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RACINE — For the past three years, the Women of Worth treatment program based at the old St. Luke’s Hospital in Racine has helped women reclaim their lives by addressing their addictions and mental health issues, and — most of all — inspiring them to hope again.

“A lot of ladies come in and they don’t have hope,” said Program Manager Claudia Van Koningsveld. “We talk about what their goals in life are, what they want their life to look like. We figure out how we can support that.”

Launched via the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization, the program, which serves Racine and Kenosha counties, is aimed at helping women 18 and older address not only their addictions, but also their emotional, mental health and family issues.

“When treatment services are provided based on the specific needs of women, not only are the success rates for ongoing sobriety higher, but there is an impact on the next generation of children,” said Dr. Francine Feinberg, psychologist and consultant to WOW.

Family-centered

Women attend four times weekly as outpatients for six weeks or longer if needed, and also take yoga, parenting and art therapy classes. Once they graduate to continuing care, attendance is twice weekly for up to 24 weeks. Staff members also work with the family and children's schools as needed.

“It’s family-centered, so we work with the family as a whole,” said Van Koningsveld. “Mom is not going to do well if the family is not doing well.”

The program, which had received a $350,000 state grant that ended last month, has received additional funding from private donors and support from the hospital’s All Saints Foundation. They also welcome ongoing donations.

Devon Borst, foundation philanthropy manager, calls WOW a vital community program that is addressing needs and working toward breaking down stereotypes.

“For us, health care doesn’t take place just inside (hospital) walls,” he said. “Mental health is not what we do when the patient is here. It is a very challenging type of care.”

A lifesaver

The WOW program has literally been a lifesaver for 125 women since it began. Racine resident Sasha Torres has been in the program since January. She became hooked on painkillers following foot surgery. After being cut off her prescription, she turned to heroin.

“I never thought I’d be that kind of person,” said the 34-year-old mother of two. “I’ve read about it and seen it on TV. I thought one time wouldn’t hurt and I was hooked. In December, I realized I needed help.”

Since being in the program, Torres said she’s gained confidence in herself and learned how to keep her life in check. Without the program, she said, “I’d try to quit by myself and I’d relapse. I’m learning who I am and that it’s OK to make mistakes. The program has given me the tools to calm down. I can’t say it’s been easy, but my life’s been distinctly better than it was in January.”

Mother of four Nicole Shain, 33, had been drinking and using crack cocaine when she went into the program in January after an overdose.

“It was a wake-up call,” said Shain, of Mount Pleasant. “I was battling addiction and mental health issues. I was going through a lot of things and didn’t realize the issues I had.”

Since being in the WOW program, Shain said, “I don’t know where I’d be without it. Things look a lot different to me now. This really holds me in perspective. It makes me work through all the emotions and feelings I had. It really helps you get through each day and know you have support from other women who are going through the same situations.”

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