Program Review: The Renfrew Center

Renfrew PicMany years ago I had the pleasure of visiting The Renfrew Center just outside of Philadelphia, PA. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a gigantic private residence with it’s ancient stone farm house, stables, and quintessential barn. Definitely one of the more beautiful suburban locations for a treatment center I’ve seen. I had my tour of the grounds which look more like an upscale farm (in a good way), talked with the Executive Director about mental health under a giant oak tree, and got to know the program schedule as young women shuffled in and out of the various buildings. Below are more details on Renfrew with my Final Thoughts at the end. 

Background

The Renfrew Center is headquartered in has been serving women with eating disorders and behavioral health issues since 1985. As one of the nation’s first residential eating disorder facility, with 16 locations throughout the country, Renfrew claims to have worked with more than 65,000 women since their founding. The Renfrew Center has experienced it’s most significant growth in the last decade and a half have with the additional of programs across the country. 

Services

The Renfrew Center offers a full continuum of care that supports patients well beyond a residential stay. This comprehensive range of services available at most of their locations, includes day treatment, intensive outpatient and outpatient programs. The services are tailored for each patient and with her referring therapist to develop treatment plans and goals based on her unique needs.

Renfrew maintains continuity in philosophy and approach throughout the individual’s treatment, while facilitating timely transitions from one level of care to another in order to maximize treatment and insurance benefits. 

Residential services are only offered in their Philadelphia, Pa and Coconut Creek, Fl locations. 

Clients

Renfrew works with women over the age of 14 suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and related mental health problems.

Locations

Cost
Residential – $8050 per week
They work with most insurers so a significant portion of services may be covered. 

Reviews
Employees on multiple sites give Renfrew some terrible grades for working conditions, diversity of the work force, and work-life balance. Most notably were many comments on Renfew’s seeming focus on profit and not much focus on treatment. They also described poor, untrained supervisors that did little to organize chaotic situations. 

Clients on the other hand often report having a positive experience and feeling somewhat nurtured. There were dozens of reports from clients going back to Renfrew multiple times for support. This could be viewed as good or bad. 
The New York location stood out with many, many negative reviews which highlights an ongoing theme among larger providers like Renfrew – when it comes down to actual effectiveness of a program, everything has to do with the clinicians at specific locations and very little to do with the corporate handlers up above. 

Contact

Here is a link to their online contact form which is probably the best way to get ahold of them. 

Final Thoughts
Oh how I wish programs like Renfrew could just slow down and focus more on quality. I’ve known too many therapists over the years who think poorly of Renfrew’s clinical integrity to feel comfortable referring clients that come to Fonthill. That said, it doesn’t mean women struggling with an ED should avoid Renfrew. I think programs like this have a place in the menu of options, especially if you want treatment close to a major metro area like Philadelphia. Just make sure to make a decision on more than what the admissions folks at Renfrew tell you. Look up reviews, talk with outpatient eating disorder specialists (like Dr. Joanna Marino in Washington, DC) or placement specialists (…like Fonthill ) and do your homework. It’s expensive and takes a huge amount of time to go to Renfrew so don’t rush in. 

Philadelphia Prep School Drug Ring: Affluence and Substance Abuse (and really good business planning)

Two young men, 25-year-old Neil Scott and 18-year-old Timothy Brooks, developed what they allegedly called the “Main Line Take-Over Project” (the Main Line referring to a group of affluent towns and cities outside Philadelphia). Their business plan: Take over the drug trade at some of Pennsylvania’s best schools. The team also had at least eight employees with a sophisticated business infrastructure. Scott and Brooks would allegedly push their dealers to each move at least one lbs of pot per week, and offer incentives like lower drug prices and the ability to buy drugs on credit if they successfully hooked new customers.

Montgomery County authorities announced April 20th that they were able to destroy this ambitious effort. They confiscated marijuana, hash oil, cocaine, ecstasy as well as cash and weapons and arrested the pair allegedly at the center of it.

“They were in business to make money, and they were going to do whatever they needed to do to make sure that no one threatened their business,” Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.

Officials claim Scott ran the operation by shipping pot from California to Pennsylvania, while Brooks supervised sub-dealers at area high schools.

And these weren’t just any schools. They include the prestigious Haverford School ($35,000/yr tuition), from which both Scott and Brooks graduated. Also included were Conestoga, Radnor, Harriton and Lower Merion – each of which have some of the highest SAT scores in Pennsylvania.  According to the district attorney’s office, all had students tied to the drug ring. College students involved hailed from Gettysburg, Haverford and Lafayette Colleges.

Authorities seized stacks of cash and some semi-automatic weapons
Authorities seized stacks of cash and some semi-automatic weapons

In brief comments Tuesday, Scott’s lawyer Tom Egan said his client’s “main concern … is how the mandatory minimums are going to operate if he’s indeed guilty of the offenses.”

Greg Pagano, Brooks’ attorney, spoke more extensively regarding his client, who went to the University of Richmond in 2013 on a lacrosse scholarship then left after one semester. He said Brooks had gotten injured, after which he was at home, “idle and suffering from some depression” when he got involved with Scott “at a very susceptible, low point in his life.”

“He’s willing to accept responsibility for what he did,” Pagano said of Brooks, whom he said “was involved in this conspiracy for a very, very short period of time.”

In a news conference and release, authorities laid out what they described as an elaborate operation to build up business. This effort included things like offering incentives to sub-dealers, such as lower drug prices and being able to buy them on credit.

Including Scott and Brooks, eight people have been arrested in the case, an arrest warrant is out on another, and there are petitions for two juveniles. All but two of those arrested attended local schools such as Lafayette College, the Haverford School and local public high schools. They face a host of drug, criminal conspiracy and other charges.

Reflecting on the areas where this alleged drug scheme operated, Seth Williams — the district attorney for Philadelphia, which is near the schools in question — said in a press release, “The days of, ‘It can’t happen here’ are long gone.”

The arrests follow an investigation that began in January. Authorities say seized text messages showed the suspects’ plans to expand the business, with Scott giving Brooks business advice on how to expand marijuana sales in local high schools and Brooks encouraging sub-dealers to “efficiently distribute drugs at their schools,” Ferman’s office said.

Authorities assert the discovery of a loaded .223 caliber AR-15 assault rifle, in addition to a semi-automatic pistol and another rifle, suggest the drug ring’s leaders had the capability to use force.

Ferman admitted she’s bothered by the fact Scott — who left Connecticut College after three semesters of study after being sanctioned for using marijuana and creating fake IDs — and Brooks both attended Haverford, then allegedly did what they did.

“You’re dealing with kids from one of the finest institutions probably in the country,” she said. “To take those skills and turn it into this kind of illegal enterprise is very distressing.”