Community & Family Resources: Helping in a crisis

Agency will celebrate 50 years of detox and recovery services

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
The current Community and Family Resources building is located on South 17th Street, and was built in 1938 as part of Mercy Hospital. The new campus will be more handicap accessible, Michelle De La Riva said. Both CFR’s old logo, above the door, and the new logo on the door can be seen.

For 50 years now Community and Family Resources has been there for people dealing with a crisis.

Ever since the agency was founded, those needing to detox have been able to come to the building on South 17th Street to get the help they need. But in 2018, CFR is ready to move to a bigger space.

“I believe it was once part of Mercy Hospital, this and the building next door,” said Michelle De La Riva, executive director of CFR, walking through the 1938-era building.

The old structure wasn’t designed with modern accessibility in mind, with its staircases immediately inside the doors. It’s also too small for CFR’s operations today, De La Riva said. And only part of the treatment options can be located there; CFR also holds its outpatient therapy north of town on 15th Street, and the STARS adolescent program at the Corpus Christi location on North Eighth Street.

In October the agency broke ground on a new $6.6 million facility on Avenue M West which will address all those issues, De La Riva said.

-Messenger file photo by Joe Sutter
Michelle De La Riva, executive director of CFR, speaks at the agency's groundbreaking for its new facility Oct. 20 to the gathered crowd. The $6.6 million facility will increase CFR's capacity and efficiency.

“We’re going to be able to treat more individuals,” she said. “Right now in our adult residential, we typically get about 15 referrals a day, but because of our capacity limitations we’re only able to take one person typically. That’s huge, when you look at the need.

“We also our increasing our detox and crisis stabilization beds. Right now we have nine, and that’s moving up to 13,” De La Riva continued. “In our outpatient clinic, we’re also going to have increased office space. Right now in our outpatient clinic we have substance abuse counselors, we have mental health therapists, but we do not have psychiatric staff. In our new building we will have room for a psychiatrist or a psychiatric aid.”

CFR purchased the land about two years ago, she said. Construction has been slowed slightly by the weather, but Woodruff Construction has already made significant progress. The footings for the east wing have been poured.

“This new building represents hope, healing, and recovery,” De La Riva said. “We’re going to have increased efficiency, we’re going to have safety and security, and most of all our clients are going to be able to come in and say this is a wonderful place of hope, healing and refuge.”

CFR was founded by a man who had been in recovery himself, De La Riva said, and began with detox and an adult residential program. It expanded services from there, and increased the area it serves, offering treatment services in eight different counties and prevention services in 10 counties today.

-Submitted graphic
This view shows the planned future location for CFR. The $6.6 million campus will bring all of CFR’s services together in one bigger, more accessible space.

“For the 50th anniversary we’re going to be doing open houses in every single one of our counties,” she said. “We are in the midst of planning that.”

There will be a push to get out into the community, and explain what CFR does, she said.

Also in the coming year, CFR will continue to do what it can to fight the opioid crisis.

“I think people in general are getting more education about addiction, just because you’re now seeing it on the news. People are talking about opioids, and wondering what does that have to do with us in rural Iowa?” De La Riva said. “So we also are starting a task force here in Fort Dodge to look at what we can do to prevent the effects of this epidemic.”

One cause of the epidemic was that doctors began backing off how much opioids they would prescribe, as we became more aware of negative side effects of taking too much, according to De La Riva.

-Submitted graphic
This view shows the planned future location for CFR. The $6.6 million campus will bring all of CFR’s services together in one bigger, more accessible space.

“As the doctors prescribed less, and there’s no way to effectively detox a person, then people are going to start seeking out those opioids,” she said. “They start turning to using non-prescribed opioids. That’s where the heroin starts coming in. Purchasing opioids online, going to several different doctors.”

People are dying, De La Riva said, not necessarily from prescribed medications, but from the drugs they get from these other sources.

And quitting those pain medications is not easy.

“Opioid withdrawal is a very painful situation. Your body goes through withdrawal that really looks like having the flu. Shakes, chills, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, very unpleasant, that can last 7-10 days.”

When it comes to nationwide trends, Iowa is sometimes the last place to see them, De La Riva said.

-Messenger photo illustration by Joe Sutter
Woodruff Construction is at work during one of the rare warm days at CFR’s future location on Avenue M West, in this image made from multiple photos.

“We’re not seeing a lot of overdose deaths here in Iowa. We’d like to see zero,” she said.

CFR is working with people in the community to look at medicated assisted therapies that can help people suffering from those withdrawal symptoms. It’s also working with local first responders for the use of Narcan, a drug which can save someone who is overdosing on opioids.

“It’s a very powerful drug that can be administered by first responders in order to get people to the hospital to get that extended care,” De La Riva said. “It’s something we’re really passionate about. We think it’s going to be really important in our community. Even if we only administer Narcan one time a year, it’s worth it.”

-Messenger photo illustration by Joe Sutter
Work is ongoing at CFR’s future location on Avenue M West, in this image made from multiple photos. Michelle De La Riva said the footings for the east wing have been poured. The new $6.6 million campus will bring all of CFR’s services to one location.