The History of Harmony Foundation

In 1969, a group of local men (Estes Park year-round and summer residents) discussed the need for helping alcoholics in Estes Park. These men were, themselves, recovering alcoholics, and instrumental in bringing AA to the community.

Pooling their resources, they purchased a 42-acre parcel of property on Fish Hatchery Road, known as “Harmony Ranch”. Harmony had been operated as a dude ranch; a summer getaway with a pool, fine dining facilities and a 3-hole golf course. The owner of the property was a big game hunter and the lodge was replete with trophies, including an elephant, giraffe, black rhino and a polar bear. The “polar bear lounge” as it was known, was a very popular local bar.

In the earliest days, Harmony served as mostly a revolving door opportunity for alcoholics to sleep it off, dry out, attend a couple of AA meetings, and return home. The results were not very good, and the cost to maintain the large facility was becoming prohibitive. The original idea was expanded to include some group therapy sessions and over a few years time, a physician was hired and treatment was developed, following the Minnesota Model. “Students” as they were called, were expected to pay for services, to stay for at least two weeks and to continue with a commitment to AA upon leaving the program.

Finances continued to be a serious issue, and a larger, longer mortgage was obtained with the help of some of the early graduates of the program, many of whom were very successful Denver businessmen. These men were so devoted to the cause, that they frequently covered payroll costs themselves, contributed funds for operational and capital needs personally, and pitched in to do grounds keeping, maintenance and administrative tasks. The program was extended to a 28 day model, with great success, and Harmony’s reputation grew. A large grant from the Gates Foundation provided the needed funds to refurbish the cabins. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, insurance companies began accepting alcoholism as a disease, and paying for treatment.

In the mid-80’s Harmony became accredited for the first time, through JCAHO* (Now known as TJC, The Joint Commission), an amazing feat for such a small organization. Most referrals were from our successful graduates, along with EAPs* from major corporations such as United Airlines, Chrysler, Burlington Northern Railroad, and Phillips, Exxon and other oil companies, as well as many others. Harmony continued to be recognized nationally as an outstanding treatment facility, and in the late 90’s became accredited by CARF.* CARF helps Harmony with continually improving the quality of their services, demonstrating value, and meeting internationally recognized organizational and program standards.

With the onset of managed care in the early 90’s, insurance companies were no longer willing to pay for long lengths of stay for residential substance abuse treatment. In fact, until the development of the ASAM* criteria, insurance companies could apply whatever criteria they chose to deny coverage for substance abuse treatment. EAPs* no longer had the decision making authority required to refer their clients to treatment. Many good treatment centers were forced to close their doors. Harmony was able, through good management, to weather this significant “storm” in the industry and stay open. The face of the business had changed, however, and most treatment centers that survived were non-profits who were challenged to provide quality treatment at affordable prices, and Harmony’s payer mix shifted to predominantly private pay.

Over the course of its 40+ year history, Harmony has witnessed many social changes which have affected treatment significantly. It is safe to say that in the earliest fifteen years of its operation, Harmony was treating primarily alcoholics, most of whom were male. Additionally, some clients were addicted to prescription medications, and these (mostly women) represented a very small percentage of Harmony’s clients. In the 90’s cocaine became a drug of choice for many clients. The most recent demographics indicate a high incidence of methamphetamine abuse, along with prescription drug abuse and a resurgence of heroin addiction. Typically, alcohol is also used and abused by many of the clients, in addition to the other drugs. The last decade has seen a definite shift in the gender demographic, leading Harmony to provide gender specific treatment for men and women.

Beginning in 2008, Harmony expanded detox facilities and approaches to include subutex detox methods for opiate addicts. We have found this to be very helpful in assisting the addict through the very painful physical detox from these drugs.

Harmony has an outstanding program, spanning five decades of providing successful treatment for alcoholics and drug addicts. Throughout its history, Harmony has shown itself to be adaptable to social, economic and moral trends both within the community at large, and the treatment community, specifically. Harmony continues to provide the tools needed for successful, ongoing recovery, utilizing evidence based best practices in an unparalleled mountain setting, at a moderate cost.

*ASAM – American Society of Addictions Medicine

*Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities

*EAP – Employee Assistance Program(s)

*JCAHO – Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations

Please contact us with any questions you may have.