In the late '60s, drug addicts were treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. In a New York hospital, though, a psychiatrist-lawyer was determined to make her patients drug-free. For bucking the system, she was taken off the cases.
Seventeen of the patients protested, pooled their money (about $2.50), went to Harlem and asked her to treat them.The result was Odyssey House, a then-new concept in drug rehabilitation. Concerned citizens established a Utah branch in 1971 and expanded it to include an alternative school in 1973, an adolescent treatment unit in 1977 and, six years ago, vocational rehabilitation.
"We tend to deal with a fairly hard-core substance abuse problem," said Glen R. Lambert, director. "Our adult substance abuse program, which is residential, has 50 beds. Adolescent treatment, including delinquency, substance abuse and emotional problems, has 28 beds. We're always full."
Besides substance abuse rehab, Odyssey House offers medical service, psychiatric care, education, individual and group therapy, recrea-tion, practical living skills training, and programs for victims of child abuse, abused women, minorities and the intellectually gifted.
Lambert said Odyssey House garners its success 90 percent of former residents are drug- and crime-free at the five-year follow-up from its philosophy. "We lower depression and pathopsychology and improve self-esteem, and believe we can make a difference," he said. "We do community projects, like yard-work for elderly people. We expect people to be drug-free. And we teach residents that they do have control over their lives."
Although therapy is a large part of the program, the sense of family cultivated in the residential program is also important. "They rely on each other. They don't come here so we can make them better. They're here to make themselves better and help others."
Time doesn't exist in the program. "It's individualized," Lambert said. "We shoot for six months for adolescents and adult re-entry in about 10 months, but that's just a guideline. Psychologically, people need six months to show significant, underlying change. That's what we shoot for really changed people, productive, feeling good about themselves." The further a resident is in the program, the more freedom he is allowed.
The Odyssey House program gets a mixed bag of funding, including payment on contracts from state and federal governments, a United Way grant (accounting for about 4 percent of its budget) and private donations. Money residents earn in job training, like fixing upholstery, also funds about 10 patients annually. "But every year, we have to raise about $450,000 to supplement government funds," Lambert said.
"We're very cost effective it costs between one-sixth and one-twelfth of a normal hospital charge for treatment. As a private, non-profit organization, it seems we're always struggling for money, though."
April 10, the board of directors is throwing an annual "Spring Fling" bash at the Green Street Social Club from 6-11 p.m. The evening includes dancing to the Walter and Hayes band, a buffet and a silent auction and raffle. Prizes include expense-paid trips, skis, furs, meals and a variety of other treats. For information on the bash, call 322-1001 or 363-0203.