Meeting people where they are in the journey toward recovery from substance abuse disorder and mental health challenges is what The Virtue Center does best. People often walk through The Virtue Center’s doors telling counselors they’ve made a mess of their lives due to addiction. In turn, counselors help them turn those painful experiences into a message of hope and recovery.
“As long as people are hurting, as long as people are struggling, our work is not done,” said Carol Bauman, capital campaign manager for The Virtue Center.
She actively helped raise money for the state-of-the-art facility now under construction. That facility is part of a plan to expand services to even more people struggling with substance abuse disorder and mental health issues as well as providing wraparound services.
Cleveland County is proud to partner with The Virtue Center as we work together to eradicate the devastating effects of addiction in our county by investing American Rescue Plan monies to support building operations and programmatic funding to include clinical and mental health services. The Virtue Center’s vision that “every person affected by addiction and mental health challenges will heal and thrive” is consistent with Cleveland County’s commitment to invest ARPA funds to support the welfare of county residents in the targeted areas of public and behavioral health.
“We provide outpatient treatment for substance abuse disorder, problem gambling and related mental health issues,” said Virtue Center Executive Director Teresa Collado. Collado said she is grateful for the $500,000 in ARPA money being provided by Cleveland County.
“This funding is extremely important to our mission and the impact that the pandemic has had on our community and the county,” Collado said. “We are seeing more and more severe cases.”
Collado said stresses of the pandemic have resulted in higher rates of relapse.
“About 52 percent of our clients are reporting active trauma symptoms,” she said. Collado said alcohol abuse, meth, and heroine, including heroine with fentanyl, continue to be major threats to public health throughout Oklahoma. Fentanyl, in particular, can be deadly, she said.
“We’re even seeing people use fentanyl purposefully as a way to cope with their mental health issues,” she said. COVID brought about the advent of virtual services, but The Virtue Center worked to return to in person services as quickly as was safely possible.
“We continue to provide virtual services now because because it helps with accessibility,” she said. “But we’ve been basically open through the whole pandemic.”
That includes walk-in services that allow people to come in without an appointment and get help within the hour.
“With this funding, our vision is to expand the number of people we serve,” she said. “Currently, we serve around 2,000 people each year. We want to serve 5,000 people each year and we feel like this funding will help.”
Collado said expanding services will allow them to do more to help families and not just the person with the addiction.
Bauman agrees that helping the families is an important aspect of aiding long-term recovery. “We know that the ripple effect goes far and wide and affects everybody,” she said.
Collado said many of their clients are people who come in on their own wanting help, but they also work with the justice system, providing services to people in drug court and other court referrals. Those folks come from all across Cleveland County.
Rather than paying the high cost of incarceration for non-violent drug offenses, Cleveland County’s specialty courts allow people to “find recovery and become productive citizens of our county,” Collado said. "This is a chance for people to get help for their disease.”
Patrick Outlaw is a case manager and peer recovery support specialist at the Virtue Center.
“I get to meet the clients where they’re at and talk to them about where they’re at in their stages of recovery and use my experience, strength and hope to encourage them,” Outlaw said.
Prior to working at The Virtue Center, he worked at a mental health facility.
“Mental illness is the last rung on the ladder that gets addressed for public funding,” he said. Donors and now this additional investment from Cleveland County will make all the difference when they open the new location and increase the number of people that they serve.
“The future is bright,” he said.