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    1. News From The Centers

      2016 Community Newsletter- Click Image to Download

    2. Dec11st ’15

      Marion County’s Baby Court focuses on healing for parents, children in dependency cases

      When an infant or toddler is maltreated, the effects can last a lifetime.

      Renee Nilson, a therapist at The Centers, can name a few: There are developmental delays and attachment issues that manifest in young children, she said. These turn into problems at school, substance abuse or mental illness as the child grows.

      And when that child becomes a parent, she said, it is not uncommon to find them back on the radar of the Florida Department of Children and Families. As parents, Nilson said, they often find themselves playing a new role in the same troubling relationship.

      That is the cycle that a new court initiative in Marion County aims to break.

      Baby Court, also known as Early Childhood Court, launched in Marion County this fall amid a push for statewide implementation. It joins the ranks of other problem-solving courts at the Marion County Judicial Center, such as Teen Court and Drug Court, in focusing attention and resources on a particular set of court proceedings.

      Marion County’s Baby Court focuses on dependency cases for children who are age 3 and younger. There are two families on the docket to date. Several people in the local and statewide Baby Court initiatives said these families would have been making regular court appearances regardless of their decision to participate in Baby Court. That is typical of any dependency case: When a child comes to the attention of the Department of Children and Families for abuse or neglect, a judge is tasked with determining a safe living situation for that child.

      Baby Court shares that goal — a safe and permanent home for the child within a year — but draws on a few extra resources to get there.

      Participating families meet monthly with a number of caseworkers, therapists and legal teams to ensure the child does not slip through any cracks. And they are kept busy between the meetings as well, committing to regular visits with the child, classes on topics such as parenting or anger management, and weekly sessions with therapists such as Nilson, who works with the parent and child, individually and collectively, with a goal of breaking the cycle of parent-to-child maltreatment.

      “We see these kids who were abused or neglected, and now they’re the parents,” said Mimi Graham, who has been influential in bringing Baby Courts to Florida as the director of Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy. “If we can heal their underlying trauma … they can increase their capacity to be really good parents.”

      Reuniting parents and children is the ideal outcome, Graham said, and making that possible is the goal of child-parent psychotherapy. As a key component of the Baby Court model in Florida, this specialized therapy recognizes the psychological needs of the parent, who likely had very little parenting themselves, and then starts from the basics in teaching them how to care for their children.

      The child’s best interest remains the top priority. So, if the parent can’t quite handle it, Graham said, then adoption is also considered a success.

      “Either way, we don’t want to have (the children) languish in the system for more than 12 months,” Graham said.

      ***Although Marion County’s Baby Court is still fairly new, Jeff Fuller, public information officer with the 5th Judicial Circuit, said the county could eventually handle 10 or 12 families on a Baby Court docket with its current resources.

      Nilson said she would eventually like to see every eligible family come through Baby Court. Eligibility in Marion County depends on both the child and the parent, she said. The child must be 3 or younger and in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, where assessments are performed to determine psychological trauma. The parent must agree to participate, and is ineligible if actively using drugs or alcohol or is suspected of physically harming the child.

      Once accepted to Baby Court, Nilson said, the approach to their dependency cases becomes far more holistic.

      “They’re going from the perspective of managing to the perspective of healing,” she said.

      And as one of two therapists at The Centers who is certified in child-family psychotherapy, that is the element she focuses on.

      Nilson works with Baby Court families at least once a week, she said, meeting them in her cozy office at The Centers or at their homes, day cares or more personal locations. Sometimes she meets with the parents, to address their psychological needs, and sometimes with the child. Often she meets with both together, observing and guiding their interactions.

      She might record video as the parent interacts with their baby, maybe as they read a book together. Then she watches the video with the parents afterward, drawing attention to their or their children’s behaviors.

      Often, she said, the parents do not understand their child’s needs. They might be setting their expectations too high or simply do not understand why a particular situation is dangerous.

      “Things that have gone on in the family that are damaging may seem normal to them, because it’s been going on for so long,” she said. “We teach them why (the behaviors are damaging) and how that connects to where they’re at and why their children are where they’re at.”

      In the few months she has been working with one couple, she said, they have made progress.

      “You see the light bulb go off,” she said. “I’ve had parents say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing the same thing that my mother did, and I don’t want to do that. … Stop me.’ And that’s what we do.”

      ***Statistics on the successes of Baby Courts across the country — and on the consequences of continuing with the current dependency system — make the implementation of Baby Courts an easy decision, Graham said.

      But they hold an additional economic benefit as well.

      “We’re cutting the time in half that kids are staying the system,” Graham said.

      And that saves money: about $7,300 for every child who leaves the foster care system earlier than they would have, according to research through the child- and toddler-focused organization Zero to Three

      Miami-Dade County implemented the first Baby Court, the Miami Child Well-Being Court, more than a decade ago. While the success of that court has sparked Baby Courts across the country, in Des Moines, Iowa, and New Orleans, Louisiana, for example, Florida is the first state to push for statewide implementation.

      Carrie Toy, Florida’s statewide community coordinator, said Florida is well-suited for statewide implementation. The Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy and the Florida Office of Court Improvement, for example, had already taken a lead in advocating for Baby Courts. And funding became available with a grant through the Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams, which helped to put plans into action.

      After a statewide “kick off” in April, Toy said, 20 Florida counties are currently in some stage of implementation. At least two more are exploring the idea.

      Florida counties that have been hearing Baby Court cases for years suggest favorable outcomes for those, like Marion County, that are just starting.

      “It’s unbelievable,” said Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper of the results she has seen in Pasco County since she began overseeing a pilot Baby Court there.

      She noted one young mother who especially demonstrated the effect of Baby Court. The woman gave birth to two children before the county implemented Baby Court, Tepper explained, and tested positive for drugs when each was born. That immediately put her in under the watch of the Department of Children and Families, and she eventually lost custody of the children.

      With her two younger children, Tepper said, she faced an almost parallel set of circumstances. But this time, with the help of therapists through Pasco County’s brand-new Baby Court, she was able to handle all the challenges that came her way.

      Baby Court, Tepper said, has made all the difference.

      “I’m confident she won’t be back,” she said.


      Contact Nicki Gorny at 352-867-4065, nicki.gorny@ocala.com or @Nicki_Gorny.


      Aug30th ’15

      Monday Conversation: Bruce Deyarmond

      LECANTO — At 15, Bruce Deyarmond, the Phoenix Program’s intensive outpatient counselor at The Centers in Lecanto, began his foray into a 25-year drug addiction by smoking his first joint.

      Within a year he went from marijuana to LSD and methamphetamine, and eventually to heroin. He also used cocaine — there wasn’t a drug he’d turn down if offered.

      He’s been arrested, broke, in and out of drug rehab centers, married and divorced three times. For a couple of years he worked for the Colombians smuggling cocaine from Miami to San Francisco.

      Twenty-five years ago, while driving from California to Las Vegas to check himself into a drug addiction treatment center, he slashed his neck and wrists. Not wanting to kill anyone else but himself, he pulled his car over on the side of the road, where he was found by a highway patrol officer.

      After time in a psychiatric hospital, he made it to his seventh and final drug rehabilitation program.

      Twenty-five years later, Deyarmond, 65, is clean and sober and has found his calling as a drug counselor, one addict helping other addicts find sanity, health and wholeness.

      Recently, the Chronicle met with Deyarmond to talk about what he does, why he does it — and the alarming rise of heroin use.

      CHRONICLE: What exactly do you do here at the Phoenix Program?

      DEYARMOND: I’m the intensive outpatient counselor, which means I do groups that last three hours long, seven times a week, mornings and evenings. There’s usually about eight or nine people to a group — never more than 15.

      CHRONICLE: How long have you been doing this?

      DEYARMOND: Nineteen years, but this is my third year with The Centers. Before that I was with the Citrus County Health Department and prior to that I did this in Las Vegas.

      CHRONICLE: Tell me about the Phoenix Program.

      DEYARMOND: It started with Dr. Theresa Goodman and Yvonne Hess, whom I’ve known for many years. We both worked at an outpatient counseling agency in Las Vegas. When she and her husband came to Florida, I came with them. In Las Vegas I worked with family court — it’s called dependency court here — and I knew the value of what we were doing.

      CHRONICLE: Why start the Phoenix Program here in Citrus County? Where do your clients come from?

      DEYARMOND: They come from felony drug court, dependency drug court, DCF and probation and a few that are self-referred. To me, it doesn’t matter who refers you if you have an addiction. My goal is to hold up a mirror to you and say, “See what you look like? Let’s try to change that.” We started this program here because we knew there was a need here.

      CHRONICLE: Let’s talk about your story. Where did you grow up?

      DEYARMOND: I’m a hippie from way back and spoiled rotten. I grew up in Southern California — I was adopted.

      CHRONICLE: And a drug user?

      DEYARMOND: You have no idea. I used for 25 years — marijuana, LSD, methamphetamines. My friends wanted me to try heroin, but I said “No way!” They tricked me one day and said it was just “really good speed.” I injected it and knew it wasn’t speed, and that was all it took.

      CHRONICLE: You said you used drugs for 25 years. What did you do during that time?

      DEYARMOND: I went to the Art Institute in San Francisco and lived in Haight-Ashbury. That’s where I became really addicted to heroin. I went back to Mommy and Daddy, got arrested for possession of marijuana, which was a felony then. I moved to Sonora, up by Yosemite and lived there for 18 years. Off and on I stopped using heroin, and up there I grew marijuana. Cocaine was prevalent at that point, too. Then my marriage fell apart and I was broke.

      CHRONICLE: What happened?

      DEYARMOND: I had a marijuana crop in the ground, but that was still eight months until I could get any money for it. A friend came and pulled out a wad of cash and gave me $2,000. He came back a month later and did the same thing. The third time he came I said, “I don’t know what you’re into, but I want to get into it, too.” He said I’d have to cut my hair, and I said, “Sure.”

      So, from 1982 to 1984, I worked for the Colombians smuggling cocaine into the U.S. I was just a driver, a gofer, and they paid me a lot of money.

      CHRONICLE: How did you get out?

      DEYARMOND: I just said I wanted out and they said “OK.” I ended up in Pacifica, on the California coast, working for an MRI center as the sedation program coordinator. Yeah, put a drug addict in charge of drugs! One day I successfully sedated myself and woke up in the ER. I went, “Uh-oh. Nothing good can come from this.” They allowed me to resign and offered to pay my health insurance for six months and told me to go get help.

      CHRONICLE: Did you?

      DEYARMOND: Not right away. I had been using all these synthetic drugs and thought I’d just go back to heroin. I did that for about six months — I’d been in treatment three times by then.

      CHRONICLE: When was your last (stay at a) drug treatment center?

      DEYARMOND: That was the time after I tried to kill myself. I was on my way to a treatment center in Las Vegas and on the way there I slashed my neck and my wrists … but God kept me alive to counsel.

      CHRONICLE: How long were you in treatment?

      DEYARMOND: I was there for close to a year. It was a behavior modification program, which is really tough. But I knew if I didn’t change how I thought, I was going to die. You have to change every way you think or it won’t work.

      CHRONICLE: I’m not sure how to ask this: You haven’t used drugs for 25 years, but are you still an addict?

      DEYARMOND: Absolutely, I’m still an addict.

      CHRONICLE: How is that possible?

      DEYARMOND: Because in my little pea-addict brain, if I see a beautiful sunset, the first thing I think is: “You should smoke a big joint.” But then I go, “But you don’t do that anymore.” I will always be an addict; I just don’t use.

      Now, here’s the easy part of early recovery — not using drugs. The hard part is changing your belief systems, and that’s where most people fall down. I tried to get clean for 15 years because I believed the lie that I could control it, and I used drugs even when I didn’t want to.

      CHRONICLE: So, how does an addict stop? How does one change his or her beliefs?

      DEYARMOND: When we realize that old beliefs no longer work for us. In recovery we have the chance of making a change. It’s a painful process, because we have to take responsibility for our actions and not blame the world. One way of changing belief systems is AA, NA — 12-step programs help clients with support and guidance in their recoveries, and it’s a mandatory requirement of the Phoenix Program.

      CHRONICLE: Let’s talk about heroin. I understand that it’s becoming more and more prevalent.

      DEYARMOND: It’s big in other places and a moderately big deal here in Citrus County, and it’s only going to get worse.

      CHRONICLE: Why is that?

      DEYARMOND: It’s simple. Oxycodones are harder to get ahold of and heroin is relatively cheap. But here’s the problem with heroin: The tolerance level doubles and triples and quadruples and you end up using it not to get high, but just so you don’t get sick. At my last run, I was using $600 a day just to stay “well.”

      The drug cartels are not stupid. They can make cheap heroin and flood the market, and that’s what will happen here in Citrus County — and it’s going to be hell to get rid of.


      Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.


      May17th ’15

      Mental-health funding cuts hurt Ocala agency

      Ashley Walters, (right), talks about her own experience with mental illness and treatment at The Centers with Clinical Supervisor Valerie Carr in Ocala, Florida on Monday April 20, 2015. Funding for mental health continues to be cut from the budget making it more treatment for clients to get much needed mental health services.

      Alan Youngblood/Star-Banner

      By most accounts Ashley Walters was a normal young girl. “I played sports. I was very active. I was an honor roll student. I worked to have good attendance,” she recalled during a recent interview. But by the time she moved to Ocala and started high school, her life changed abruptly for the worse. In her therapist’s office at The Centers on Southwest 60th Avenue, Walters, now 29, methodically recounted the facts that led her to the mental health facility. Walters is lucky in one sense: At least The Centers can serve her. The agency’s state funding has dropped $5 million since 2011, leading to a 10 percent staff reduction. Consequently, the number of patients has fallen. The Centers saw 17,000 in 2013 but only 13,000 in 2014. Right now there are about 100 people on the waiting list for the kind of outpatient help Walters gets. In a few months, when there is room for more clients, the facility probably won’t be able to find about 40 percent of those on the list, said Valerie Carr, a clinical supervisor. They will have dropped out of society, moved away, been arrested and jailed, resorted to living on the streets. “Or worse,” Carr said. The $5 million cut from the stateduring the past four years — a significant loss for an agency with a $28 million budget — has put The Centers in a crisis mode of its own. Like its fellow mental health agencies in Florida, The Centers had hoped the Legislature would come through with more money. The prospect seemed possible, especially in a year when the state budget surplus neared $1 billion. Mental health advocates ramped up their efforts to get Florida to improve its dismal record nationwide for state funding. But the session ended early because of the Medicaid expansion controversy. There was no progress on a host of issues, including funding for mental health. Behind the budget numbers are people like Walters. Her normal childhood morphed into a time of delusions and hallucinations. She thought her mother was trying to poison her. She couldn’t distinguish between dreams and reality. When she turned 16, Walters quit school and ran away from home with her 19-year-old boyfriend. When she came back, doctors diagnosed her with schizoaffective disorder. She now takes medicine and sees a clinical therapist at The Centers every couple of weeks. “But I feel like I lost a huge part of my life to mental illness,” she said.

      When officials from The Centers break down their agency’s loss of state funding, they point to two areas: overall cuts and changes in how Florida doles out money for mental health services. In 2014, Florida moved from direct funding to a privately managed care system that, according to the Florida Council on Community Mental Health (FCCMH), only reimburses providers 60 percent of their actual costs. That’s a huge blow to a place like The Centers, where about half of the clients receive Medicaid. The latter move alone costs The Centers about $800,000 annually, said Tim Cowart, president and CEO. In 2013, Florida implemented its Managing Entities program. Regional, third-party groups started overseeing the distribution of mental health care services and overseeing reimbursement. The program was meant to save taxpayers money. But Cowart said it has become an additional layer of bureaucracy between facilities like The Centers and clients. Cowart said the new program costs The Centers about $400,000 annually in lost revenue. “That’s the world we live in as a mental health care provider,” Cowart said. “But if we don’t serve (clients) they’ll end up in the emergency room, crisis centers or get no service at all.” Florida ranks next to last among states when it comes to how much it spends for mental health programs. It averages out to about $37 per Florida resident. The spending level has remained stagnant for years. The issue was supposed to get attention from Florida lawmakers this year. The Senate’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee held a panel discussion in February about the state’s mental health system and its problems. At the discussion’s close, Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, gave the state’s care providers hope when he said: “This could be the year that mental health gets the spotlight. Hopefully, help is on the way.” The subcommittee was told that Florida’s mental health system is broken. Part of its problem is that it has two disjointed layers: crisis centers and the criminal justice system. Cowart argues that Florida needs to better fund outpatient programs that keep people with mental illness out of crisis centers and out of jails. But instead of more funding, Tallahassee seems intent on looking for ways to get more for the money that it already is spending on mental health. That’s all well and good, Cowart said, but studying efficiencies will go only so far. With ever more demands for services, more money eventually is needed. But it looks like mental health might take a backseat again when the Legislature reconvenes in June. That is because the federal government said it would no longer give the state $1.3 billion for hospitals providing medical care to poor, uninsured patients. That will mean Florida will have to make up the money somehow. Florida lawmakers are already warning there could be cuts to state programs to make up the money. The consequences of funding cuts has already taken its toll locally, Cowart said. “(The Centers) employees haven’t had a raise in several years. And we lose people all the time to (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) hospitals and these bigger (health care) players,” he said. The lack of money has made The Centers something of a revolving door, Cowart said, as people typically come to work at his facility while finishing their licensing requirements — and then leave when they’re done. Turnover is about 25 percent.

      In many cases, the cost of cutting mental health care corners on the front end means bigger costs on the back end, such as with the criminal justice system. Miami Judge Steve Leifman, who chairs a Florida Supreme Court task force on mental health, testified this year before a House Judiciary Committee on the financial problems facing mental health care — and the judicial consequences. “According to the most recent prevalence estimates, 16.9 percent of all jail detainees — 14.5 percent of men and 31.0 percent of women — experience serious mental illnesses,” he told the House committee. “People with mental illnesses remain incarcerated four to eight times longer than people without mental illnesses for the exact same charge, and at a cost seven times higher.” In Marion County, about a third of jail inmates are taking physician-prescribed psychotropic medications, suggesting mental illness played a role in their arrest, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Overall, the population of Florida prison inmates who have severe mental illness has grown three times faster than the general prison population from 1996 to 2012, Leifman said. While Florida is on the low end on spending for mental health programs outside of the judicial system, the state spends more than any other (about $200 million annually) to treat people for mental illness so they regain competency and stand trial for a criminal offense, he said.

      Before the Florida House and Senate budget stalemate over next year’s budget, the House had proposed $993.5 million to fund all of the state’s mental health and substance-abuse programs. The Senate had proposed $990.7 million. This year’s spending for mental health was $970.8 million. Although the proposed 2015-2016 budget appears to reflect a modest mental health spending increase, Mike Hansen, president and CEO of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, said that appearance is misleading. That is because included in both spending increases was nearly $40 million in unused federal money left over from last year, he said. Once that is pulled out of the proposals, “They really didn’t do much,” Hansen said of both plans. And neither proposal took into account how to make up for the loss of about $1.3 million in federal low-income pool, or LIP, medical funding for the poor. So, when state elected officials return in June, it would not surprise many if both the House and Senate make deep cuts into their mental health budget proposals. The loss of state financial help that The Centers experienced is not unique, Hansen said. Mental health facilities across the state are suffering. “What happens to them?” Hansen asked. A few scenarios typically play out. In some cases, staffing and the level of services are cut. In other cases, unprofitable or expensive service lines are eliminated altogether. Some of those expensive service lines potentially on the chopping block around the state include things like intensive outpatient programs that require health care workers to visit patients a few times a week. Another could be residential programs whereby mentally ill people are given a place to live and kept off the street. The worst case is what happened in Hendry County when the two Hendry Glades Behavioral Health Clinics closed because it was too costly to stay open, he said. So far, The Centers hasn’t cut programs altogether. “What we’ve had to do is cut the staffing,” said Yvonne Hess, vice president of clinical services. While there is still time to ask the Legislature for money, The Centers is asking. Specifically, it wants: $250,000 to fund a behavioral health/primary care integration program to make sure mental health patients also get needed medical care. Seventy percent of mental health patients have at least one chronic health condition. $100,000 to hire therapists specialized in serving children in families with a history of substance abuse. $430,000 for a community diversion assessment/referral center to keep mentally ill residents out of jail. The Florida Council on Community Mental Health has its own wish list, including $65 million to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates, $9 million to restore the Department of Children and Families mental health and substance abuse programs, and $12.5 million for expanded criminal justice diversion and treatment programs.

      The amounts of money being discussed by lawmakers and mental health facilities may seem daunting, but mental health care workers say taxpayers should not lose sight of the people it helps, like Ashley Walters. Walters receives $753 per month in disability payments. She lives on a tight budget. She said that if the services she gets from The Centers are eliminated, she and others like her may not have any other place to go. People with mental illness struggle enough to try and live normal lives. They should not also have to worry about funding for the services they rely on, Walters said. But when budget cuts are made, Walters said that programs like mental health care are often the first to suffer. “They (lawmakers) can’t relate (to clients needing help),” she said. Without the help she gets at The Centers, “I would be a stirring pot of mental problems.” She encourages others with similar problems to get help from places like The Centers and not give up. Carr, Walter’s therapist, said cuts to mental health services do not surprise her, in part because people with mental health problems often lack political clout. “These are often marginalized and disenfranchised members of our community and society who don’t have a voice,” she said. Hess said the financial problems The Centers faces, as well as those other mental health facilities face, is rooted in the fundamentals of how lawmakers view mental health and the lack of political power of mental health clients. “The majority of our clients don’t vote,” Hess said. In addition, the kind of statistics that would support a need for more mental health spending aren’t usually available. For example, visits to the ER or arrests that might have been avoided if only the person had better health care is not something that’s followed, she said. “They (lawmakers) have different priorities,” Hess said. Part of the problem is that mental health care needs a louder lobbying voice, she said, adding, “We need advocacy from the grass roots … and until that happens our agency falls further and further behind.” Fred Hiers may be contacted at fred.hiers@starbanner.com.

      Aug26th ’14

      The Centers Achieves Top Accreditation

      The Centers is proud to announce the achievement of a three year accreditation by CARF International, which is the maximum consecutive accreditation attainable. For more than 40 years, the CARF seal has been the hallmark of quality in human services. CARF’s reputation for advancing excellence in the industry is founded largely on its unique peer review accreditation model, inclusive of its consultative survey, conformance focus, and evolving, field-driven standards.

      The Centers underwent an extensive on-site survey conducted by three CARF expert surveyors. Upon completion, the surveyors shared that of facilities they have reviewed internationally The Centers is one of the best, exhibiting an atmosphere of respect for the dignity and rights of the persons served.

      In addition to review of facilities, client charts, and therapeutic services, randomly selected interviews were conducted with clients and their families. The final report indicated they expressed high levels of satisfaction with the services provided and the respect shown to them by program personnel. Many expressed great appreciation for the care provided by the organization and reported very positive outcomes as a result of the services received. Overall, the surveyors reported that The Centers functions soundly as stewards of resources to address the needs of the persons served.

      “The Centers’ staff are very excited to see our accreditation move toward the person-centered model that CARF promotes. We strive to place our clients’ needs and desires at the highest priority for their care in our services. This three-year accreditation by CARF greatly supports our efforts in that direction.” – Yvonne Hess, VP of Clinical Services

      May22nd ’14

      New TeleHealth Program

      On May 1, 2014, we successfully launched the telepsychiatry service of our new TeleHealth program. This is a new way of providing services at The Centers and allows us to care for more in need. With the Doctor at our 60th Ave location and the client at our MLK, Jr. Ave. location, medication management services were provided and both were so pleased with the experience.

      The first client came in stating that she was not going to be able to continue to receive services due to transportation issues. However, after the session, she stated the experience was so positive that she will continue her treatment plan by participating in the TeleHealth program.  “I don’t have to spend the whole day at Med Clinic waiting for the bus,” she said.  “The picture quality is better than my television at home.”  The Nurse at the MLK location said, “It felt as if we were in the room with the doctor.”

      This is the next phase of many as we expand our TeleHealth program at The Centers. We are currently offering teletherapy groups and individual telepsychiatry sessions. Future plans being developed over the next two years will lead to the accommodation of individual counseling sessions, providing clients the option of speaking with a therapist on their computer from the comfort of their home.

      We are looking forward to expanding our reach and making therapeutic services more easily accessible for the community through this program. Stay tuned for more news regarding this exciting new venture! If you are interested in participating, please talk to your doctor or a Customer Service Representative at The Centers.

      Apr27th ’16

      Oasis Attempts to Break the Cycle

      When you’re a mother and an addict, your children suffer too. Often, they’re taken away from you, put into foster care or given to relatives to raise. Sometimes you lose your parental rights. You lose the right to be a mother.

      That not only traumatizes a family, but strains a community’s resources.

      But there’s hope.

      The Centers has created an oasis for drug-addicted moms. The Oasis long-term residential drug and alcohol treatment program is specifically designed for women with at least one child age 10 or younger.

      The 15-bed facility at the Lecanto campus is set to open May 3.

      “Our goal is long-term recovery and reunification of mothers with their children,” said Steve Blank, The Centers’ clinical director. “We’re targeting a group of women, typically between age 25 to 45, who have either jeopardized custody of their children or lost custody of them ... for the most part, due to their substance use, their children are not a priority in their life. We want to change that.”

      Blank said treatment will include one-on-one and group counseling, parenting classes, life skills training, GED classes and basic education, women’s health issues, psychiatric evaluation, nursing services and 12-step meetings both on site and in the community.

      Although they won’t be living with their moms at the Oasis center, children will be an integral part of the rehabilitation process with visitations.

      The focus of the program is not just dealing with the addiction, but with underlying issues and retraining. It’s an intensive second chance for moms to learn how to be the best moms they can be, to raise their own children and stop the cycle of dysfunction in their families.

      “We’re going to be doing a lot with them in regards to empowerment and teaching them how to like themselves so they can care for themselves first and then think about their little ones who have been less of a priority,” Blank said.

      Oasis is using the space left empty by the former Stepping Stones adolescent program. It has a large central room with couches and a TV and two-bed suites, each with a bathroom. There’s also a dining area and an industrial kitchen with a full-time and part-time cook.

      Aesthetically, the facility still looks stark and institutional, but all that will change as women come and add their touches to it. That, too, is part of their rehabilitation.

      Also part of their rehabilitation — random weekly drug tests. If a woman goes out on a pass, she is immediately drug tested upon her return.

      Funding for the Oasis program comes from both private and public sources.

      “Many of them with kids have Medicaid, so we’ll first look to Medicaid to authorize treatment for them,” Blank said. “There’s also state funding that’s available.”

      A number of eligible women who are in The Centers outpatient treatment programs are “in a holding pattern” waiting for the doors to open, Blank said. Several women from Citrus County are in the residential treatment program at The Centers Ocala campus who can transfer to Lecanto. More may be court-ordered to stay; others will come by referral or voluntarily.

      The average stay will probably be about six to nine months, depending on progress.

      “Right now there are so many children living with grandparents and family members because their moms are on drugs, so this is definitely needed here,” said Trellis Dunlap, Oasis program nurse. “We won’t have a problem filling the place.”

      Blank said the most important thing is to reunite mothers with their children and give them the tools they need to be good moms and keep their families intact.

      “We want women to know that when they come to the Oasis program, they’re going to be treated well,” he said.


      For more information, call 352-726-7155 or email Steve Blank at sblank@thecenters.us.