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Peoria addiction treatment program aims to change community

Posted January 4

— A Peoria addiction treatment program is aiming to change the community, one man at a time.

The Peoria Teen Challenge Men's Division is a faith-based 14-month residential addiction treatment program for men 18 and older. Since the opening in October of 2000, more than 1,200 men have walked through the doors at the building at 311 S. Olive St., searching for the opportunity of a life free from the burden of addiction.

At the Peoria facility, students undergo a four-month induction phase. Upon completion, they are then transferred to another Teen Challenge facility either in Missouri or Pennsylvania for a 10-month training phase. Those who can't leave the state for legal reasons are sent to Chicago, where a larger Teen Challenge building is also used for the induction phase and as a second phase program for those not allowed to leave Illinois to continue their treatment.

The Rev. Randy Atchley, executive director at Peoria Teen Challenge, said the induction phase is to start to develop the character and the foundation students will need to succeed at the training phase.

"As an induction center we need to get them in," Atchley said. "Get them to start focusing on why they are here, what their purpose is and what it is they want to accomplish in their lives and try to distance themselves from their addiction. On the training phase, what they offer is the GED (General Education Diploma), in case they don't have a high school diploma or equivalence; they will get clinical counseling in some instances; they will get tutors according to educational needs."

The first Teen Challenge center opened in 1958 in Brooklyn, N.Y. As of December 2016, there were more than 1,200 centers in 118 countries in the world. All 50 states in the United States have Teen Challenge centers. Atchley said most of them are for adult men and women, but there are some for adolescents, husbands and wives, mothers and children; one for about any type of situation people are in.

The Teen Challenge of Peoria takes a one-time fee of $1,200 for the entire 14-month program. To supplement their income, students, through the Work Therapy program, work certain hours a week at two local not-for-profit businesses: Peoria Production Shop and The Community Workshop & Training Center.

Joe Rogers, director of operations at Peoria Teen Challenge, said no one can be recruited to participate in the Teen Challenge Program, and that the key to the treatment's success lies in the desire of students to change.

"If they are here because mom or dad wanted them here, or if they are here for any other reason other than changing their life, that even makes it more difficult," Rogers said. "If they are open to receiving the program and what the program has to offer, we see change take place."

Fourteen men currently are undergoing the induction phase at the Peoria facility.

"We offer a service to help those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction," Rogers said. "This is what we do for not just the community here in Peoria, but for all the counties of the state. Our interest is not monetary, our interest is in actually changing lives, trying to help improve our community and just the people of our state."

Atchley said that faith is the first and foremost key element of their success. The second is the length of time, and the third is the fact everyone working at the facility has graduated from the program themselves.

"Addiction doesn't develop overnight," Atchley said. "It takes time to progress to where it is, and it doesn't go away overnight either. It takes time to deal with. And the fact that we all went through the program is a big deal. Everybody that comes in now is being helped by somebody that has been there, and walked those shoes."

Both Rogers and Atchley agreed that the biggest issues for the students seems to be the length of the treatment, and the "dropping of the pride" that comes while submitting to the program.

"When they hit the door, they have a lifetime of learning behavior," Rogers said. "So when they come in, we're asking them to surrender all that they know regarding that, and to embrace and start putting on an entire new thought process: a spiritual process and a change of heart and mind. That's a difficult transition."

Angel Cruz, who graduated from the program in 1999, is the project manager community outreach coordinator for the city of Peoria. Cruz said that his decision to enroll in the program was a life-changing experience.

"It showed me that there was hope outside of who I thought I was and where I was going," Cruz said. "If it wasn't for this place, I would be lost today. Change is possible if you choose to go that route."

Peoria Police Capt. Loren Marion said that the program is essential for the community as it helps individuals change and improves their social interaction in society.

"It gives them somewhere to go to," Marion said. "Teen Challenge is a great program and to have the community support is very important."

The Peoria Teen Challenge Men's Division is in the process of relocating and getting a new property so it can fully operate the 14-month program.

"We've been here serving the Peoria area and surroundings for 16 years," Rogers said. "We are wanting to expand because we want to be able to touch more lives. We're here for the community, we're here for the people of Illinois, but we cannot do this without them because it has to be a mutual deal. For those who do support us and believe in us, their participation and their support is priceless, and we hope that more people become aware of us."

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Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, http://bit.ly/2iAfifG

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