carroll County, says there are no inpatient treatment beds for addiction in the county. 

"The nature of the problem here is no better, no worse than anywhere else in the state of New Hampshire. But because we’re primarily a rural set of communities, it’s hit us very hard," Selfridge says.

Spofford says training for 60 employees starts this Monday, and new clients will arrive the following week. The facility still doesn’t have a license from the state, but Spofford says regulators have assured him it’s being expedited.

Treatment at Green Mountain will cost around $15,000 per month, and the facility will accept private pay and commercial insurance. Spofford says he’s looking into accepting Medicaid.

Changing fortunes

Eric Spofford himself seems a little surprised at how fast he’s gone from heroin addict to opioid treatment entrepreneur.

Lakeview owned the 88-bed facility in Effingham, plus eight group homes in eastern New Hampshire. The company now holds on to one building in Effingham with about a dozen empty, unlicensed beds.

"Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that it would have grown the way it has," says Spofford, "and position me to be in a place of opening these programs and have a purpose in combating the opioid epidemic that spiraled out of control."

As Spofford’s business expands, Lakeview’s has followed an even faster decline. Just over a year ago, Lakeview owned the 88-bed facility in Effingham, plus 55 more beds in eight group homes throughout eastern New Hampshire. The company now holds on to one building in Effingham with about a dozen empty, unlicensed beds.

Lakeview is in the midst of a lengthy appeals process with the Department of Health and Human Services about the revocation of its license, with a hearing scheduled for next week.

Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance writer and radio reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.
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