DECATUR — Community and law enforcement leaders on Tuesday celebrated the opening of two facilities to help treat drug addiction, part of a new recovery and social services campus funded by former Macon County Sheriff Howard G. Buffett.
The Crossing Recovery Center, 495 East Central Ave., will provide medical detox and residential care. A nearby building with two stories of dorm-style transitional housing will give patients a place to stay in the months after they finish treatment.
The facilities are part of a 27-acre Community Care Campus in the heart of Decatur, near the Wabash Crossing neighborhood. Buffett’s private foundation contributed more than $60 million to the effort, which is meant to provide an all-hands-on-deck approach to the challenge of drug addiction and opioid abuse in Macon County.
“It is going to save lives,” Buffett said, speaking to a crowd of roughly 100 people who attended Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting.
The facilities will be owned and operated by staff from Crossing Healthcare, a federally qualified health clinic that is part of the campus.
“Our country is embroiled in an opioid epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of people every year,” Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said. “This crisis is real. It is hitting every demographic, every race, every income status, every age.”
Moore Wolfe said the opening of the new facility would provide crucial help for those struggling with addiction in Decatur. “You have a place right here at home that can help,” she said.
Buffett, who has given millions of dollars to Central Illinois law enforcement and social service agencies, first announced funding for the campus in August 2018. Construction began about a year ago.
“We really had an aggressive timeline,” said Tanya Andricks, CEO of Crossing Healthcare.
Andricks and the Crossing Healthcare staff worked with various agencies, including Baby TALK, local law enforcement, Decatur hospitals, Workforce Investment Solutions, Heritage Behavioral Health Center and chaplains.
“All of those are partners and collaborators that will actively work with us to make sure that the care that we give the people and the patients that come to us is holistic and comprehensive and meets their needs,” Andricks said.
She said the two buildings were completed slightly under budget and ahead of schedule with help from the team at Romano Company.
The Crossing Recovery Center board was assisted by an advisory panel in developing the various services that will be available for patients. “They worked through problems with our teams,” Andricks said. “The work that you see here and the programming that will be provided here is very much central to the needs.”
Although she said she is grateful for the gift, Andricks understands the campus will benefit Decatur as well as the staff. “We are just the stewards of this gift,” she said. “This is for the community.”
Patients will typically stay at the recovery center for about a month, she said, while the dorm-style housing will allow them to stay another three to six months after they finish the work at the rehabilitation facility.
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“We know it takes a lot more time than just 30 days to get your feet firmly planted underneath of you and head down that path for success,” Andricks said.
The Crossing Recovery Center board will continue working on the progression of the other buildings. In December, they plan to open a recreational facility. “That is where some fun things are that will help us support the care and treatment of our patients,” Andricks said.
A basketball court, bowling alley, fitness center, and movie theater, as well as outpatient treatment facilities and a dental clinic, will be housed in the building across the parking lot from the residential care facility. “You have to feel good if you are going to get better,” Buffett said.
Future plans consist of two apartment buildings with 20 units each available for patients. “Mostly women with children who probably have DCFS involvement,” Andricks said. “Those apartments will be available to our patients coming through that extra stability for housing, as it relates to getting their kids back.”
The campus also will include an 80,000-square-foot building, funded by Buffett, to house social service agencies Baby TALK and and Decatur Macon County Opportunities Corp. Nearby, a new facility for the Northeast Community Fund opened Sunday; the agency, founded in Decatur in 1969, helps residents with food, clothing, furniture and other needs.
Buffett’s influence on the campus isn’t just in its funding. His photography can be seen throughout the rehab facility, including images of tigers, birds and other wildlife.
Because of his experience working with local law enforcement, Buffett said he wanted to provide help where he saw a need. Buffett was appointed Macon County Sheriff in September 2017 and served for over a year.
“It made me realize that there are other dynamics that we have to address,” he said. “We just can’t put everybody in jail.”
While Buffett said he typically doesn’t address the public during ribbon cuttings for projects he has funded, he said he wanted to address a few concerns that he has heard about the facilities.
One example, he said, was a perception that the buildings would highlight the city’s drug problem.
Buffett compared the treatment facilities, instead, to the construction of a new hospital. “Then we are focusing on our healthcare problems,” he said. “To me, it is showing that you have a community that is proactively addressing a problem.”
Substance abuse is a health issue, Buffett said, and the facilities available on the campus will help facilitate recovery.
Buffett also addressed the concern that drug addicts gathered in one area will cause more crime, highlighting security used throughout the facility. “This is not where I would commit a crime,” he said. “It’s pretty absurd to make the assumption that everyone here is a criminal.”
Buffett said a focus for the campus is to interrupt the cycle of inmates in the local jail. Inmates will be given opportunities to enter the campus and receive classes, healthcare and outpatient care.
“Those things are not normally available,” he said. “That is what makes this campus unique. I hope that it makes it a model for other communities in the country.”