“I am so appreciative and in awe of the work Cirque Lodge has done for me and my family, I would like someone else less fortunate than me to have this experience! Can I make a donation to your organization?” With that simple statement a decision was made to launch the Cirque Lodge Foundation.
The Foundation was formed to provide patient care to those people who could never afford the opportunity to receive the kind of premium addiction treatment available in a facility like Cirque Lodge.
The Cirque Lodge Foundation (CLF) is a non-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) status that is domiciled in the State of Utah. The Foundation was incorporated on August 19, 2002, and we received our tax exemption “Determination Letter” from the Internal Revenue Service on April 28, 2003.
The mission of the Cirque Lodge Foundation is to provide quality treatment in the form of partial scholarships for patients who suffer from substance use disorders and other co-occurring mental health disorders.
Significantly, and from the very start of our mission, we believed the delineation between the Cirque Lodge Foundation and others who provide services like ours was, and still is, in the selection process of those who are granted aid. That said, services are to be granted to candidates based as much on their motivation for care as it is on their financial need. Our triage process was and is carried out based on a person’s stated and demonstrated willingness to succeed if given the gift of a “partial scholarship” treatment stay. That very aid is then continually assessed during the person’s stay by different professionals in the field who make up the CLF Board, with most of the input coming from a client’s primary therapeutic contact.
Another primary belief in carrying out our mission is that any Foundation candidate must have a reasonable ability to continue a recovery plan once discharged from their treatment stay. That use of these precious funds is always predicated on a person’s desire and ability to succeed post discharge from their treatment and then carry the message and the mission to others who suffer from the malady of dependency. This enables the benefit of our Foundation dollars to go well beyond just the people we serve.
To give some historical context for the Cirque Lodge Foundation and the genesis of our mission, it is helpful to start with the Cirque Lodge itself.
The Cirque Lodge officially opened for business on November 14th, 1999, with the admission of our first client in December of that year. But the history goes well before that first day in November. There are those who will attest that Cirque Lodge has always been inspired, and some might even call it divine.
The Lodge was not initially intended to be for people with substance use disorders. It started as a dream with no more of a purpose than that of a large cabin for family and friends. But as with many families, chemical dependency was tearing at the moorings that anchored the family who owned the predestined Lodge. When things appeared to be at their darkest moment, the family patriarch was confiding to his beloved mother one evening, confessing his immense grief and ongoing concern for a young family member for whom they had tried everything they knew of to help. Over a very difficult and challenging period of time the family had tried every possible intervention known to them -- a cattle ranch in a neighboring state, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, therapy, a treatment center, etc. That night, the inspired mother caringly asked her patriarch son if he had prayed. So, late that night, he got on his knees and prayed fervently to his Higher Power, who for him is God, to intervene on this very close and dear family member. The next day, up on the build site that was to become Cirque Lodge, this young family member surprisingly appeared. After many months of poor communication, much less any meaningful conversation, the young person confided to the patriarch that the night before he had been about to do something that would have been extremely detrimental to himself and others, but suddenly, and at the last moment, was moved to pull out. And then the young man shared that he sincerely wanted to change. After a moment, the patriarch quietly asked him what time it was the previous night that he was so moved, and as you might have guessed, it coincided miraculously with the time of the fervent prayer.
Feeling as if his family had been spared a great tragedy and feeling moved to help others who suffered from the dark abyss of addiction, the Lodge was repurposed with the mission of serving those with drug and alcohol addictions. And it was at this point that the family discovered how many in their community didn’t want to have anything to do with helping people suffering from alcohol and drug abuse problems. And they certainly didn’t want to help them if the facility was anywhere close to where they lived.
With patience and fortitude, and with the help of the Americans with Disability Act, the Lodge was finally allowed to proceed with our mission of helping families and their loved ones recover from this devastating disease. A beautiful mountain Lodge was dedicated to healing and recovery in the peace and serenity of the Rocky Mountains! Certainly, it is the most spectacular venue in the treatment industry.
And it would have been great if the challenges for the Lodge, and for the substance abuse treatment industry stopped right there, but of course they didn’t. At that very moment in history our 3rd party payers (insurance companies) had carried out a very well planned and articulated assault on paying for people who needed a residential level of care. They were masquerading under new terminology called Managed Care. Crying aloud, how they would save businesses and individuals their hard-earned wages by making decisions about who was appropriate for residential care and who could do without. Of course, the people making these decisions had never met your loved one, had never sat with you in the hospital while you wondered if your child would survive this last overdose, or sat with you late at night wondering whether they were safe or if they were dead. They sat in offices many miles away from the treatment facilities themselves and were paid to deny care to those members who had faithfully paid premiums throughout their lives. Trusting, that if the time came when they needed those services, the policy would be there for their spouse, their kids, or even for them. And of course, this might have had some merit if the insurance companies had done that, saving the consumer money, but they just used this to achieve record earnings. We don’t think there are many individuals 20 plus years later that feel like our healthcare is a bargain of any sort! They just used the concept of Managed Care for their own gain.
So, if insurance wouldn’t pay for care, we took the next obvious step and decided that if we were going to make a go of it, we would charge people cash for their treatment and strive to make the experience worthy of their hard earned investment. We would obviously reduce our demographic significantly and since there were very few others that had successfully trudged this path, we did so with valid trepidation. But like a person who knows the only way out is up, we began our climb.
Initially the progress was slow, and the risk was great. Who was this new treatment group with a sound clinical modality that also featured an adult experiential treatment component? Would they stay true to their mission, and did they have the stamina and wherewithal to survive? There’s a story of one of the well-respected therapists in our field who when asked about Cirque Lodge and not knowing she was speaking to one of our employees said, “They are really nice people, but they won’t last 6 months!” But last we did. And not only did the Lodge survive but it thrived. Superb treatment was provided with dignity and respect. Treatment that was solid clinically, with a tremendous experiential component that at the same time was beautifully appointed. Shame and guilt were replaced with love and understanding. That is not to say it was, or is, easy, but it was done without judgement. It is often said that “if Mom needed to go to treatment, I would send her to Cirque Lodge.”
And this is where the genesis of the Cirque Lodge Foundation began. It started with a client, who in coming to treatment was able to initially afford their first month but then could not afford to stay longer. Of course back then there were only 16 beds, and the treatment community was small and intimate. This is still true of our Lodge in Sundance today. The Lodge patriarch, when faced with the decision of discharging the person who had no wherewithal to stay longer, made the decision to keep them at his own expense. The generosity of this act of kindness was not lost on the community and after one of the other Lodge residents had discharged, he contacted the Lodge to inquire about donating to help people who either couldn’t afford to come in the first place, or who while there might need some additional funds. Now a person who might not have been as fortunate in life as this gentleman, might be able to enjoy the fruits of an exceptional treatment program.
But even this gentleman in his largesse was hoping that his funds donated to such a worthy cause could bring him some tax benefits. And so it was at this time that the Cirque Lodge Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. And invitations were sent to our alumni and a few blessed friends who were passionate about recovery, sharing that here was a nonprofit instrument which would wisely use their donations to help people who might not be able to fully afford care for themselves, and certainly not this level of care. Quality treatment was also here for that working family, who because their insurance had abandoned them, did not have the necessary funds to send their loved ones to care. Their monies would go to help the motivated who had a genuine chance to succeed and then would carry the message further. And we didn’t need their money to pay salaries or build buildings, we would do that. Our goal was to provide the gift of partial scholarships, but we recognized that if the immense demands were to be lessened, we needed your help!
In early 2002, as The Salt Lake Winter Olympics took place here in Utah, the “Studio” was opened in the former Osmond Television Studio located at the mouth of Provo Canyon; a few miles down from the Lodge. The Studio is a 100,000 square foot building with amenities such as an indoor ropes course, horse arena, recording studio, gymnasium, and fitness center. It also houses (in an indoor hanger) our Cirque Lodge EC130 Helicopter which has been effectively used for many years in carrying our residents up into our magnificent mountains where we land and experience our Rock Cairn at 9,000 feet.
The Studio’s living quarters are currently being expanded, featuring glorious views of Mount Timpanogas and the Cascade Mountain range. A half-mile 12-Step exercise path is being completed inside the perimeter of our twelve acres. For many years the addition of the Studio has allowed us to provide the depth of treatment afforded at the Lodge at a value more people can access. The Foundation has helped many to benefit at this life changing venue.
As has been verbalized many times over the years, the more some things have changed, the more they have remained the same. The promise of the Parity Act that would have given families the same sort of benefits for mental health (substance abuse) that they receive for medical issues has largely gone unenforced. The same forces that paralyze our government to a state of inaction have largely left the insurance companies above the law. They have no fear of prosecution. It isn’t their daughter dying of the overdose and when it is, they simply make the call to override the policy limits.
The Affordable Care Act, like many government programs, was well intentioned but doomed from the start. For many people, they had the illusion of coverage, and a coverage that would pay for more than the most basic substance use disorder treatment. So in essence, they were saying, we want your child or loved one to have a chance, but just not the best chance. It is shameful really.
This past calendar year America topped 100,000 opiate overdose deaths. Just opiates alone. That’s about 2000 men and women (mostly young) every week. And there were approximately the same number of alcohol related deaths! In this war we are fighting we are losing approximately 4000 people every week. And the end is not in sight. In fact, with current health concerns in the world today, alcohol and substance abuse is reaching new heights of depredation. To give us all perspective, the Vietnam War was responsible for approximately 100 deaths per week. We currently are losing more people to opiates every year than we lost in the entire Vietnam conflict.
Today, Cirque Lodge is but one entity in this bold war to help save current multitudes of people suffering from the disease of substance abuse. You may be familiar with the simple but powerful story of the young lad walking the seashore throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean, one by one. An old gentleman quizzically walked up to the youngster, and after surveying the thousands of starfish that had washed up on the shore, asked the young man what he was doing. The young man said to him earnestly, “I am saving the starfish!” The old man quickly responded, “You can’t possibly make a difference, there are thousands of them!” Then, as the young man picked up another struggling starfish from the sand and heaved it meaningfully back into the surf, he turned to the older gentleman and said, “Well, I made a difference to that one.”
The mission of the Cirque Lodge Foundation has been to assist addicts, one at a time. Giving that addict, that family, who would never get this opportunity, the best chance possible. To not only survive this vicious malady but then to take this gift of recovery and spread it beyond themselves. To carry the message of recovery to those who might never find our care. There is an old surgical concept, “See one, do one, teach one!” That is our goal for everyone we treat with every Cirque Lodge Foundation dollar, that not only do our recipients get to experience what outstanding recovery looks like, but that they then practice that recovery, and finally go on to teach these concepts to other addicts and alcoholics who still suffer.