The Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center, which will work to address trauma and opioid addiction on the West Side, isn’t expected to open until sometime near the end of this month, but representatives with the center are already spreading awareness about what it will offer.

During 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin’s March 13 community meeting, the representatives said that the center will feature classes on mindfulness and stress management, as well as parenting. The center will also distribute Nalaxone, which reverses opioid overdoses. 

“Thirty-seven percent of the people who died of opioid overdoses died in their homes,” said Dr. Rashad Saafir, the president and CEO of West Garfield Park-based Habilitative Systems. “And they may have a person [nearby] who doesn’t know what to do.”

Saafir said that his organization will also work with local police to ensure that people with mental illness get the help that they need.

“We’re going to be working closely with the 11th District,” he said. “Officers [will be] able to drop people off when they’re having a serious mental health crisis instead of taking them to the Cook County Jail.”

Habilitative Systems will partner with East Garfield Park-based Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System to operate the center — which will be located in West Garfield Park, at 4133 W Madison St. — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Those organizations already provide mental health services and substance abuse treatment. Habilitative Systems helps individuals with physical, mental and emotional disabilities to get as much out of life as they can and be as independent as they can.

Bobby E. Wright works to address a wide range of services for issues related to mental health and substance abuse through care, therapy and social service assistance. 

The two organizations wanted to pull their resources together to reach more West Side residents than they were capable of doing by themselves. 

They’ve already been jointly operating “mobile triage,” where professionals are dispatched to handle potentially dangerous situations before they can escalate.

Saafir said that the center’s trauma and stress management programs will teach community members how to handle stressful situations in better ways. That aspect of the program, he indicated, could overlap with others, such as the parenting aspect.  

“We need to teach young people that’s it’s not okay to hit people,” he said. “[When a parent hits a child], we teach them that it’s okay to hit someone when someone does something they don’t like. And that contributes to some of the violence.”


Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...