From our Founder & President
The History of The Renfrew Center from Renfrew’s Founder and President,
Samuel E. Menaged, JD
As a practicing healthcare attorney in the early 1980’s, my response to a friend who suggested I help establish an eating disorder facility was “What’s an eating disorder?” At that time eating disorders were a well-kept secret and specialized treatment centers were non-existent. Little did I know what life had in store for me.
By speaking with professionals and women who had suffered from anorexia and bulimia, it became apparent to me that current treatments were more symptom focused and were not addressing the underlying issues. Women deserved a comprehensive treatment approach in a non-institutional environment. After many months of research, Renfrew’s concept of helping women heal through community and empowerment was created.
Recognizing the positive effects that environment has on healing, I met with the owner of the 27 acre Renfrew Farm. A delightful woman, she was an heir to the Pennsylvania Railroad fortune and aware that eating disorders were a serious and pervasive problem but that the population was underserved. She proceeded to sell The Renfrew Farm and construction began in July, 1984, with the goal of creating a home-like atmosphere to address the underlying issues in stark contrast to most psychiatric and general hospitals. In June of 1985, The Renfrew Center opened its doors as the first residential facility in the country exclusively dedicated to the treatment of women with eating disorders.
We knew we were pioneers. Assembling a staff of administrative and clinical personnel – psychologists, social workers, nurses, nutritionists, psychiatrists, and physicians, most of whom were young, enthusiastic and imbued with the mission - we rolled up our sleeves and did whatever was necessary to make Renfrew a success. In two short years our beds were full with patients from all over the world. After reaching capacity in 1987, we explored expansion opportunities and in 1990 opened the country’s second residential facility in Coconut Creek, Florida, on a 10 acre horse farm.
With the advent of managed care in the mid-1990’s, Renfrew’s model changed to accommodate other levels of care. We created the country’s first day treatment and intensive outpatient program for eating disorders. This continuum of care was met favorably by managed care organizations, enabling Renfrew to secure more than 450 insurance contracts, but more importantly giving women greater access to specialized care. Today, Renfrew has treatment facilities in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
In 1990 we also decided to form The Renfrew Center Foundation, whose main mission is the education of professionals and the public about eating disorders, prevention and treatment. The Foundation has now held 29 annual conferences — each attracting approximately 700 professionals from the U.S. and abroad — hosts one day seminars throughout the country, offers free educational webinars and has developed a robust research department. To date, the outreach has trained more than 40,000 professionals.
Advocacy is another of the Foundation’s missions. As a founding member of the Eating Disorders Coalition, Renfrew has participated in Lobby Days in Washington, DC, and has been instrumental in the development of the FREED Act, a bill which will increase research dollars for the eating disorders field, dedicate funds for the creation of prevention programs and improve access to treatment.
Over the past quarter century, our multi-generational family-run business, has proudly distinguished itself as the premier eating disorders organization internationally. The journey of The Renfrew Center has always been guided by the more than 85,000 courageous patients who have crossed our paths over the years and whom we have helped empower to take back their lives. We look forward to continuing that journey.
Samuel E. Menaged, JD is the Founder and President of The Renfrew Centers and The Renfrew Center Foundation. Mr. Menaged founded The Renfrew Center 34 years ago as the country's first residential treatment facility specializing in eating disorders. He is the past-President of the Board of the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy and Action, an advocacy group based in Washington, DC. Mr. Menaged is a former healthcare attorney.