In 2017, the Volunteers of America (VOA) Indiana was selected by the women of Impact 100 as our Change-Maker Grant Winner. Our $100,000 grant was used to kick-start their $650,000 renovation of Theodora House to expand the Fresh Start Recovery Center – a program for women with opioid addiction who were pregnant or had young children.
On August 23, 2018, I was one of twenty Impact 100 members and friends who toured Theodora House to see first-hand what that 2017 Change-Maker grant had done. Before the tour, John Von Arx, VOA President, and Shannon Schumacher, Chief Operating Officer, helped us put the need for the Fresh Start Recovery Center in perspective. They took us back to 2013, when there was a 30% increase in the number of children being referred to the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). That increase was directly related to the opioid epidemic. Parental terminations because of opioid addiction had increased by 31%. There was a sharp increase in the number of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The waiting list for children for a foster care placement was 23,000. In 2015, VOA began taking in mothers who were in the criminal justice system, with opioid addiction. These moms could bring in up to 2 children ages 2-5. Immediately VOA knew that more was needed to address the problem. That knowledge prompted VOA to apply for the Impact 100 Change-Maker Grant.
According to John and Shannon, our grant was the catalyst for change that came at the perfect time. The grant allowed VOA to expand their Fresh Start Recovery Center from 15 to 45 beds in Indianapolis. Our grant was the first they received, and that gave them credibility to go after the balance of needed funds. After receiving our grant, VOA was able to pursue and receive 2 specialized federal grants for Fresh Start clients. But there were even more benefits that flowed from receiving the Change-Maker Grant: VOA was able to open a 15-bed Turning Point Recovery Center for women coming out of the criminal justice system and VOA was able to expand its Medication Addiction Treatment. Since the awarding of our grant, VOA has been able to help 108 additional mothers and 27 additional children. And 54 criminal-justice involved women have received treatment instead of reincarceration.
The Fresh Start Recover Center program is now the model for other centers in Indiana. VOA is opening programs in Winchester, Evansville, and Columbus.
While all those facts and figures made us proud to be women of Impact, nothing compared to the inspiration we felt to actually see the moms and babies on our tour and to talk to the staff and to the women who are benefiting from the VOA programs. I got to talk with Baby Joey’s mom, who had just moved that day into her room in the Fresh Start Recovery Center. Baby Joey was just a couple of weeks old. His mom said, “This is his room now.” I spoke with Billy Jo in the Turning Point Recovery Center, who showed us her room, and said, “it’s nice here.” The feeling that I got from the residents is that there’s hope for the future.
As our VP Karen Holly said after the tour, “This is why we do what we do.” We want more women to join us so we can do more for our community.
Submitted by Terry A.M. Mumford, President, Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis, 8/25/18