The Salvation Army just celebrated the opening of its Residential Treatment & Withdrawal Management Program, a joint effort between the charity organization and the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness to combat local homelessness and drug addiction. Its kick-off was announced on Thursday morning in a ribbon cutting ceremony at The Salvation Army’s Transition & Recovery Center.
The new program adds 24 beds to the third floor of the center, formerly known as the Hospitality House. There, individuals admitted to the center can detoxbefore beginning the transition and recovery process.
Salvation Army lieutenant Jeff Walters called the new program a “holistic ministry” that will not just be a place for newly admitted individuals to detox, but also for those who relapse during the transition process.
“If folks are in transition and have a relapse… they can get into that third floor program now and get the treatment that they need. So it’s sort of a continuum of care all in one spot,” he said.
According to Salvation Army adviosory board member Sharon Byrne, the Residential Treatment & Withdrawal Program will make it easier and faster to get addicted homeless people admitted to the center. Before getting sheltered at the center, individuals are required to undergo a two-week detox program. Prior to the program, the city of Santa Barbara only had 12 beds for individuals in need of sobering up. If all were occupied, those seeking shelter would have to be shipped to beds in Santa Maria or Lompoc, leading to an drawn-out process.
“Having 24 beds here, additional capacity in the city, will help us greatly when we’re dealing with chronically homeless individuals who first need to get off of substances before they can begin the process of applying for housing and, you know, kind of transitioning back into a sustainable life,” she said.
Transition & Recovery Center Executive Director Mark Gisler was pleased that the program has finally started.
“It feels excellent that we started live this week. We already have clients enrolled in the program and this was the end of all that work,” he said.
The Residential Treatment & Withdrawal Management Program has been two years in the making and began development when the Salvation Army partnered with Behavioral Wellness to address residential addiction treatment needs that weren’t being met. Mr. Gisler said the program wouldn’t have come about without the partnership.
“It’s not an understatement by saying that if it wasn’t for the county, it wouldn’t happen,” he said.
Mr. Gisler explained that the county acts as a “gatekeeper” that determines the initial needs of a client and passes referrals to the Salvation Army. After an individual gets referred, personnel from the recovery center meet with the client to make sure the county’s assessment is accurate and if it is, bring that person into the program. Once its clients take the necessary time to get out of their substance induced fog, they can access certified drug counselors and licensed therapists.
The program also has family education services for individuals whose addiction stems from co-dependency. In addition to services that help them kick their substance habits, Mr. Gisler said the program prepares the client for life after treatment by connecting them with resources like employment, housing, and continued mental health services.
“We don’t just serve and then stop serving… at some point they’re going to leave here,” he said.
Shortly after noon, following words from the center’s leaders and a vocal performance from Transition & Recovery Center alumnus Michelle Williams, Mr. Gisler cut the ribbon, marking the program’s beginning