CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF EMPOWERING WOMEN
The Women’s Recovery Center began its life as the Westside Women’s Center in early 1986 to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for women on the near Westside of Cleveland to find support and assistance. A group of social service agencies came together to offer services in one space that was convenient for women. Each agency provided specific programming and held a seat on the Board.
In 1989, under the leadership of Claire Farnsworth, the Westside Women’s Center became part of a national network of women’s sports festivals called run,jane,run. The name is taken from a series of old schoolbook readers in which Jane, always passive and deferential, was exhorted to “Look, Jane, look!” as her friend Dick and his dog Spot were running, playing ball and otherwise having adventures. With run,jane,run, Jane no longer sits on the sidelines! These multi-event festivals raised funds for women’s groups all around the country.
Nickie Antonio became the Executive Director in 1990 and under her direction the Center became certified to provide outpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment. The Center also became the first organization to provide counseling for women living with HIV and AIDS and they organized the first bilingual and bi-cultural HIV prevention program for women in the city. Hard Hatted Women had their offices on-site and the Center became an even stronger referral resource for women. Nickie remembers these years as a learning experience. “The women who were involved with the Center were incredible human beings! During my years there I learned how to create a welcoming environment, how to give and receive hugs and how to work with people seeking services.”
In 1997, Mary Jane Chichester took over leadership of the Center charged with the mission to provide opportunities for women to take greater control over their lives – physically, emotionally and economically. At that point the Center offered outpatient substance abuse treatment services for medically indigent women and childcare services for mothers engaged in treatment. In 1997, the annual client capacity was limited to treating 30 women per year for addiction.
Ashley Yassall was appointed as the Executive Director in 2019. Ashley was previously involved at the Women’s Recovery Center as a Board of Directors member before her appointment. Ashley plans to expand programming to fully utilize the newly renovated space on Storer Avenue and build community partners to better serve the Stockyard neighborhood and the Cleveland community.
In 2013, in response to the growing opioid epidemic, the Board of Directors of the Women’s Recovery Center completed and approved a new Strategic Plan. Realizing that our current facility was a barrier to achieving our stated goals, a reconfiguration of the facility was built into the plan. Working with Robert Maschke, Architect, we analyzed our current space needs and created an award winning design which will provide the room to double our capacity to provide high quality addiction treatment services. With a new strategic plan and increased vision, the organization emerged as the Women’s Recovery Center to be an outspoken advocate of addiction treatment and to reduce the shame and fear that women have in seeking help.
Upon the completion of construction of the facility in 2017, the Women’s Recovery Center will be able to operate three intensive outpatient addiction treatment programs with a full parents on-site childcare program. The individualized and gender specific treatment curriculum is a trauma integrated approach to long term sobriety and economic self-sufficiency. Specifically, the treatment curriculum incorporates group and individual therapy, art and drama therapy, parenting and family violence counseling and family counseling emphasizing family reunification. The Center also has integrated physical health care with behavioral health care, provides referral services, clothing distribution and HIV education.
Today the Women’s Recovery Center has completed construction and we have raised nearly 80% of the $1,100,000 that we will need to rebuild, refurnish and upgrade our information technology capacity in the new space. Our goal in reconfiguring the facility and expanding our programming is to reduce the wait time to 48 hours for a woman seeking addiction treatment at our facility, and increase our capacity from 115 to 300 women treated per year.
With the mantra, Treating Addiction…Liberating Lives, the Women’s Recovery Center is a unique organization dedicated to comprehensively addressing the complex and critical needs of medically indigent women who have been affected by the disease of addiction. Through our thirty years of existence, there have been 514 babies born drug-free to former clients of the Center. Every day, we are grateful to witness the Miracles of Recovery.