The Centers for Families and Children began working to bring on addiction services about a year ago, upon realizing just how much its services were affected by the opioid epidemic.
In its early learning programming, the not-for-profit knew that children of those struggling with addiction could need support because of added challenges, such as an unstable home life or the trauma of experiencing a parent with addiction. And in the Centers' workforce programming, they saw clients who were addicted and unemployed, as well as employers looking for staff that could pass a drug screening.
So the Centers gradually added new staff to support the growth, Chalker said. In total thus far, it has added seven staff to help offer non-intensive outpatient and aftercare services, group support, drug screenings and talk therapy. Next, the organization wants to expand services to offer intensive outpatient therapy and eventually, partial hospitalization.
That's not to say that everyone should try to provide those services, Chalker said. Rather, it's critical to know what services are available, partner with other organizations and refer people as necessary.
"You can't address these things without looking at housing or other barriers that our clients face every day," Chalker said.
Many not-for-profits providing addiction treatment have been in the field for decades, but the opioid epidemic is different, leaders say, both in its intensity and deadliness.
In 2003, just 5% of the people who came into the detox unit at the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland had a primary diagnosis of an opioid or heroin addiction. By last year, that was nearly 80%, said Beau Hill, executive director at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Complex.
"It's meant that we've had to retool how we think about addiction, and it's also had to retool kind of how we operate," Hill said.
For instance, over the past 40 or 50 years, blue collar alcoholics who would get clean and find a job were a huge part of the work, he said. Now, many of those who struggle with addiction are younger and haven't developed some of the skills to secure a blue collar job, which are harder to come by these days anyway.
The nuances and broad effects of addiction make partnership with different agencies "absolutely critical," Hill said, "because the problem is so prevalent that there's no one single agency that can be the entire answer."
As not-for-profits improve in the work of trying to tackle poverty and its symptoms, they're better understanding the links of various issues — education and opportunities, substance abuse, mental health, housing, lack of employment, and more.
"We can't work in silos anymore," United Way's Mendez said. "We're going to need to leverage and collaborate our resources, and the opioid crisis is one great example of that."