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Special Tree History

How It All Got Started

Special Tree began more than forty years ago on an attractive, suburban campus in Romulus, Michigan when Dr. Joseph and the late Mrs. Jean Richert, Joseph C. Richert, and others acquired a nursing care facility called Woody's Rest Home. Changing the name to Apple Tree Lane, in November of 1974 we opened the doors of what is now part of Special Tree's NeuroCare Campus and we haven't closed them since.

While the initial focus involved geriatric care, that soon shifted. We started to treat younger clients who often had been catastrophically injured with traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries and were unable to find appropriate services elsewhere. Realizing we could help significantly improve the quality of life for these individuals, we slowly hired therapists, nurses, and others to provide rehabilitation services.

In the eighties and nineties, we expanded to include a day rehabilitation program and in 1986 opened our first residential home, The Cottage. Since then, our residential services program has grown to include 17 community residences and 22 supported living apartments in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Midland, and Saginaw counties.  In 2011, Special Tree took a big leap forward to provide the best oppportunities for healing and recovery with the expansion of our NeuroCare Campus in Romulus, a full service, state-of-the-art rehabilitation environment designed specifically for brain and spinal cord injury.  The four-acre campus offers subacute and outpatient services with the most advanced technology and amenities available including 39-bed subacute unit, in-wall equipment for respiratory care, a spacious, full-service therapy clinic, indoor pool, state-of-the-art greenhouse, and more. Now with more than 700 caring individuals on staff at over 30 locations, Special Tree provides a full continuum of rehabilitation and care for adults and children.

With a person-centered, choice-driven approach to treatment, Special Tree provides subacute, outpatient, residential, vocational, and home health care neurorehabilitation services. Our programs in brain injury, spinal cord injury, and multiple trauma are among the industry's best — thanks to our caring and dedicated staff — serving clients with active, long-term, and transitional needs.

A Leader in Brain Injury Since 1974

We are proud to have earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Special Tree has achieved nine successive, 3-year accreditation awards from CARF, earning our most recent in June 2015 for the following brain injury programs:


  • skilled nursing inpatient rehabilitation -adult
  • residential rehabilitation-adult
  • outpatient rehabilitation - interdisciplinary - adult
  • children and adolescents, pediatric speciality program
  • vocational services-adults


Special Tree has been a consistent and strong leader in supporting the brain injury rehabilitation movement in Michigan and at the national level. "Apple Tree" was a charter member of the National Head Injury Foundation (NHIF) Provider Council, and Special Tree held the first Michigan conference on brain injury in 1980.  Jean Richert founded the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council (MBIPC) in 1984, and her son, Joseph (our current President & CEO), followed in this tradition by serving as president of the Provider Council from 1993 to 1997. Today, it is considered the leading representative body for industry interests in Michigan.

In addition, Joseph Richert served as chairman of the Provider Council's Government Relations Council from 1997-98, and as a member of the national BIA Dispute Resolution Council. Joe also served as the Chairman of the Michigan Brain Injury Association, a non-profit agency dedicated to enhancing the lives of persons with brain injury, from 1999-2001 for which he received national honors– the 2001 State Association Assembly Leadership Award of Excellence by the Brain Injury Association of America. In the fall of 2003, Joe shifted his involvement with the BIA to the national front, when he was elected to the Board of Directors for the Brain Injury Association of America which he served until 2011.  Joe also served as the Chairman for the Brain Injury Association of America from 2007 - 2010.

In 2003, founders Dr. Joseph and Mrs. Jean Richert were recognized with the Legacy Society Community Service and Leadership Award from the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. “Doc and Jean,” as they were affectionately known, were honored for their leadership and commitment to persons with brain injuries and their families. Presented by the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, the annual Legacy Society Award honors individuals who have contributed to the brain injury field, or have worked to improve the lives of persons with brain injury and their families. The BIA of Michigan bestowed this same Legacy Society honor on President & CEO Joe Richert just three years later in March of 2006 with the Professional Clinical Leadership Award.  Other Legacy Award recipients from Special Tree include Peggy Allen Bock, Executive Director of Business Development, who received the Community Leadership Award in 2008, and Jack Richert, Vice President & Director of Referral and Admissions, who received the Community Service and Leadership Award in April 2018.

Special Tree continues its organizational commitment to both the BIA and MBIPC through strong financial and non-financial support and leadership. With many leaders and staff heavily involved professional and legislative organizations, we also maintain a strong position of advocacy for persons with brain injury, spinal cord injury, and other disabilities.