By Cloee Cooper
Melvin Daniels was recently released from his second stint in prison for unlawful use of a weapon. On a rainy January morning, he walked ten blocks from his halfway house in Garfield Park to join a couple dozen people, many of them recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. In a well-lit room, they talked together, drummed, sang and read poetry.
“I really enjoyed that class because I like music a lot, as you can see,” said Daniels. “I’ve been through a lot as far as street violence, gang violence, homeless situations and you know, being isolated.”
Above and Beyond Family Recovery treatment center in East Garfield park is a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility founded in January 2015 by venture capitalist Bryan Cressey. With private funds donated by Cressey, the center can use a non-traditional approach to treatment recovery. That approach focuses on individualized care for the client. The center also offers classes in yoga, acupuncture and trauma recovery. The rehabilitation services are free for everyone, including clients like Daniels—who has a court mandate to get treatment—and others who walk in off the street.
While the West Side of Chicago has the highest rates in the city for heroin overdoses and heroin possession, there has been a steady decline in public funding for drug rehabilitation centers. Since 2010, West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park have ranked first and second for heroin possession and hospitalization rates according to a 2016 study by the Illinois Coalition on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University. The same study found that from 2009-2013, the city of Chicago lost more than 60 percent of its publicly funded treatment centers.
“It’s not going to fill the void, but I’m very much in favor of nonprofit treatment centers like Above and Beyond,” said Kathleen Kane-Willis, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Chicago Urban League. But in some circumstances, Kane-Willis said, for-profit treatment centers are opening up to fill the void. She said the need for treatment far outweighs the services available in the state of Illinois. “People are desperate to get into treatment,” Kane-Willis said. “Our need outstrips the capacity.”
Cuts in public funding for treatment centers continue to disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, where the need for treatment remains high. For Daniels and other residents in the West Side of Chicago, Above and Beyond provides a warm community in an otherwise neglected part of the city.