By Madeline Makoul
The Women’s Treatment Center (TWTC) at 140 N. Ashland Ave. merged with Caritas Central Intake effective July 1, joining under the Caritas Companies Inc. name to service adults with substance abuse disorder.
TWTC and Caritas began their affiliation in 1993, with Caritas acting as an “advisor and management company” to TWTC, Trista Bordignon, Caritas’s new executive director, said. The two organizations share space—and an entrance—making the merger even more seamless.
“After looking at the financial picture and the landscape with the State and managed care organizations, we saw a lot of synergies,” Bordignon said. “It made sense from a financial standpoint and from a standpoint of being able to use our resources to help the most amount of people.”
TWTC has offered a substance abuse program for women with children since 1990, Lori Grove, the center’s grant manager, said. The program helps women who are pregnant, single, postpartum, and/or parenting and allows them to bring their children.
Historically, TWTC offered services to women with substance abuse disorder ranging from residential treatments to recovery home options, an outpatient program, and a Community Mental Health Center (CMHC), Grove explained.
Following the merger, Caritas Inc. will remain female-only for inpatient treatment options and for recovery home options for single women and women with children, while outpatient offerings and CMHC will open to all genders.
“Our outpatient services will be expanded to include both men and women, including the methadone clinic, treatment with suboxone, and counseling and case management we typically give to clients,” Grove explained.
Caritas Central Intake has operated as a gender-neutral outpatient treatment program since 1976, Grove said.
“TWTC saw over 200 women daily for methadone in our outpatient program, but over at Caritas Central Intake they saw over 500 people daily, so the combined organization will see more people and generate more capacity to expand that reach in our services as well,” Grove explained.
Services for women struggling with drug abuse go beyond treatment with methadone or suboxone, helping them with housing or professional skills to ensure they get back on their feet, Grove said.
“Many of the women in the recovery home are often considered outpatients,” Grove said. “They have been through our treatment program and aren’t ready to enter their communities, so they live in our recovery home while they continue to adjust. If they need a job or to go on interviews, we have daycare for their children, and then in the recovery homes we also have a parenting education program so that women with children learn the basics of being a good parent.”
The center provides many of these professional development offerings and parenting programs through the Junior League Club of Chicago and Chicago Cares. These two organizations’ volunteers help ensure women receive a more holistic experience, Grove said.
Melissa Schumacher, president of the Junior League Club of Chicago, said her organization has partnered with TWTC for 30 years and will continue to do so after the merger. JLC volunteers support programs and experiences that promote healthful lifestyles, foster a healthy parent-child relationship, and facilitate exposure to resources. Experiences include 90-minute workshops addressing a host of topics such as interviewing skills, “dressing for success,” and managing finances and healthcare. During workshops, additional volunteers provide daycare so attendees can focus on learning, Schumacher said.
“We will facilitate conversations about their next step, whether it’s housing or career path or just managing money,” Schumacher said. “We develop relationships with these women and check in on them and their goals, and that follow-up and ongoing dialogue fosters potential for building self-confidence for these women as they re-enter society.”
JLC also coordinates Saturday trips, taking the women and their children to sites such as the Adler Planetarium and Garfield Park Conservatory. Last year, JLC secured a grant from the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation for a new washer and dryer for the clothing room to launder donated clothes, Schumacher said.
With therapists and doctors to help facilitate recovery, as well as volunteers to ease transition back into the community, Grove said the center will continue its dedication to women as it expands under the Caritas name.
“We are going to continue to address the addiction problem, providing services to them in the form of counseling and case management so that they are given the tools to rebuild their lives in a more healthy way,” Grove said. “We want to continue that and expand that for the population that we serve.”
As Caritas Companies Inc. continues serving the community, it is making adjustments due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We definitely slowed down our intake, but we aren’t in a position where we can close our doors to methadone dosing, so we instead had to find a way to minimize as many people in the building as possible,” Bordignon said.
As coronavirus continues to develop, Bordignon said the center is doing initial screenings over the phone. Then, new patients must get a coronavirus test, and the facility has an area where they can quarantine pending results. At this time, the facility is not accepting visitors, and staff must have their temperature checked.
While staff deal with these necessary changes, Grove said they remain focused on helping the community. She noted the facility’s location allows those struggling with drug addiction to receive treatment close to home.
Likewise, Bordignon said serving as a resource to a community that needs these services is important, especially when it comes to treatments such as methadone and suboxone that require people to be close to the source of treatment.
“We are dedicated to providing services to the most vulnerable population, including people of color and women with children,” Bordignon said. “Mental health and substance abuse issues are going to continue to be issues during this challenging time, and we want to help as many people as we can.”
Contact Lori Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the Junior League Club of Chicago, visit https://www.jlchicago.org/.