As the first 24/7 crisis intervention center in Monroe County, Catholic Charities-run program an emergency call for those seeking to get clean

MONROE — For two years now, the St. Joseph Center of Hope has been a soft landing ground for those struggling with addiction. 

And from there, the road to recovery begins.

The 24/7 facility at 222 Colonial Drive in Monroe is only an entry point, but a vital one in a comprehensive process designed to lift people from the doldrums of dependency. 

“The St. Joseph Center of Hope is a 24-hour crisis intervention center for individuals who are actively using substances to receive treatment options or recovery resources,” said Wendy Klinski, director of behavioral health for Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, which oversees the center. “Typically, somebody who is actively using will end up at the center, either self-referred or through a family member. Lately, courts have been sending people to us in lieu of jail time.”

Since 2018, when the center opened, it has been recovery center for those in Monroe County and its surrounding areas. The center itself isn’t a residential or treatment facility, but a sort of launching pad where a person’s recovery can begin.

The first 24/7 crisis intervention program in Monroe County for those struggling with addiction, the St. Joseph Center is staffed by peer-recovery volunteers who know what it’s like to suffer from addiction and can point people to the resources they need. 

Once a person walks through the doors — after a COVID screening — they are cleaned and fed, counseled by a peer-support person who takes stock of the person’s immediate needs.

“In that timeframe, we’re checking vitals, making sure they have eaten,” said Rebecca Turner, program manager of the St. Joseph Center of Hope, who overseeing the center’s day-to-day operations. “We automatically go to the fridge and grab our set of supplies, normally sandwiches or soups, and get them going. Then we start the intake process, trying to figure out what help and services they have utilized. After that, we make some calls and get them placed in whatever type of treatment center they need in order to get clean.”

Clients of the St. Joseph Center of Hope can only be admitted to the center for 23 hours at a time — just enough time to address immediate needs. Since opening on Nov. 21, 2018, the St. Joseph Center for Hope has seen more than 1,900 admissions and worked with more than 500 individuals, some of whom utilize the center’s services multiple times after suffering relapses. 

The center is part of a larger continuum of care Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan and other partners provide in the fight against addiction. In 2016, Monroe County had 59 overdose deaths. In 2019, that number reduced to 39.

Though the St. Joseph Center is not a residential facility, it does provide beds for short-term stays of less than 23 hours. During that time, guests are offered a meal, chance to clean up and pointed toward addiction recovery facilities that can continue their care. 

Klinski credits the St. Joseph Center of Hope with helping to reduce that number. The center itself is modeled after the work of Glynis Anderson, executive director of the Home of New Vision in Ann Arbor.

While Monroe County has a population of around 154,000, Ann Arbor had about the same number of overdose deaths, 54, with a population of 350,000.

“Glynis Anderson had this engagement center running for nine years, so we went to her and spoke about what we needed to do to fill the gaps in Monroe,” Klinski said. “We saw that individuals who struggled with addition have a really hard time navigating the treatment program. It’s an incredibly difficult process to navigate when you don’t necessarily know the resources or where to go.”

When someone comes to the St. Joseph Center of Hope, be it for the first, second, or even fifth time, they are greeted by staff that knows what options have been explored when it comes to recovery, so the facility becomes a “train station of care,” Klinski said, a common destination where patients can go on a new path toward recovery.

Aside from Turner and a team who answers intake calls, the St. Joseph Center for Hope is staffed with a team of volunteers who have experience dealing with substance abuse and recovery.

“Most of the staff is in recovery themselves or are allies of recovery, meaning they have a family member in a substance-abuse crisis. We do have some ‘full circles’ — one of our staff has come through the center and used many of Catholic Charities’ (services), from finding recovery housing to becoming peer mentors. The volunteers come in to help those who are experiencing what they have experienced. People who have been on the front line, who been there, navigating the system.”

Leslie Hall, team lead at the St. Joseph Center of Hope, smiles while wearing a mask at the center. The St. Joseph Center has COVID-19 protocols in place to keep guests and staff safe. 

Turner has her own history with substance abuse, beginning in 2007 when she became a heavy drinker for a two-year span. After working with recovery networks through the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and a peer-recovery program, she became involved with Salvation Army Harbor Light as an essential monitor.

Turner was involved in peer-recovery coaching until 2020. Now 10 years sober, she was offered a position to run the St. Joseph Center of Hope.

“I get to see people blossom and grow and become great people in the community,” Turner said. “This helps me maintain my recovery as well. By building relationships with those going through this, by checking in and seeing how they are doing, it empowers my own recovery.”

Treatment plans and rehabilitation centers existed long before the St. Joseph Center for Hope, but the center’s advantage is that it’s readily accessible — volunteers are available 24/7 — to those who need immediate help.

“Prior to the center being in place, it was challenging for individuals who would call somewhere, wait for a call back and not know where to go,” Klinski said. “If I’m someone who has struggled with addiction for some time, and if I’m ready to get help, I need to get help now, because I might change my mind four hours from now.”

Leslie Hall prepares to make lunch for guests at the St. Joseph Center. In recent months, courts have begun sending clients to the St. Joseph Center in lieu of jail in order to help people along the path to recovery.

The Joseph Center of Hope is a collaboration between the Monroe County Community Foundation, the Archdiocese of Detroit and the state of Michigan, which came together to provide a location and resources. The agency hopes to work with other nonprofits and addiction-fighting groups in the area to expand the continuum of care for those who want to get clean. 

“One cool thing we have seen happen recently is that judges, instead of sending someone to jail, are now sending them to the center with a court order to get help,” Klinski said. “And we have probation officers and clients asking to be sent to the center. They are utilizing the center to decriminalize substance abuse and get these individuals help instead of locking them up and not doing anything.

“All of us have story, all of us have a purpose,” Klinski continued. “Individuals who struggle with addiction have powerful stories. So many of my staff have their own history, their own stories that are shining through the work they do with the people they serve. So it comes full circle.”

St. Joseph Center of Hope

The St. Joseph Center of Hope is a crisis intervention center that provides a supervised, supportive setting for individuals with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Individuals can stabilize in a safe and welcoming environment while being provided with assistance to enter a treatment program. The center is open 24 hours a day for individuals 18 years of age and older. No insurance or referral is needed.

The center maintains a 24/7 help line at (734) 357-8880.

To support Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan’s ministries, visit ccsem.org