NEWARK, NJ — As the two sides of the scissors in city council president Mildred Crump’s hands closed on the ribbon stretching across Integrity House’s new Women’s Wellness Center on Thursday, the moment signaled to those in attendance that the facility was officially open for business.
But for Integrity House, one of New Jersey’s largest nonprofit addiction treatment providers, the crisp slice was also the final piece of puzzle locking into place. Now, in a new era of addiction treatment, the provider can finally say it offers a full continuum of care specifically for women in its city of origin.
The road to get there was hardly an overnight journey.
“We’re really, really proud of this, we envisioned this 15 years ago and it doesn’t happen immediately,” said Bob Budsock, CEO of Integrity House.
While Integrity House has operated in Newark and beyond for more than 50 years, it wasn’t until much later that the provider set out to provide gender-specific services through SAMHSA grants and private fundraising. The first program erected with the funding was the women’s long term residential facility for women, then a halfway house and an outpatient program.
Next came women’s supportive housing, which lives above the Wellness Center and provides apartments to 40 women in recovery. The many support offerings and classes at the center are just a short walk down the steps for those occupants.
While the needs of the community have changed, Integrity House’s goal to provide a safe place for women to relax and receive recovery services has not. According to Budsock, visitors can enjoy a schedule of programs ranging from crafts and support groups to financial literacy and makeovers provided through outside partners.
“At the beginning of this initiative, we didn’t really have an opioid epidemic, we were still coming off the crack epidemic that we experienced. Now, we’ve identified that there’s a major concern with opioid overdose deaths, and we needed to adapt to those changes,”
Integrity House is providing NARCAN, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, training to better prepare the women who use its Wellness Center to provide emergency aid to others.
Partnerships with the New Jersey Reentry Program and Blessed Ministries are also in development to further the center’s mission to help women rebuild their lives comprehensively.
“I used to have a saying on those nights when myself and my friends who understood the importance of what integrity was all about. At the end of almost every speech, I said to the ladies, ‘this is your final makeover,’ and for many of them, it was their final makeover,” Crump said just before cutting the ribbon. “They went on to become successful women who did not hide their pasts. So I say to you what I said to them 20 years ago: ‘I know you got it going on!’”