Professional help for professionals struggling with addiction

Article and Photos
By David Blanchette

The Gateway Foundation is giving more people a choice that’s closer to home for addiction treatment.

Gateway will open a new 22-bed professional men’s treatment unit on Sept. 1 that provides a local alternative to out-of-state programs, according to Kerry Henry, executive director of the Gateway Foundation in Springfield.

“Say someone works for the state, or they’re maybe a nurse or an attorney. One of the things that people in those professions want to do is a fly-away program, go to Florida or California,” Henry said. “One of the things I’m trying to do here is offer the amenities that those places offer, yet allow them to be here where their families can participate. Because when you do a fly-away program, you are not necessarily able to have your family involved.”

Gateway closed its youth addiction treatment unit in late July and then completed a five-week renovation to the facility, transforming it into a unit offering more higher-end amenities for men to make it a nicer place for them to feel safe and recover, Henry said. The transformation was funded through the Gateway Foundation, the Springfield campus’ parent organization that is headquartered in Chicago and has addiction treatment facilities in several states.

Chance the therapy dog sits in on a Gateway admissions session.

“We are adding the professional men’s program because of the high demand,” Henry said. “We have a waiting list sometimes to get into beds, so by expanding our adult services we hope to better serve the community.”

The Gateway Foundation is located at 2200 Lake Victoria Dr., and the residential facility employs 127 people and serves 108 adult men and women at a time. An adjacent outpatient facility is staffed by 30 people and serves approximately 200 patients a day. Both the inpatient and outpatient operations treat all of the substance abuse disorders, including addiction to alcohol, opioids, methamphetamines, cocaine and benzodiazepines.

All of the clients receiving treatment through Gateway are there voluntarily, and the typical length of stay in the residential program is 25 to 35 days, Henry said.
Ravi Dinesh Doshi is a Gateway counselor who will help staff the new professional men’s unit.

“The fly-away treatment model is one that Gateway does not endorse,” Doshi said. “In this unit especially, we’ll be able to provide those needs right from when the participant is engaged in treatment services, to the day that treatment is completed and beyond.”

Gateway executive director Kerry Henry in her Springfield office.

“We are going to be able to articulate the needs of professionals, specifically greater involvement in family therapy, along with a continuity of care, especially out in the community,” Doshi said. “That’s where we see a lot of individuals failing to be in a position to meet their needs outside of a structured environment. So having that continuity of care and better planning will address all of their needs.”

Doshi said he has seen the need for this type of addiction treatment right here in Springfield.

“Addiction has greatly surfaced in local communities; it has reached our doorsteps now,” Doshi said. “This program will offer something new to the community and the results will speak for themselves. To have family members and individuals come back to us and to say, ‘Hey, Gateway changed my life,’ – I don’t think there’s a greater reward, not just professionally, but just one individual to another, to be able to assist them and to help them meet goals.”

Gateway is helping Zach Hill to meet his addiction recovery goals. He is a self-described binge drinker whose stay in another Illinois Gateway facility resulted in nearly a year of sobriety. He recently entered Gateway in Springfield where he is currently receiving treatment.

“The counselors have been there; they’ve been in my spot, and they know where it burns,” Hill said. “They noticed things about me that I haven’t noticed since I started drinking alcohol. I’m an insecure egomaniac, and they really got me to dig deep into where those issues stem from.”

“Here I’ve really been able to pull myself from the depths and isolate my insecurities and self-esteem,” Hill said. “All of the skills and resources that you have at this facility, it’s all for a purpose. My advice to newcomers is to soak everything up, because it’s going to save your life. It saved mine.”

Hill looks forward to the day he can return to his normal life after leaving Gateway.

“Being an alcoholic, I’ve numbed my feelings, emotions and excitement with alcohol. But now with sobriety, it’s like a sensory overload and I just love it. It’s a whole different type of drunk. It feels really good,” Hill said. “What I love about it most is I’ve gotten my wits back. I got my personality back, the guy I was before I started abusing alcohol. I got back in touch with that guy, and Gateway allowed me to really find that person again.”

Executive director Henry is constantly in motion at Gateway, often accompanied by the facility’s therapy dog, Chance. Although she’s looking forward to operating the new professional men’s unit, Henry is also proud of the ongoing addiction recovery work that takes place in the existing Gateway units, including the 97% client satisfaction score.

“One of the things we do that sets us apart from other facilities is we have medication-assistive treatment. We are able to get patients to a point where their withdrawal systems are minimal so they can quickly engage in services,” Henry said. “We also offer weekly family education, individual family counseling and group family counseling. We try to treat the whole family, because it is a family disease and everybody is affected by it.”

Henry stressed that substance abuse disorder is considered a disease, and because of that, addiction treatment is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Act allows people to receive assistance for medical conditions while keeping their jobs without having to specify the condition to their employer. Henry said that Gateway will help clients with all of the FMLA paperwork “so they can relax and know that their job is secure while they work on getting well.”

Gateway Springfield takes walk-ins every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. where people can tour the facility or talk to a counselor at no charge. Gateway’s 24-hour helpline is (877) 505-4673. For more information, visit