Since 1967, Odyssey House has provided innovative services and programs to a broad population of individuals and families struggling with substance use and mental health disorders.
It was founded by Dr. Judianne Densen Gerber, a resident psychiatrist working at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City who was dissatisfied with the practice of using drug replacement medications such as methadone as the primary therapeutic intervention.
Adopting a non-traditional treatment approach, she partnered with her patients to form a peer-driven therapeutic community. The first Odyssey House program was located in East Harlem on 109th Street and provided treatment for 17 ex-addicts; it quickly grew into one of the country’s preeminent therapeutic communities – catching the attention of public policy and medical experts.
Over the last 50 years, Odyssey House treatment centers have opened up across the country – in Utah, Louisiana, Michigan and Texas – and in countries as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Though they bear the Odyssey House name, the treatment centers have operated as independent entities since the 1980s.
In 1970, three years after its inception, Odyssey House opened the Teen Leadership Center in response to the pressing epidemic of drug-troubled youths. It was the first publicly funded adolescent treatment unit featuring a full-service residential high school, family and individual therapy, and vocational services.
In 1973, Odyssey House led the treatment field with the first residential center to help addicted parents and their children. Early childhood development counselors and a medical staff attended to the young families, guiding their recovery and providing the necessary skills for parenting in a safe, drug-free environment. A second center opened in 1994 also offering a fully equipped nursery, preschool, and outdoor playground on-site.
Success at these centers established Odyssey House as the national prototype for family-centered substance abuse services and earned it the reputation for setting the standard of excellence in the treatment field. Today, as many as 180 mothers and young children are in residential treatment, making Odyssey House one of the largest treatment system for families in the country. Family Center services are slated to relocate to a renovated residential treatment site on Wards Island by end of 2016.
Since 1992, we have offered primary health care services within our residential treatment programs so residents can receive medical attention quickly and efficiently. Staffed by board-certified medical specialists, our medical services provide comprehensive primary and specialty medical care for all residents resulting in:
- Significantly improved medical outcomes
- Reduced treatment disruptions
- Elimination of unnecessary and costly emergency room visits
The Odyssey House ElderCare program was created in 1997 with a grant from the Rosenback Foundation to specifically treat older people with substance use and mental health disorders. The first of its kind, the program offers residential and outpatient treatment and has helped more than 1,500 seniors in recovery successfully re-integrate into their communities.
Odyssey House also offers provides 420 supportive housing apartments for individuals and families who are coping with homelessness, mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. The first transitional housing program opened in 1992 in East Harlem. The Odyssey House Harbor is a 60-bed transitional housing program for single men and women in recovery from mental illness and substance abuse disorders, who with appropriate case management and medication support, progress to independent community-based housing. Since then, we have constructed four new apartment buildings on abandoned sites in East Harlem and the Bronx, each built to our own exacting design and construction standards. Our newest housing program is about to get underway in Harlem, where we are replacing two abandoned brownstones with 21 mixed-use, single occupancy apartments, 15 for people in recovery from mental illness and six for people with low incomes.
Recent years have seen further enhancements to Odyssey House’s continuum of care services. We:
- Opened New York’s first joint-agency treatment program for chemically dependent parolees with the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and Division of Parole (DOP). This sets the precedent for future prison rehabilitation programs and establishes best practices for breaking the cycle of recidivism among chemically dependent parolees. The 30-day program serves up to 1,200 parolees a year at the recently renovated Edgecombe Residential Treatment Facility in Upper Manhattan.
- Created the city’s first publicly funded residential drug and alcohol rehab center for young women between 18-24 years of age. This program offers intensive counseling, education, and family therapy services for young women in a family-like environment that encourages peer support, individual responsibility, and pro-social values. The 16-bed center also has a fully equipped physical fitness room and yoga facilities.
- Opened an outpatient center in the Bronx offering family, group, and individual counseling plus a peer-support recovery network
- Opened an on-site dental clinic offering general dentistry services to all Odyssey House residential and outpatient clients as well as patients referred by local community-based organizations
- Designed and constructed four supportive special needs housing programs for 356 homeless adults
- Renovation of 220-bed treatment center for families and senior citizens
- Management of 123 community-based apartments for families and individuals in transition from intensive residential treatment
For 50 years, Odyssey House’s innovative clinical protocols in housing, education, employment, and medical services have demonstrated our commitment to providing quality programs that meet the needs of a changing community of individuals and families with substance misuse and mental health challenges.