Amid an increase in opiate addiction, the East Garfield Park-based Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center, 9 S. Kedzie Ave., is ramping up its outreach efforts. In February, the center hired four additional outreach workers to find West Siders who are struggling with drug addiction and may be interested in getting treatment.
The center has also implemented additional pandemic protocols and precautions. For instance, all of the center’s clients have to get tested before they get treatment.
During a Garfield Rite to Wellness virtual town hall on Jan. 25, Milton Johnson, Bobby Wright’s director of community relations, said the organization enhanced its operations amid a pandemic in order to increase its community profile during a time when the nonprofit’s services are needed most.
According to a recent report released by the Cook County Department of Public Health, between 2016 and 2020, West Garfield Park had the highest rate of deaths from opioid overdoses in Chicago, while Austin had the second-highest rate.
Bobby Wright offers a variety of mental health treatment programs, including drug addiction programs. The nonprofit also is part of a trio of area nonprofits that launched the Westside Community Triage & Wellness Center in West Garfield Park, at 4133 W. Madison St. The center provides around-a-clock referrals for residents dealing with addiction, among others services.
“We thought we needed to stretch a little bit in the community,” said. “We no longer wait on a member to come to us, but we go out and enter the community.”
Lyn “Chip” Johnson, of Austin, has been reaching out to people with addiction and helping them get treatment since he got clean 17 years ago. He said he tried to be “a beacon of light for them, letting them know that there’s a way out.” About a year and a half ago, a mentor referred Johnson to Bobby Wright and he’s been working for them ever since.
Johnson was Bobby Wright’s only outreach worker until they hired the additional workers in February. The workers concentrate their efforts in Austin, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park and North Lawndale.
“I approach them and ask them, ‘Are you interested in going for treatment?’” Johnson said. “Most of the time, they say ‘yes,’ sometimes they say ‘no.’”
If they do want to get treatment, Johnson takes them to the Community Triage, where workers refer them to a local hospital for medical detox, a process they must go through before getting treatment. Detox is especially important for clients who may be dealing with mental illness.
“Mental illness and substance abuse go hand-in-hand,” Johnson said. “They may not be taking medication for some years due to the drugs and the addiction. So, I try to get them into medical detox, so they can be seen by a doctor, so they can [get] the medication.”
Johnson added that he tries to get people who may not want to go through detox into methadone treatment, where they are gradually eased off opiates.
Johnson said that he was pleased with the impact his team has been making.
“We’ve really been doing a good job getting people in, where they can get some support,” he said. “it really, really works. All you have to do is give yourself a chance.”
For more information about Bobby Wright, visit bewcbhc.org.