Phone booths and rows of individual restrooms signal what a new Volunteers of America campus could mean for men in its detoxification program — a more private and dignified space meant to overcome a challenging process.
For administrators, the building means the ability to admit the people they had to reject every day at their old facility at 252 W. Brooklyn Ave. (1025 South) in Salt Lake City.
Recovery on Redwood, the new 75,000-square-foot campus at 1875 S. Redwood Road in the city’s Glendale neighborhood, is the largest one Volunteers of America Utah owns and has immediately increased the organization’s intake capacity by 50 beds. It also acts as the agency’s administrative headquarters and counseling center.
“We’ve been turning away about 10 people a day who request detox services,” Kathy Bray, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Utah, said. “And that’s just a huge need in the community that many people can’t get in because we don’t have enough beds.”
The first floor has 130 beds, many of which are now covered in plastic, but as soon as July 17, will be occupied by men in treatment for substance abuse.
Other features include a larger kitchen, which, at full capacity, will serve 200 meals three times a day, individual rooms for meetings with caseworkers and privacy booths to allow users to attend virtual court, medical or mental health appointments.
Though the construction included a designated space for women, it still is uncertain whether the center will become available for them. Men’s demands for detox services double those of women, Bray said. So the organization will analyze the expansion demand for men this year before deciding whether to introduce women to the building.
For now, women’s programs will remain at a 30-bed location at 697 W. 4170 South in Murray that allows them to live with their young children on-site.
“No matter what, we’re expanding 50 beds,” she said. “We’ll decide whether we bring [women] here in the long run and do some additional expansion, or whether we let them stay out there in Murray and just have men in here.”
The second floor of the new Redwood campus houses Cornerstone, an open-access counseling center for substance use, mental health and domestic violence treatment programs.
Unlike its former office, Cornerstone will no longer need waitlists for its services, said Chae Vidal, director of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.
Since April, when the organization started testing its open access model, they have assisted around four to six patients every day. Those who can’t fit into the therapists’ daily schedules are prioritized for the next day.
That area hosts family waiting rooms, individual and group therapy rooms, and an observation room for parent-child interaction therapy. Cornerstone clients will also have access to free child care while they are in therapy.
“We do serve children and families,” Vidal said. “I think another place where we kind of have strength is including families in treatment as much as possible.”
The Brooklyn Avenue site, which hosted the men’s detox program for more than three decades, will be repurposed into a residential mental health facility for men experiencing homelessness.
To pay for this project, Volunteers of America gathered $7 million in funding from the state, the philanthropic group Utah Impact Partnership and other individual donations.
For some people like Briawna Carlisle, a recovery assistant, helping set up a larger place with important amenities that could make the detox process easier, makes her think of her own recuperation and the sobriety stories she has heard during the past years. The campus would most likely multiply them.
“I like working with this community because I understand it and I have been there, and so I have a lot of empathy and compassion for these people that are going through this,” she said, “and I want to give them hope for change.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.