Faces of Rosecrance: Mujtaba Ahmed, MSW, CADC

December 1, 2016

Muj is an Addictions Counselor who works with clients on the opiate-specific unit at the Rosecrance Harrison campus.

“A lot of clients have commented on how this is the first treatment center they’ve been to that focuses on opiates. The heroin epidemic is kind of taking over now. Our opiate-specific unit is used as intervention specifically tailored toward the treatment of opiate addiction,” he said.

“The most challenging thing about my job is hearing about people relapsing after they leave here, or even worse, hearing about people who didn’t make it. I lost one of my best friends in 2009 because of this. It’s hard. You have to give yourself time to grieve. It definitely reminds me how bad this epidemic is. But there are also so many examples of people who have so much stacked against them, and you think there’s no chance they’re going to make it… and they do.

“[Recovery] is different for everyone. Bill Wilson, who’s the founder of AA, said that there are multiple pathways to recovery. There are different contributing factors for everyone. For some people, it’s like, ‘If I could just get my depression under control, I could stay sober.’ Some people say, ‘If I could just get out of this abusive relationship, I would be sober,’ and maybe that is the answer for them. ‘If I could just get my PTSD under control, I could get sober,’ and they do.

“There was a client who was able to stay sober for 6 years, and he worked in construction. The only time he was able to stay sober was when he was employed the whole time. The minute he stopped working, he had too much time on his hands and relapsed. We know that whatever those underlying problems are, those need to influence how that person gets treated and how they stay sober.

“Everyone has a different formula. Rosecrance does a great job at not using the ‘cookie-cutter’ approach and instead provides individualized treatment that addresses the varying needs of clients.”

Faces of Rosecrance: Karly Bergstrom

October 20, 2017

Karly Bergstrom is a Unit Specialist at Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus and has been with the organization for 9 months. She is passionate about helping teens develop coping skills for the mental health disorders they face. Rosecrance recently expanded specialized programming for adolescents with mental health disorders, which can include mood disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal behaviors, and more. Karly sees first-hand how these illnesses can affect the mind and body. “If there is a client who’s struggling due to a rough phone call or family session, I’ll pull them off the unit and we’ll take a walk or do something to help them cope. I try to get them to open up and figure out the root of the problem, why it causes so much anxiety, and how we can move forward.” Karly works with other staff members to create an individualized plan for clients who need extra accommodations that may differ from the standard schedule for the day. Whether it be an extra walk through the Healing Garden or five minutes alone in their room listening to music, Karly ensures that each client’s unique needs are taken into consideration.

Faces of Rosecrance: Sandra Knezevic

March 29, 2017

“I have a passion for people for whom I feel like society has turned the other way. I want to help the underdogs. I love being able to fight the stigma associated with substance abuse and mental health that keeps so many people from seeking help.”

Sandra Knezevic has been with Rosecrance since December 2015. Before working at Rosecrance, she was an intern with TASC at the Cook County jail, providing case management services.

“I run a specialty empowerment group that helps our girls work on their self-esteem. I’m very proud of that group. They’re learning how to challenge some of their negative core beliefs and how to replace those with some more positive ones. I think most of our girls struggle with low self-esteem, which is why it’s such an important group for our clients. You’ll have kids who won’t even make eye contact in group because they fear judgment, and then by the end of their stay here they’ll be leading the group.

“I think a lot of our kids don’t have an adult in their lives who is a positive role model. I have the opportunity here to really influence someone and help them see their own worth. When they come to a realization that they are worth something… that’s huge.

“I always use the metaphor of going to Home Depot and buying all these tools… then you have to go and build a house. When you’re in treatment, you’re getting the tools, these coping skills, to fill your tool belt… but it’s not until you leave that you get the chance to apply those skills to build your recovery and sobriety. The hard work comes after they leave,” Sandra said.

“Even though it’s still pretty early in my career, I feel that I do a pretty good job of having a strict line between my personal life and my work life. What makes it easier is that I have coworkers with whom I can process my own feelings. They are there to support me and they are willing to have those difficult conversations. Self-care is a big thing.

“One of the most impressive things to me as a new staff person was how welcoming everybody was. The culture in this building… there was a lot of welcoming, a lot of ‘How can I help?’ There’s a little bit of a sense of family on C-Wing, where I work.

“I have a client who’s currently in our recovery home at Marlowe. She was one of my first clients when I came to work here; she was 10 to 11 months sober and had a little relapse. She reached out, and we got her into the Marlowe Recovery House. She just graduated high school. This is a client who doesn’t have any family support. Her mom and dad suffer from mental illness, she has six siblings who all abuse drugs. She’s come very close to dying several times – car accidents, overdoses, and hospitalizations. It’s incredible to see her still want recovery, despite not having anything to lean back on. Even someone with such a sad, sad story can still make it.

“Currently I have a client who has finally gotten the courage to confront her mom and dad on past trauma; she felt that her parents didn’t protect her. I encourage clients to find their voice, and to feel safe enough with me to be able to have these difficult conversations that they’ve avoided for years. I think sometimes people minimize what these clients have gone through. Their feelings and stories matter, and what happened to them was a big deal.”

Faces of Rosecrance: Gail Raney

June 5, 2018

Gail Raney is Administrator of Rosecrance Central Illinois and has a master’s degree in public administration. She started working for Prairie Center in 2002, which merged into Rosecrance in January 2018.

“I consider myself fortunate to have worked with so many people who are doing all they can to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. These wonderful people are always striving to keep improving. They never give up when tackling a problem, no matter how large it may appear. Being a part of such a terrific team drives me to be the best I can be,” says Raney.

Raney is inspired not only by the staff that she oversees, but also the clients we serve.

“I have been blessed to have worked with fantastic professionals over the years, but it’s our clients who motivate me the most. In our field, we are trying to help people make huge changes in their lives. I am always inspired when I witness the effort they put forth as they work towards sustaining their recovery. I have seen people who ‘had it all’ then lost everything—their job, home, family—and they came to us feeling very broken. To see them healthy and full of hope is so inspiring.“

Faces of Rosecrance: Peter Mowris

January 19, 2018

Peter Mowris, Family Program Coordinator for Rosecrance Harrison Campus, works with families of adult clients in residential treatment for substance use disorders. “I spend more time with the families of clients than any other staff member. I get to see the issue from both sides.”

Peter has a Ph.D. and taught across the country before coming to Rosecrance. His work on the young men’s residential unit and the traditional men’s unit ignited in him an inner passion for the Rosecrance mission, which continues to grow in his current position. “I’m really glad I worked on the men’s unit, because it gave me a lot of contact with clients. That’s really helpful when talking with families, who are genuinely curious to know what the treatment experience is like.”

Regarding the family program, Peter sees tremendous value in giving families a chance to have their voice heard. “I never lose sight of the fact that most families are talking about this issue openly for the first time with people outside their family. We provide a safe space for them to do that, and it’s powerful.”

Peter also runs groups for clients in treatment, to help them learn how to make amends with their families. “They all want their families to trust them again. If it’s their first time in treatment, they have this idea that they can figure this all out by the end of the month… but recovery is a lifelong process.”

Faces of Rosecrance: Abby Nelson

November 2, 2017

Abby Nelson has been with Rosecrance for 14 years and works as the Recreation Specialist at the Griffin Williamson Campus. She got her degree in exercise physiology and coached high school varsity basketball before coming to Rosecrance. “When you coach at a varsity level, it’s very matter-of-fact: you’re there to win,” says Nelson. “My approach was a little bit stricter, and when I came to Rosecrance, I had to loosen those reins. I had to be in touch with different situations, stories and circumstances rather than just being focused on completing the task.”

The adolescent clients at Griffin Williamson Campus use the fitness center three days a week and participate in recreation twice a week. Typically during “rec,” they play games such as basketball, kickball or volleyball.

“These kids’ bodies are in terrible condition. They haven’t done a good job of taking care of themselves in terms of their physical health, so they need to rebuild that. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about our department is that it is just playtime for the kids. These moments when they are relaxed are when we can make the biggest impact. As an organization, I think we’ve gotten a lot better at being intentional with those moments.”

Abby Nelson talks about the importance of recreation in the recovery process:

“A big part of participating in experiential therapies (art, recreation, drumming circles) is having fun. If you’re not having fun and enjoying life when you’re sober, you’re not going to stick with your recovery. We need to find something that these kids connect with. We also know they need repetition to learn things, so we cram in as much recovery knowledge and practice as we can get. It’s a lot easier to practice those recovery skills in a game. When we talk about assertively communicating, or holding each other accountable, it’s a little bit easier to get practice at that skill when they’re in rec. Sometimes they let their guard down when they’re playing games and they don’t even realize that they’re practicing those skills.”

“We process after every activity that we do. Playing a game is great, but taking it to the next step and getting that deeper meaning are what we do in therapeutic rec. We have them talk about how they will apply that skill in other areas of life.”

From her 14 years of experience working with the teen clients at Rosecrance, Abby is confident of this:

“Recovery works. If people are willing to make a change, it works. It looks a little bit different on everybody. Just because a kid is in treatment doesn’t mean that they are mess-ups or that they aren’t capable of healing or becoming productive members of society.”

Faces of Rosecrance: Angie Heuerman

September 20, 2017

Angie Heuerman is a nurse in the Detox Unit in the residential addiction treatment center for adults at the Rosecrance Harrison Campus. She is responsible for the care of the clients, administering medication and assessments.

“We try to keep a positive outlook with these clients, because sometimes we see them multiple times. It would be possible to fall into the pattern of, ‘Oh, they’re back again.’ That doesn’t help them, or you. We have to assess the current situation and have a fresh, positive attitude.”

Angie has worked for Rosecrance for almost ten years. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing and is currently working to obtain her doctorate degree to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

“The people here are awesome. If you have a bad day, you’re going to have a hard time finding someone that won’t open their door and talk with you. It’s a great team.

“Working in detox, we get the brunt of it when clients are angry or sad. So we work with them through that, but we also have to make an effort to check up on the clients as they move on to inpatient so that you can see them in recovery.”

Angie explained that, more than any other unit at the Harrison Campus, detox sees a lot of turnover. In one or two days after clients are finished detoxing, they either leave or move on to inpatient treatment.

“There was this client in detox who had long hair, dark circles under his eyes. Two weeks later, he came through and said hello to me, but I didn’t recognize him at first. He had gotten a haircut, put on 5 or 10 pounds, and was wearing nice clothes instead of scrubs.”

The physical change that recovery can have on a person is sometimes pretty dramatic. One client who came through the detox unit was at his lowest point, and remembered the impact that Angie’s words had in his recovery journey:

“I did have a client approach me at the grocery store,” Angie said. “He remembered me from when he was in treatment 7 years ago. He had been clean ever since he went through detox and inpatient services. He was someone whom I had seen three or four times in the detox unit, but now he is married, has two kids, went back to school and graduated. We’ve been able to become friends now, and he’s doing wonderfully.”

Faces of Rosecrance: Brenda Hunt

August 30, 2017

Brenda Hunt has been with Rosecrance for four years and works as the nurse manager at the Griffin Williamson Campus, which serves teenagers recovering from substance use disorders. She believes that substance use disorders are  likeactually a disease process. An addict should be treated the same “as someone who has kidney failure, liver failure, cancer, anything like that,” says Hunt. “We don’t get mad at the person who comes in because they have a broken arm. I don’t think we should get mad at the person who has a substance abuse or mental health issue, either.”

Brenda’s goal is to lead and provide support to the nursing team. She also works with parents and psychiatrists to ensure the operations in her department run smoothly.

At a minimum, every adolescent client will be seen by nursing staff twice a day. Aside fromIn addition to routine visits, clients will see nursing staff for injury assessments or illness. Rosecrance also offers detox services at Griffin Williamson Campus, and these teens are placed in the bedroom closest to the unit station, bathroom, and hallway so that nurses are able to provide care as quickly as possible.

“It’s a hard decision for the family to send their child here, and it’s hard work for our clients to be here. We try to encourage the clients and tell them that they’re worth the hard work. We meet some of the smartest kids that come through here; we try to help them believe in themselves.

“I have been so grateful since I’ve come here. I believe that I get to supervise the greatest team of nurses. They are so incredibly passionate about what we do. We all want these kids to be healthy; the joy that we get when our clients come back to be a speaker to our groups, that’s amazing.”

Faces of Rosecrance: Maureen Shukis

July 14, 2017

Maureen Shukis leads a co-occurring intensive outpatient (IOP) group at the Rosecrance Ware Center, where she meets with clients who have both a mental health and substance abuse diagnosis. She has been in the field for more than 17 years and is a certified alcohol and drug counselor.

“In the co-occurring IOP, we don’t just talk about the unmanageability of the addiction, but also their mental health. They aren’t separate issues; they’re combined.

“This could be you, or anybody you love at any point in your life. Something drastic could change, and it would just take that one event to push someone to mental illness or addiction. The faces of the people we serve are the people next door or within your family. It could happen to you at any time. Have compassion and tolerance; that’s something our society is getting further and further away from.”

Maureen recognizes that her success in the field of substance abuse and mental health treatment is due in part to mentors and supervisors who helped her along the way.

“I was given a lot of opportunities to go beyond my degree. In that regard, I am very blessed. I really credit what I’ve been able to do in my career with the opportunities and the people who have been placed in my life.”

Faces of Rosecrance: Jada Miller

June 7, 2017

As an Art Therapist and licensed counselor at Rosecrance Harrison Campus, Jada Miller focuses on the therapeutic process as clients create artwork as part of their treatment for substance use disorders.

“I’ve always been a creative person,” Jada said. “I would build Harleys in the garage with my dad and make artwork with my grandma since I was little. I enjoy working creatively, but I also enjoy working with people. I’m Rosecrance’s first full-time art therapist, so I created the program here. I’ve been here for 7 years.

“An art therapist focuses on self-esteem, reduction of symptoms, exploring relationships and learning your own identity, as opposed to an art teacher who focuses on technical skills and looks for a finished product. Anything that can be addressed in verbal counseling can be done in art therapy. It’s just working different parts of your brain. It usually gets people out of their comfort zone, and that’s where they learn to grow.

“The things we do in here are directly related to their treatment goals. I have a whole toolbox of directives that can help with whatever these clients are struggling with and the behaviors they want to improve. When clients create this artwork, in a way it announces a change they want to make and gets it out of their head and onto paper.”

“I also do a grief and loss group for the opiate-specific unit,” Jada added. “Oftentimes, art therapy is a safer way for them to share what they’re going through without them having to directly sit down and talk face-to-face about something. That’s sometimes scary and intimidating. In art therapy, they can put it down on the paper and talk through it. They’re giving their artwork a voice to speak for them.

“Art therapy allows people to build relationships with their peers and to be vulnerable, to express some things indirectly that they’ve been holding onto for a long time. In a group, they focus a lot on the similarities between different people’s artwork, so they can see that they’re not the only one that feels a certain way about their addiction and where they’re at.

“For our Florian Program group that treats uniformed services personnel, we had them create ‘Inside, outside’ masks. The outside represents the mask that they have to put on: a lot of that is humor, bravery, making it look like they have everything together. These are some exhausting masks that people wear when they’re in their addiction. The inside mask is more what they’re struggling with, hiding, working on — those things that our clients might want to keep hidden. They start to reveal those things while they’re going through treatment. That’s one of my main objectives: to let some of that inside stuff out in a safe way.”