A 35-bed sober living retreat is coming to Woodstock early next year, yet another McHenry County location where those in recovery can get the help they need to live life sober.
The New Directions Retreat is a project spearheaded by Chris Reed, 29, who since 2013 has founded several Crystal Lake projects supporting sober, healthy lifestyles. He opened The Other Side, a sober bar, and New Directions, a 501c3, which offers case management, peer support and sober living. Reed, an addict in recovery himself, also operates three sober living homes in Crystal Lake.
Earlier this year he opened Northern Illinois Recovery Center, an out-patient treatment program also in Crystal Lake.
Reed is embarking on this new project with the support of McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally and Scott Block, executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board.
The retreat will be located at the current location of McHenry County PADS Homeless Services, 14411 Kishwaukee Valley Road. The homeless shelter, operated by Pioneer, is relocating to a The Chapel church at 1809 Route 31 in McHenry.
New Directions and Pioneer Center are working together to provide a seamless transition between homeless shelter sites. The new homeless shelter is projected to open in January, officials said.
The new site was bought for about $750,000. The Mental Health Board contributed $675,000, and $425,000 was raised through private donations. The remaining funds will help pay for renovations of the two buildings on the site, officials said.
The project gained final approval of the McHenry County Board on Wednesday.
The retreat will house residents for 90 days or longer and help them obtain employment, identification cards and driver’s licenses, the basics of life that those who have lived a life in addiction have not been able to achieve, Reed said.
People who stay there are required to follow a strict set of rules, including finding a job, helping with chores, attending regular meetings and staying sober.
“This will be like a structured three- to four-month program that is specifically designed to establish all the life skills necessary in order to live in long-term recovery,” Reed said.
In the first 30 days, residents will work on starting a recovery program and getting a job. They will receive help building a résumé. They also will be helped in obtaining health insurance, a primary doctor, state ID and bank accounts. They will be encouraged to reestablish relationships with their family, Reed said.
Then, Reed said, “ideally,” they could transition into one of his sober living homes and integrate socially. This will not be a clinical facility but a supportive housing environment.
“Pretty much the goal is to remove all the barriers for somebody that would prevent them from living a life in recovery,” Reed said. “It can be overwhelming, and if you can help somebody get all those things [together], while in a safe structured environment, the likelihood of staying in recovery is a lot higher. This is like a solution after treatment or if they have been in treatment 12 times and they need help getting [more] treatment.”
Block said the county has long had a need for more recovery beds.
In 2017, the county saw a spike in deaths caused by drug and alcohol overdoses, with 78 people dying. In 2018, because of a concerted effort to develop a comprehensive set of strategies, including sober living such as Reed has been providing, the county experienced a 32% reduction in overdose deaths. But that still is 43 people who have died from an overdose, Block said.
“Part of our state mandate [at the Mental Health Board] is to plan, develop and implement local programming and services, and we have been aware of the need for recovery beds for many years,” Block said. “What [Reed] plans with the facility is a peer-driven model that promotes a recovery environment, which will be a sober, safe, healthy living environment.”
The mental health board currently supports cases at New Directions and Reed’s three sober living homes. The board will discuss whether to continue that support at the new retreat and how they might do that. That meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Mental Health Board facility at 620 Dakota St. in Crystal Lake.
The retreat will take people without insurance, and once they are employed, they will pay what they can, Kenneally said.
It is expected the beds will fill quickly as the heroin epidemic continues in the county.
So far this year, there have been 30 deaths caused by drug overdoses, Kenneally said.
“The cup is pouring over with need in terms of people that would qualify for this,” Kenneally said. “We will fill this immediately.”
Kenneally said this facility “will go a long way to address” the heroin epidemic in McHenry County. He said it is designed for people who are new to recovery.
Many seeking recovery are admitted into Rosecrans in Rockford. However, that facility only has so many Medicaid beds for those with no insurance, and New Directions will take anyone without insurance, Kenneally said.
“We want to make sure everybody in McHenry County has access to treatment,” Kenneally said.
The longer time frame at the retreat allows for more concentrated time to help a person dealing with addiction be ready for life on their own.
“To be most effective you usually need a 28-day program,” Kenneally said. “People need to be reestablishing a life and not just put them in a facility for 28 days then go out to the same [life] that led them to drugs in the first place. The idea is to build connections with the community, get a job, reconnect with family so they are connected [to support] instead of connecting them with the drugs-and-alcohol [crowd].”