Case Studies

Steve Miller – NeuroRestorative

Because everyone has the right to comfort, independence

There’s no mistaking a McDonald’s with its iconic golden arches. Though less conspicuous, the same holds true for its internal programming that optimizes efficiency and customer satisfaction.

The same principles apply at a NeuroRestorative residential home that supports older adults and individuals with physical disabilities and behavioral health needs. It’s all part of the House in a Box modus operandi spearheaded by the long-time facilities director for what’s America’s largest and most experienced provider of rehabilitation services for people of all ages with brain, spinal cord and medically complex injuries, illnesses and other challenges.

Steve Miller | Facilities Director | NeuroRestorative

Steve Miller | Facilities Director | NeuroRestorative

Services are provided in community settings, including group homes where individuals can live more independently with appropriate support, Steve Miller tells Blueprint from Illinois. House in a Box is the appropriate model, says Miller, explaining how it has standardized construction for group homes ranging from three to eight bedrooms, though NeuroRestorative operates several larger facilities.

For all, Miller directs both modular and panelized construction, as well as traditional site-built models. Each has its merits—modular is assembled off-site and moved to a site, while panelized comprises components that are incorporated into the build.

As long as supply chains and vendors are reliable, a NeuroRestorative modular home can be assembled in as little as eight weeks. Such, says Miller, are the virtues of a proven repetitive process.

“We shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we open a new home,” he says. “A five-bedroom home in Iowa should look the same as a five-bedroom home in Illinois. The only variables should be the land the home sits on and any specific needs of the individuals who may live there.”

Safety and security first

The building’s envelope is only half the project. Just as important is the interior, which must meet state and federal regulatory standards. While Miller is receptive to a region’s preference for color and aesthetic differences, he applies standards into every facility: Walls durable enough to withstand bumps from wheelchairs, open lines-of-sight, and lots of natural light, to name a few. Hallways must have wider entrances and exits, emphasizing barrier-free living. Of utmost importance, every building must be fire-resistant, with means for suppression and centrally monitored alarms being standard. Whole house generators are also mandatory.

“Preventing a catastrophic event where the people are endangered is paramount,” he says. “We strive to protect them where they are. That’s one of the driving ambitions I’ve pushed and NeuroRestorative supports.”

Steve Miller | Facilities Director | NeuroRestorative

Steve Miller with Julie Brown and Heather Dempsey, who have all been colleagues for nearly 16+ years

NeuroRestorative operates in 28 states. In the event of a power outage, all facilities have a 72-hour minimum fuel supply for the whole-building power generators that, with Miller’s push for energy efficiency, can stretch as many as five days without causing discomfort. Natural gas is the preferred energy source for generators, as it is more reliable and generally uninterruptable.

Another benefit Miller brings to his role at NeuroRestorative is his CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist) credential. To achieve it, one must satisfy the National Association of Home Builders’ benchmarks for technical skills, business management and customer service. A CAPS designation helps the holder make a home more livable and “visitable” through such modifications as task lighting, grab bars, enhanced security and other in-demand features as the Baby Boomer generation goes grey.

“It benefits the individuals we serve as well as the company,” says Miller, who prioritizes hiring CAPS-certified contractors. “Whether or not we have disabilities, we’re all aging in place. None of us are getting younger.”

Winding down

That includes Miller, soon to be 71, with no plans for slowing down—at least not too much. Next year, however, he will step down from the role he’s held since 2007 but will remain a contracting consultant. He still has some projects to see through as NeuroRestorative continues to grow. Besides, he was born to build.

“I’ve been blessed to do what I love,” he says. “I’ve got this innate ability to figure out how things work.”

Steve Miller | Facilities Director | NeuroRestorative

He’s been doing so since he was 15, learning the trades from the ground up from an uncle who owned and developed extensive real estate holdings in Illinois. He served in the military and as a deputy sheriff, honed his skills as a maintenance process manager with Granite City Steel from 1972 to 1998, and then spent six years as a facilities engineer with Maytag Corp.

All that experience factored in him earning a degree in business management from Bellevue University. During the mid-2000s, he was president of Robin’s Song Property Holdings, an Illinois company that bought and restored century-old homes. That was a fun gig, but there was something about NeuroRestorative that seemed a more personal calling.

Empathy comes easy

As the grandfather of a grandson with muscular dystrophy, Miller says he feels an extra push to assist those in need of specialized housing. He says his conscience wouldn’t allow him to build any facility he wouldn’t deem fit for his own family members.

“Understanding the nuances of what an individual needs in a home is of the utmost importance to me,” he says. “Throughout my career, I’ve become a voice for people who have lost theirs.”

Thus, he desires to stay active even after his formal role with NeuroRestorative ends. He’d still like to impart his construction and maintenance know-how to whoever joins the team. He wants young people entering the trades to know what a fulfilling livelihood it can be. Few occupations enable one to view the physical fruition of their labor.

Steve Miller | Facilities Director | NeuroRestorative

Steve Miller with Julie Brown, Heather Dempsey, Chris Williamson, Executive Director over IL, IA, and KS, and Tony Neumann, IT Manager

And even fewer can be satisfied with helping build a facility essential to those most in need. NeuroRestorative residents include individuals recovering from neurological trauma, veterans on the mend, children with autism, the elderly, and many others who may require temporary, if not permanent, care.

All the better, Miller says, if they can be housed in a community-based facility that is more welcoming than the institutions of a thankfully bygone era.

“It’s been a natural fit for me,” says Miller, who assembled the facilities team so instrumental to NeuroRestorative extending its footprint to more than half of the United States. “Now my wife and I are ready to enjoy the fruits of my labor, but I’ll never completely put down my tools.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. I 2024 Edition here.

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