Gateway Foundation opens residential program for LGBTQ patients in Lake Villa
The Gateway Foundation, the largest nonprofit substance use disorder treatment provider in the country, marked National Coming Out Day on Friday by opening a new residential program for LGBTQ adults at the foundation's Lake Villa campus called Out in Recovery.
Gateway's President and CEO Tom Britton said the foundation's core mission for more than 51 years has been providing personalized help to people in need. He said the LGBTQ+ community reports substance abuse issues at twice the rate of the population at large.
"There's significant trauma, there's mental illness, and there's not places to go to get safe, effective, quality compassionate care," Britton said. "So we felt it was more critical than virtually anything we could do to take one of the units and specifically focus it to be a safe place with compassionate, intentional care for the population."
Foundation members, local leaders and supporters gathered Friday afternoon at the recently renovated building that will host the program. The building can serve 16 patients at a time. The campus, in a scenic forested area between Fox Lake and Petite Lake on W. Cedar Crest Lane, has 120 beds split between several buildings. Previously the buildings were separated between males and females.
"We work with people to place themselves in a unit where they feel most comfortable, but they still had to make a binary choice here on the campus," Executive Director Karen Wolownik-Albert said. "We really wanted to create a safe space for everybody to engage the very, very challenging work of tackling the treatment for substance abuse."
State Rep. Sam Yingling, a Grayslake Democrat, said that as a member of the LGBT community he has seen firsthand how addiction and mental illness have destroyed good people in large part because they didn't have the resources or a facility like Gateway.
Britton became choked up briefly when speaking of his sister, who is gay and was recently married.
"I've seen her journey and she didn't have somewhere like this to come," Britton said. "And so I'm glad that it's here today."
Britton said he knew of only one other residential treatment program in the country similarly geared for the LGBTQ community.
Yingling joined Britton, Wolownik-Albert and others for the ceremonial opening of the center by cutting a rainbow-colored ribbon. After the initial cut, Wolownik-Albert cut a small piece for Yingling to keep.
Britton said the program's first patients will arrive in two weeks. He said the foundation spent $200,000 remodeling the facility, which previously housed adolescent and teen boys.