Construction ended in one of the restrooms at the New Directions Retreat in Woodstock, just minutes before the first guests arrived at noon, January 7, for the ribbon cutting at the recovery residence.
Social worker Dave Ensor picked up a mop to clean the bathroom floor and get it ready for outings.
As he rubbed, Ensor experienced a strong sense of déjà vu. Two decades earlier, while battling drug and alcohol addiction, his adviser, Doug, taught him how to use a mop.
“I didn’t know how,” admitted Ensor.
He was not only misusing substances, but he lacked the basic skills to maintain any type of home.
When 15 men move this week to New Directions Retreat on 14411 Kishwaukee Valley Road to take the next step in their recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, Ensor will be their social worker. In the spring of 2022, he will complete his bachelor’s degree in social work and be a certified alcohol and drug advisor.
“I honestly thought I would never be here,” said Ensor.
It is not a treatment center
Ensor’s other celebration this spring will be for his 22 years of sobriety.
At first, he said, he sobered up because he wanted “for the pain to go away.”
He remains sober for a different reason.
“I want to know how to help people better,” said Ensor, “to see the light in your eyes.”
The help New Directions Retreat promises mimics a model “that you are starting to see across the country,” said Bobby Gattone, executive director of New Directions.
One such program is at Oaks Recovery in Greenwood, S.C., where customers who have completed an intensive recovery program spend up to one year in makeshift housing with access to meetings, workshops and programs with the support of the Oaks Recovery team.
The New Directions Retreat is not a treatment facility, emphasized Gattone. Instead, it leads those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction to long-term sobriety.
The perfect candidate for the new recovery home, he said, is someone who comes from a detox program or a short-term treatment center.
“What we are trying to give them,” said Gattone, “is a long-term supportive environment.”
Gathering tools for success
The 15 men who are moving to the Woodstock facility met with an advisor who determined their suitability for the program. They will spend 90 days at the KishwaukeeValley Road retreat, designated for a room with one or two beds.
They will receive help to get a job, open a bank account and obtain a driver’s license or obtain another means of transport.
Residents are required to work, pay a $ 200 weekly rent, get home on time, complete assigned tasks, cook for the group once a week, attend community meals, and attend a daily Twelve Step meeting.
“The defined structure offers accountability,” said Dan Woodward, New Directions main case manager. “They bring together the tools they need to succeed in society.”
After 90 days there, residents can move into one of New Directions’ three sober houses, where they can stay for up to 18 months. New Directions also supports independent apartments with the support of the team.
In total, someone who enters Retiro Novas Directions can stay in the program for two years, continuing with a social worker and a recovery coach throughout the period.
It is a model that goes against the 28-day alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs that have become the standard of care because a much-admired Air Force rehabilitation program had a 28-day schedule, which avoided mandatory leave from service. for more than 30 days they had to be reassigned.
McHenry County Attorney Patrick Kenneally said the 28-day programs had “single-digit success rates”.
New Directions estimates that 60 percent of those who complete their 90-day program “will permanently maintain their sobriety”.
This disparity in numbers makes sense for Kenneally.
Substance misuse “leaves your life in such a state of damage and desolation,” he said.
A person’s entire life – work, home, family and community – has been lost or damaged.
“What needs to happen is a longer way to rebuild your life,” said Kenneally.
In addition, there is a growing awareness that substance misuse is a chronic health condition – much like diabetes or hypertension – that requires lifelong surveillance to stay healthy.
“In the past 10 years, studies have revealed that the biggest determinant of success is the length of the program,” said Gattone. “The longer the program, the better the chances of success.”
Private public partnership
Even after opening its third sober house, Gattone said, New Directions had a waiting list of 50 to 60 names.
“We knew we needed something bigger,” said Gattone, but he and New Directions founder Chris Reed figured that a larger installation would take years.
But when the Pioneer Center for Human Services had the opportunity to open a homeless shelter all year round in McHenry, the organization had trouble selling its PADS shelter on Kishwaukee Valley Road.
Scott Block, executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Council, saw an opportunity. He worked with Reed and Pioneer Center co-CEO Sam Tenuto to set up a public and private financing agreement.
The Mental Health Council provided $ 505,000 for Pioneer’s new homeless shelter, and New Directions purchased the Kishwaukee Valley Road property for $ 75,000 from public and private sources, including the INTREN contractor and the Foglia Family Foundation.
An additional $ 150,000 came from confiscation funds – seizure of property involved in a crime – from the State Prosecutor’s Office.
The Mental Health Council will provide $ 200,000 of funding in 2021 to the Retiro Novas Directions team. Thereafter, the facility’s self-pay model will reduce the Mental Health Board’s investment.
New Directions continues to raise funds to open Building B on the property. Once retired, what Gattone expects to be in late summer, men will move to Building B and women will be welcomed into Building A, for a total of 30 to 35 residents.
Sense of ownership
“Chris has always wanted to make the houses and facilities look much nicer than a normal retirement home,” said Gattone of Reed.
To that end, a capital campaign raised $ 240,000, which was invested in cleaning, painting, new flooring and remodeling all the bathrooms in Building A.
Gattone said the biggest project was to tear down walls to open the brand-new kitchen to the dining room – the place for every community meal in the evening.
The time we spend together helps residents “make new friends in the recovery community,” said Woodward.
“You were put in this beautiful place,” said Gattone. “You take pride and take care of it.”
New Directions continues to raise money for the renovation of Building B to extend its services to women and provide a total of 30 to 35 beds. To learn more, visit the New Directions website www.ndars.org or call New Directions Retreat at 779-220-0336.