Partner Spotlight

Wayside Recovery Center

Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Services for Women, Children, and Families

For over 65 years, Wayside Recovery Center has improved the lives of more than 32,000 women and 6,100 children in Minnesota impacted by trauma and addiction.

At Wayside, all women are empowered with the tools they need to overcome addiction and trauma and regain a life of recovery and wellbeing. We provide complete, holistic care for every stage of the journey—from prevention to treatment to long-term recovery. Most importantly, Wayside’s women’s addiction treatment provides services specific to the needs of you and your family. No woman’s experience and trauma is the same. Our mental health and substance use disorder experts will customize a culturally responsive, trauma-informed care plan that works for you.

Spotlight Interview

January 2022

Interviewed: CEO of Wayside, Ruth Richardson
Interviewed by MNPQC Interns: Anna Maristela & Abi Rajasekaran

When and how was Wayside Recovery Center founded?

Wayside Recovery was founded in 1954, and this year, we are celebrating 68 years. Wayside was founded by Sally DeVay. As a door-to-door makeup salesperson, she encountered women who were experiencing challenges––domestic violence, addiction, homelessness. They were “left by the Wayside.” Now, Wayside Recovery Center’s mission is to create a gender-specific approach to support marginalized communities. While it started as a homeless shelter for seven women, we now serve over 700 women a year and 350 children.

How can we as healthcare professionals help Wayside Recovery Center carry out its mission?

While there are issues in the profession, there are also issues in the community with dismantling the stigma around substance use disorders (SUD) and mental health. One of the common themes from women is their experience with stigma from healthcare providers. I’ve heard lots of stories about birthing especially; women have been judged and ostracized for using while pregnant, and so they would leave their hospital early despite the advice of their doctors or peers.

One step in the right direction, though, is the new provider law that allows exemptions for reporting to child protection. Providers can now approach clients with a lens of equity and fairness. People should realize that when one community is helped, all communities do better.

I read that Wayside Recovery Center really likes to focus on the health and well-being of women. Could you touch on the importance of empowering women and how that translates in your work?

An important part of empowerment is understanding that when a woman is experiencing substance use disorder, this also impacts her family. At Wayside, we focus on this issue through gender-specific services. We also wrap services around the family unit, and we let people define who their family is, as opposed to placing restrictions upon them. Wayside provides services for a woman’s children, spouses, and/or partners when safe and appropriate. We provide access and support.

What are the different services that Wayside Recovery offers?

Wayside Recovery has a 41-bed facility in St. Louis Park. As a co-occurring substance-use treatment facility, it also serves women with mental health diagnoses as well. With this program, they have the ability to support women on-site in addition to their SUD services. We also have primary care, psychiatric, and dental services, peer support, and case management services within the structure––a one-stop-shop approach. Wayside Recovery also has their family treatment program––the first in Minnesota––which gives moms the opportunity to come into treatment with their little ones up to age eleven. We keep families unified and united, whereas past campaigns have focused on family separation and criminalization. For example, in Minnesota, kids are usually being removed from households due to SUD issues. There is also a permanent supportive housing program in St. Louis Park, which allows families to be secure in their sobriety and financially. Families live there for typically 5 or 6 years. It offers affordable rent, as well as a recovery community with peer support and other services. Furthermore, our outpatient services include less intensive programs in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park. Wayside Recovery is also a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). Wayside provides same-day access to crisis care for individuals in the outpatient program as well.

Could you share some patient stories about how Wayside Recovery has impacted them?

One client story that stands out to me is one of the first stories I heard when I started at Wayside. This woman, in particular, really had a unique experience with Wayside, because she had touched all the programs over the years. She started in the outpatient program, then ended up getting involved in a relationship with an individual that led to her being arrested for drug possession. As a result, she was separated from her child, incarcerated, and eventually had the opportunity to come to Wayside for treatment. She was then in the women’s treatment program in St. Louis Park and was able to work to get reunited with her son. Once reunited, she transitioned them to their family treatment program. She thrived on her parenting skills and got really stable within her sobriety. As many people know, housing is one of the biggest barriers that many of our clients and patients face: there’s difficulty finding it with the finances and criminal record. So, we worked with her to stay longer than the typical 90 days, and she then transitioned into the permanent supportive housing program. Since this weight was lifted from her shoulders, she was able to transition and really focus on her recovery, her son, and her education and employment. Ultimately, she moved to the supportive housing program successfully, and she comes back to share her story. It shows not only that recovery and reunification is possible, but it also gives people hope––particularly clients––that tomorrow can be better. The power of this work is being able to see people’s lives change and transform.

I saw that there were options in prenatal care or child protection involvement. What does a women’s residential treatment service look like?

They usually stay around 55-60 days and develop an individual treatment plan. We provide support and check-ins on that plan, but we also center the voice of the patient in pulling that plan together. With our family treatment plans, family services can be more complicated and nuanced, especially with child protection cases, so it usually takes more than 90 days. The MN One for Communities program is a great program made of parent mentors who have navigated the child protection system, too, and who have successfully reunified with their children. These parents are a great resource for advocacy and peer support.

How do you think the changes in the mandatory reporting laws will affect the health of your moms/infants?

It’s definitely a step in the right direction. For years, there have been exceptions that were written into statutes related to prenatal exposure to alcohol and marijuana. Now that we’re expanding these laws to all substances––it’s an important step forward. But we should also be aware of––and concerned about––the fact that the law has lots of discretion. BIPOC mothers are reported to child protection services at disproportionate rates in relation to the demographic percentage they make up. While this new law is good, a lot of work needs to be done because this discretion is where the disparities grow and develop. Doctors and social workers now have the ability to choose if they are going to report or not. And if they are reporting, are they reporting everyone? Or only some?

For more information, please visit www.waysiderecovery.org/