MADISON RECOVERS: ARC Community Services helps build a bridge home

Note: This is the final installment of Madison Recovers, which looks at Madison's recovery community, including the increase in opiate abuse in Dane County, local treatment options for those in recovery, and growing initiatives aimed at combatting substance abuse in and around Madison. The first installment looked at the growing problem of opiate use in MadisonThe second installment looked at efforts to build a community for recovery. The third installment looked at UW-Madison's approach to working with students in recovery. The fourth installment profiled Aaron's House, which works with college-age people in recovery. Last week we discussed Connections Counseling’s mentorship programs.

Frustrated with the restrictions insurance companies were placing on substance abuse treatment, Norman Briggs moved from the private sector to ARC Community Services. With 40 years in the field, working mostly with outpatient addiction treatment, Briggs felt at home working with the not-for-profit organization aimed at women with families.

ARC Community Services was founded in 1976 as halfway house for women coming out of prison. The name came from the arc between life in prison and the community.

Briggs, now the director of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse services at ARC, has seen the organization grow, responding to needs in the community and remaining focused on women and children. ARC offers treatment for addiction and specializes in residential services for women in corrections, allowing them to reintegrate into the community more successfully.

“When there's a need we try to fill it, and it's grown to a dozen programs,” Briggs said. “We're very careful about evaluating what is needed, where it's needed and trying to make it work.”

ARC has expanded its locations in Fond du Lac, Wis., and opened its new Maternal & Infant Care program on Monona Drive, offering specialized services for pregnant women. The organization's Healthy Beginnings program also allows women educational opportunities on parenting, and day treatment facilities and an intensive outpatient program that meets three times a week and tries to offer supportive community environments for women in recovery.

Respect, a program aimed at helping women out of a life of prostitution, offers a safe space, peer support and advocacy as women work towards a different lifestyle. ARC also has three halfway houses where women can rent a room or a small apartment that is somewhat subsidized in order to live in a community that supports their recovery. Those economic aids are often the difference between success and relapse in the recovery community, and ARC aims to address each issue that women in recovery face.

“Women need somewhere safe to live that is not going to jeopardize their recovery. A lot of times they don't have the income for a regular apartment.” said ARC Program Manager Laura Fabick. “We address a lot of the socioeconomic barriers that women face. We have a child care center on site. We provide transportation to and from our site and we can also help them get financial assistance. We're trying to make it as easy as possible for them to get here.”

ARC also offers courses on building a resume, and job seeking. The programs are partially funded by the state government as well as with grants from Dane County.

“We try to support women to learn the skills to enable them to be successful in the community and reach out to the employer themselves,” Fabick said.  That's part of leaving the nest, is doing that on their own.”

Most of ARC's programs are coordinated with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, offering a community-based recovery plan that is structured around rules and regulations. The organization also aims to offer services to anyone in need, keeping openings for women struggling with addiction outside of the system and offering forgiving and flexible short-term services to get women “on their feet and in a program that works for them,” according to Briggs.

“Addiction is a disease that has significant effects. We will not automatically dismiss someone because they're showing symptoms of their disease,” Briggs said. “If people appear to be serious about recovery, we're going to work with them.”

One of the major drivers of success at ARC is independence from insurance companies, Fabick said. The organization is funded through public support and private donations, and offers free care to any women in need.

“We're not dependent on insurance companies, we can call the shots; that will really give us successful outcomes,” Fabick said. “We get together and talk about where the patient is in recovery, and how the people sitting around the table can help keep them going. There's good communication between the staff counselors and probation officers, and in many cases we're in a position to advocate on behalf of the patients. (The accountability) helps to motivate people.”