A new lease on life

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Crossroads Counseling Services is making a positive difference in the lives of countless individuals.

Crossroads offers a host of helpful options to those in need of treatment of substance abuse and related disorders. They include driver intervention program, underage drinking class, diversion program, adult drug court and transitional housing program.

Individuals in need of an extended care rehab program are placed in either Awakenings (women residential) or New Outlook (men’s residential). Both facilities are located in Belmont.

On July 30, I accompanied Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato and several Crossroads employees and board members on a tour of both facilities.

Judge Fregiato takes great pride in doing his judicial homework. He was on a fact-finding mission to know more about the houses he often times sentences individuals to from his court.

“The drug crisis has hit an epidemic stage. I am using all tools available to me to break the cycle. Depending upon the case, the situation, and the person’s sincere desire to become “clean,” these tools include intensive residential counseling, jail, and/or the penitentiary,” Judge Fregiato said. “A judge must be tough and compassionate, and usually a combination of the two . . . at the same time. The key is knowing how, when, and in what combination to apply the remedies, and this all depends upon the facts of the case, the individual’s circumstances, whether or not the crime is one of violence or not, the overwhelming need to protect the public, and the person’s underlying sincere drive with his or her recognition of individual responsibility.

“When we have a success, it’s a win-win-win situation: the defendant’s life is saved in more ways than one, his or her children may now have the guidance and role model they need, the public is protected from future crime, and costs and taxes are saved in the long run,” the judge continued. We all have to keep working at it every single day.”

OUR FIRST stop was at Awakenings, located in the heart of the village of Belmont.

Awakenings opened in 1994 is under the watch of program manager Penny Russell, a position she has held for 19 years. The facility holds up to eight residents at once. They must be 18 years or older. They are allowed to bring their children.

Eighty percent of those at Awakenings are court ordered with the other 20 percent being their voluntarily. Ninety days is the average stay.

The women at the house face a rigid schedule.

The typical day goes like this:

  • 7 a.m. — rise.
  • 7:30 a.m. — exercise and wellness
  • 8:30 a.m. — meditation
  • 9 a.m. — shower and breakfast
  • 10 a.m. — Group session which includes volunteer work outside the home at such place like the Belmont County Animal Shelter.
  • 1 p.m. — a group session
  • 5 p.m. family time followed by dinner. The meal is prepared by one of the residents.

After dinner, those in the program attend an AA meeting.

For those who need a less restrictive environment for treatment, intensive outpatient services are offered to women 18 years and older. They participate in the day-to-day routine of the residential treatment facility.

THE MEN’S residence — or New Outlook — is just a mile or so down the road. It is not as cozy inside as Awakenings, but has a much more scenic and spacious outdoor setting.

New Outlook came into existence in November of 1998 under the auspices of Crossroads Counseling Services. The 9-bed residential facility is staffed 24/7 with Angela Freeman cast as director.

It is also a 90-day program, encompassing three tiers.

The initial phase consists of individual therapy, group process, education about the disease of addiction and recovery tools, skills enhancement and case management services.

Phase II involves the customer investigation and career choices. Opportunities are provided for the men to challenge themselves in the work force through education, career and vocational training, employment and/or volunteerism.

Phase III involves assisting the customer in practicing skills through involvement in the community, aftercare planning, housing attainment and transition to independence.

“Being housed here (New Outlook) is a teaching experience. They learn to live with society in our house and then take it to the public,” said Skip Clawson, who is assistant house director. “We are a stabilizing force in their lives. We have a no tolerance policy here.”

AA meetings are held at the house every Thursday evening.

Sandra L. Nicholoff is executive director of Crossroads Counseling Services. She has a challenging job, but one she handles expertly. Nicholoff is professional, caring and passionate. She is also an attorney.

“I believe the serene settings at Awakenings and New Outlook help with the recovery process. It enables participants to focus on their rehabilitation,” Nicholoff said. “There are no similar residential facilities in neighboring counties.

“I think it is fantastic Judge Fregiato took his time to visit the facilities. It will help him visualize where he is sending people from his court,” she added. “Our programs are very successful, but not always a one-shot deal. Often times it takes a more mature person to finally get it.”

Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader online.com

lady with us Cindy Bacon…prevention program manager

Tom Hauner and Steve Skokie Ann Paine

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