Our 2016 Annual Report is now online

For more than 50 years, we have been a beacon of hope to thousands of men, women, and children in crisis. The majority of the people who turn to us for help not only struggle with the debilitating effects of substance abuse and mental illness, they face considerable challenges in getting the treatment services they need.

In this report, we celebrate our mission with an outstanding achievement – the opening of the George Rosenfeld Center for Recovery (GRCR). This new residential treatment center will serve some of the most vulnerable members of our society affected by substance abuse: pregnant women; mothers with babies and young children; teen girls; and senior citizens.

Click here to download the report (pdf) and learn more about the GRCR, get an overview of our 50th-anniversary celebrations, and take a look at the key accomplishments and events of 2016.

Our Spring 2017 newsletter is now available!

News opioid recovery programThe Spring 2017 edition of Odyssey House News is now available online. Read about our new street outreach grant in Harlem, how we’re expanding recovery services in the Bronx, and more. You can even get a sneak peek inside the George Rosenfeld Center for Recovery, opening in May on Wards Island. Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments or on our Facebook wall. Click here to read it (pdf).

If you’d like to receive a copy in the mail, please email your contact information to info(at)odysseyhousenyc.org.

An advocate for recovery sees dream realized

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we have been sharing a personal story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. This month, as we conclude our anniversary profiles and prepare for the opening of the George Rosenfeld Center for Recovery, we are highlighting a very special member of our family: Odyssey Foundation Chairman Mr. George Rosenfeld. George is a tireless advocate for vulnerable New Yorkers who turn to us for help with substance abuse and mental health problems.

Addicton recovery advocateFor more than two decades, George Rosenfeld has helped lead and shape Odyssey House. His visionary and compassionate public service leadership as Chairman of Odyssey House (2002–2012) and then as Chairman of Odyssey Foundation has helped save the lives of thousands of men and women suffering from substance use and mental health disorders.

An advocate for the care and well-being of elderly substance abusers, his far-sighted recognition of their distinct needs led to the founding of the Odyssey House ElderCare Program and its permanent home at our newly renovated family treatment center on Ward’s Island in Upper Manhattan — a center we are proud to name the George Rosenfeld Center for Recovery.

We are immensely fortunate and grateful that George chose to join the cause at Odyssey House. He has donated his time and resources to those who often have few friends and allies as they struggle to overcome addiction and mental health challenges.

We cannot imagine a kinder, more thoughtful, or more compassionate leader. He is the cheerleader of cheerleaders. He has guided us through challenges and prepared us to make the most of opportunities to do more for the people we serve, and to do it better.

As we prepare to open the 231-bed residential treatment center for women, mothers with children, and older adults, we asked George to share with us how his commitment to public service evolved into championing the cause of underserved and stigmatized substance abusers:

 

Before I joined Odyssey House I had been closely involved in developing a hospice for AIDS patients, Rivington House in New York’s Lower East Side, which opened in 1993 at the height of the epidemic. Once the hospice opened and I felt that the project was in good hands, I was inspired to look further afield for other causes I could get involved with.

It didn’t take long. I heard a testimony at a New York City Council meeting, which gave statistics on the number of people in NYC addicted to drugs and alcohol and talked about an organization that was making a dent in these numbers — Odyssey House.

I wanted to hear more, and in 1997 I was introduced to the organization, met with the board, and they invited me to join them.

Early in my role as board member I visited Odyssey House’s treatment centers in New York City. One facility in particular captured my interest, a 100-year-old semi-abandoned former psychiatric hospital perched on a small hill practically underneath the Triborough Bridge. The facility was located on Ward’s Island — a veritable no-man’s land on the East River between East Harlem, The Bronx, and Queens — that is also home to Manhattan Psychiatric Center and other social service agencies.

Despite the dilapidated state of much of the building, the center I visited that day was a thriving treatment community where Odyssey House cared for a variety of recovering substance abusers, including women mandated by family courts, many of whom were pregnant, or caring for young children. At this center (known then as the MABON for Mothers And Babies Off Narcotics since its founding in 1973), Odyssey House not only provided essential shelter and therapy for women who were vulnerable and often abused, but it also cared for their babies and toddlers. When I saw the babies asleep in their cribs next to their moms, I knew I had joined a very special organization.

It was my dream to someday persuade the State of New York to help us renovate the entire building and provide this service to more young families. It took 20 years, but today that dream has come true.

I couldn’t be prouder of Odyssey House and more grateful to our many supporters who made this dream a reality.

 

Odyssey House shares George’s pride in this new family center, GRCR, which brings together elders, women, and mothers with young children and establishes a multigenerational community dedicated to forging a healthy future together.

“My sanctuary”

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. Here is Marshall’s story, who lives at Odyssey House Park Avenue, one of our supportive housing programs.

supportive housing tenantDiagnosed with bipolar disorder and cerebral palsy as an adult, Marshall, 57, has faced a number of challenges. Before coming to Park Avenue, Marshall was homeless for almost two years. Like many others who lacked a stable living environment, Marshall worked with a few different programs, trying to find a place where he could rebuild his life. He found the process especially difficult as there were few places that could provide the resources he needed for his physical and mental health challenges that were also wheelchair accessible.

Then he was referred to Odyssey House. Since joining the Park Avenue community three years ago, Marshall has been able to live independently while still having access to the resources and case management services Odyssey House offers.

Marshall remembers the day his counselor told him his new home had a handicapped shower: “tears came out of my eyes. I am so thankful to Odyssey House for giving me my own place, one that allows me to move freely. It is my sanctuary.” He looks forward to each night when he can come home to his studio apartment, where he proudly displays the artwork he creates as part of the Odyssey House Art Project.

Odyssey House Park Avenue is a 50-unit, single occupancy apartment building for men and women with special needs. The building provides a supportive, independent living environment for individuals who have overcome many life challenges, including mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness.

“I was given a second chance.”

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. Here is Hamilton’s story, a resident of the Leadership Center for transitional-age men.

“Six months ago, if you had told me I’d be going to college, I would have called you a liar.” When Hamilton, 24, came to Odyssey House, he was homeless and doing anything he could to get more heroin. But after a near-fatal overdose, he made a decision to turn his life around.

young man heroin recoveryBorn to heroin-addicted parents, Hamilton started using marijuana and drinking at age 12. “I always felt different from the other kids growing up and was searching for an escape from my reality,” he says. By age 14, he was in his first treatment program. Hamilton spent the rest of his adolescence cycling through juvenile detention and treatment programs.

He was 18 when he tried heroin for the first time. “From that day until the day I entered Odyssey House, it completely controlled my life. Everything I did was to get more heroin.” After being arrested in New Hampshire, his father bailed him out under one condition: that he get help. Hamilton agreed but didn’t take it too seriously. Before entering treatment, he went out to get high one last time, overdosed, and was revived by naloxone.

After his near death experience, Hamilton realized he’d been given another chance and decided to commit to treatment. He struggled in the beginning, but after a few weeks of attending group meetings and one-on-one sessions with his counselor, he began to understand the depth of his drug problem. “The staff at Odyssey House believed in me until I could believe in myself,” he says.

In treatment, Hamilton has rebuilt a number of relationships with his loved ones. The guidance and support of his father, in recovery himself since Hamilton was six years old, has been particularly invaluable. “He’s been through what I’m going through, and he doesn’t judge me.”

Seeing the positive effects of recovery in his life motivates Hamilton to push himself further. A cross-country runner growing up, Hamilton joined the Run for Your Life team and is planning to run the NYC Marathon this year. “I feel free when I run,” he says. “It improves my mood, and it’s great to get out and meet people in the other programs and share our experiences.”

Hamilton also earned his high school equivalency diploma and enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He plans to study human services. “I was given a second chance and I feel it’s my duty to help kids like me get their second chance. Without Odyssey House, none of this would be possible and I am forever grateful.”

Breaking the cycle of addiction, one family at a time

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. This month we are highlighting our Early Educational Center.

Moms battling drug and alcohol addiction often face a tough choice: taking care of themselves or taking care of their children. At Odyssey House, they don’t have to make that choice, because pregnant women and parents with children can stay together, helping to build stronger families.

Mothers addiction treatment family servicesIn mid-2016, Jacqueline, 36, pregnant with her third child, nearly had to make that choice. Unable to find a program that could help her in her hometown of Boston, and desperate to get sober, Jacqueline came to New York and began treatment at Odyssey House.

Like other parents in our program, Jacqueline is learning to create a nurturing relationship with her son while addressing a wide array of issues, including managing emotional stress, tackling medical and mental health issues, and identifying safe and secure housing.

While Jacqueline engages in clinical services, our Early Educational Center focuses on assisting children like her son in reaching their full developmental potential in five on-site, licensed daycare and preschool classrooms, serving children from two months to six years of age. “The teachers are wonderful,” says Jacqueline. “They’re great with the kids and very hands-on. It’s reassuring to know that my son is safe and in good hands while I’m in group sessions.”

Being in treatment with her son keeps Jacqueline focused on her recovery. “Having my son with me is so motivating. I’m not sure I could do it without him – thinking about him all the time would be too distracting,” she says. “But here I can work through my issues and work towards my goals, so I can be the best mother I can be. I wasn’t able to raise my two older kids, and I don’t want to lose the chance to raise him too.”

Through the Family Center of Excellence, Odyssey House strives to break the cycle of addiction one family at a time.

Giving thanks every day

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. This month we would like to introduce you Marjorie, a member of our Tinton Avenue supportive housing community who has been a part of Odyssey House for almost four years and is celebrating her fifth year of sobriety.

Supportive housing tenantAlmost four years ago, at the age of 50, Marjorie had a major psychotic breakdown, leading to hospitalization and a diagnosis of schizophrenia. On top of that she was also struggling to maintain a fragile sobriety. For over 30 years, Marjorie had found solace in illegal drugs as a way to cope with her traumatic childhood. Realizing her situation was critical, she knew if she was going to save her life it was now or never. She grabbed hold of that chance.

After several relapses and treatment attempts, Marjorie started on the road to recovery in 2013 when she was admitted to the Odyssey House Harbor, a transitional mental health housing program. During her time at the Harbor, Marjorie improved her physical and mental well-being and began to regain her confidence. She made such progress in following her treatment that she was offered permanent housing at Odyssey House Tinton Avenue the following year.

Since moving into Tinton Avenue in 2014, Marjorie has been a conscientious tenant and neighbor. She handles her responsibilities as a tenant with respect and enthusiasm; participates in group activities; and provides helpful insights to her fellow tenants.

Outgoing and approachable, one of her neighbors describes her as “woman who cares passionately for everyone.” Another adds, “Marjorie is known for being supportive of her neighbors who are struggling with addiction and mental illness and freely lends her time and compassion so we don’t feel alone.”

When asked what she wants to do with her life, Marjorie is clear: she hopes to become a peer counselor and put her experience and professional training to work to the benefit of others who, like her, have struggled against enormous odds to lead independent lives.

In her pursuit to become a peer counselor, Marjorie completed training in overdose prevention and recovery coaching at our outpatient services and established a peer support network at Tinton Avenue.

She’s also made it a priority to continue her journey of recovery. She attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings and is a regular attendee at the Odyssey House-sponsored outpatient recovery network where she participates in therapy sessions, smoking cessation workshops, and yoga classes, and stays involved in her local church.

This year Marjorie achieved something she never thought possible: graduating from the Resource Training Center as a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor Trainee (CASAC-T).

Living in a secure and safe community surrounded by people who support her recovery is something Marjorie gives thanks for every day.

“I am very happy, and I owe it to Odyssey House.”

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. This month we had a moment to catch up with former ElderCare client Sheryl, who is now two years sober and still works closely with our Outpatient program.

Elder addict recoveryIn 2014, Sheryl, 53, was early in her recovery. She had recently completed a rehabilitation program and, though she felt good about her new life, she knew from past experiences that she needed the support of peers who understand the complexities that come from struggling with an addiction for over 30 years. As an older adult who had been addicted to crack cocaine for so long, Sheryl felt that the challenges she faced were unique and needed to be treated as such.

The Odyssey House ElderCare program gave her the hope and push she needed to stay on track to continue her recovery. Today, Sheryl is two years clean and “feels wonderful.” She credits much of her success to the counselors who were with her “every step of the way.” As someone who typically kept to herself, her counselors encouraged her to open up and speak during her group therapy sessions. Sheryl took this opportunity to challenge herself and found engaging with her peers made her feel comfortable and understood. “I want to be able to tell my story, and show others that living clean and sober is a wonderful way to live life.”

Sheryl is committed to spreading positive messages. She is an integral member of our Odyssey House community and helps facilitate the Women’s Group at our Outpatient program in the Bronx. She also reaches out to others in her community that have the same struggles she has. “I just want to give back and help the organization that helped me become who I am today.”

Sheryl is job seeking and will begin night school in the upcoming month to secure her high school equivalency.  She attends regular group therapies through Odyssey House and hopes to become a Recovery Coach through the program. “I am very happy, and I owe it to Odyssey House.”

Reaching recovery goals through running

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. This month, we are profiling Ryan, who is training for the New York City Marathon as a member of our Run for Your Life Team.

 

woman recovery runner rehab
Ryan on a training run with team leader Andre Matthews (left) and her teammates.

After a two-decade struggle with a crack cocaine addiction, Ryan, 34, is ready to live the healthiest life she can. Since returning to Odyssey House last year, Ryan has been working to make better choices for herself and make this time in treatment her last.

During her first time at Odyssey House in 2013, Ryan admits that she wasn’t as committed as she needed to be to maintain her recovery. After leaving the program, she found herself returning to her old habits and she relapsed. Today, she has strengthened her resolve: “I know now that I have to change every aspect of my life, to focus on becoming a better me.”

With her new mindset, Ryan quit smoking, is eating healthier, and training to run the New York City Marathon for a second time. “The first time was to see if I could complete it, but this year it is about setting a personal best.” She credits much of this motivation to the Run for Your Life team, the Odyssey House-sponsored running group that promotes healthy living habits and keeps in contact with a network of recovery peers through twice-weekly training runs in Central Park.

“This is more than a team, it’s my second family,” Ryan says, something that is particularly important to her as her family resides in New England. The team keeps her dedicated to her sobriety and healthy lifestyle. “We help push each other towards success.” As a returning marathoner, she has taken on a leadership role within the team, mentoring the new runners and encouraging them to stick with it.

In addition, the therapeutic effects of running have helped Ryan with her anxiety and given her confidence to apply herself to bigger opportunities. She is in the process of becoming a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor: “I want a career in helping people who have gone through similar situations to my own,” Ryan explains. “I know I can do anything I put my mind to, especially with the support of my team.”

Our Fall 2016 newsletter is now available!

Odyssey House NewsThe Fall 2016 edition of Odyssey House News is now online. Read about our 50th-anniversary celebrations, our new website, graduation ceremony, and more! Check it out (pdf) and let us know what you think on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

And don’t forget to join us on Saturday, September 24th for our 11th Annual Run for Your Life event!