“It’s a drop in, walk in, community safe haven,” explained Denis King when asked about the All Ways to Recovery Community Center in Plattsburgh. King, the Director of Peer Engagement and Recovery Services at the Champlain Valley Family Center (CVFC), continued, “The community center offers support, education, advocacy, and hope to anyone impacted by addiction.” Reducing the stigma attached to addiction is a key goal of CVFC. Examples of activities available at the Recovery Center include self-help meetings, art, yoga, meditation, and musical events, as well as practical educational programs like Narcan training and Harm and Risk Reduction.
“Everyone is scared and intimidated at the beginning of recovery,” said King, “but they say that connection is the opposite of addiction. Sometimes it’s just a listening ear when you’re in active addiction that may change everything. Addicts often feel no one hears or understands them.”
Alcohol and substance use addiction can tear apart families, careers, friendships, freedom, and financial stability and often leads to both mental and physical health problems. In order to alleviate this, the trained staff at CVFC helps individuals and their families heal those wounds and move, what they call A Step Forward. CVFC is a private, non-profit community-based organization dedicated to providing substance abuse treatment, prevention, education, and related support programs to promote the well-being and quality of life for the residents in the community.
DENIS KING, DIRECTOR OF PEER ENGAGEMENT RECOVERY SERVICES
Born in Queens, New York, King grew up on Long Island. After high school, he attended St. John’s University in Queens, later transferring to Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island where he earned an AS in Hospitality and Culinary Arts.
As is common among those in the food service industry, especially bartenders, King’s alcohol addiction started when he began working in bars and restaurants. As his life spiraled down, he eventually lost custody of his four children to their grandmother. By his own account, from 2007-2011, King went to numerous treatment facilities and had many emergency room visits, but never finished any of the programs. When he finally entered St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center in Saranac Lake, he knew he was home. After completing treatment, he relocated to Plattsburgh, and attended group sessions and outpatient treatment at CVFC.
King had an intense drive to help others and during and after his recovery, he took courses and attended workshops to earn New York State certifications as a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate (CRPA), Certified Addiction Recovery Coach (CARC) and Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC-T). In 2013, he was hired by CVFC as a part-time Recovery Coach. Two years later he became a clinician. In 2017, he was named Peer Engagement Supervisor, and in 2019 he was named the Director of Peer Engagement and Recovery Services. As King recovered, he regained custody of his children and moved them to Plattsburgh. Today they are all happily settled into the community.
“I would not be sober today if it wasn’t for the Plattsburgh Recovery Community,” said King. “God put me in the right location at the right time in my life.”
CONNIE WILLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER (CEO)
A native of Moira, Wille graduated from Brushton-Moira school, and earned an AS from Clinton Community College. During her young adult years, Wille’s drinking increased. Her self-described pivotal moment was when she was arrested for DWI in 1985. It was after that that she went into treatment for alcoholism.
After completing the program, Wille earned a BS in Child & Family Services, and worked at St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center, leaving as Chief of Operations in 2000. While at St. Joe’s, she earned an MS in Health Services Administration from Russell Sage College. She began as the Executive Director at the Champlain Valley Family Center in 2000.
“The success of this agency rests with the staff, the relationships within our county and with the state,” she explained.
CHAMPLAIN VALLEY FAMILY CENTER SERVICES
CVFC, located at 20 Ampersand Drive, was incorporated as a not-for-profit and began as an outpatient clinic in 1982. According to Wille, last year, the center worked with 485 patients with various types of addictions (alcohol, opioids, marijuana, cocaine) who need a myriad of services. To expand its offerings to include residential treatment, CVFC opened a 16-bed in-patient facility at 516 Norrisville Road in Schuyler Falls in 2018. The agency’s latest venture is the All Ways to Recovery Center opened in 2019.
• Stabilization and rehabilitation services.
• Housing for the homeless under MRT/PSH.
• Drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs (They are in in most of the school districts in Clinton County.)
• Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities (ATFC)—a broadened scope under Reality Check (in Franklin-Essex-Clinton counties).
• Intensive Family Support Program (IFSP) — to target adolescents referred under Persons in Need of Supervision program (PINS).
• A jail program to work within the correctional system to do assessments, follow-up, group sessions, and connect people to a support network when they are released.
CVFC has approximately 70 full and parttime employees including counselors, recovery support personnel, administrative staff, nurses, physicians, and a psychiatrist.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
“We work closely with Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, Clinton County school districts, the Department of Social Services (DSS), Clinton County Mental Health, the Alliance for Positive Health, Behavioral Health Services North, Drug Courts, and Clinton County Jail to name a few,” said Wille. “We also owe a great debt to New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (NYS OASAS). We would not be open without them. We are licensed by them. They are a critical partner.”
“We received a grant from them in 2017,” added King. “We were able to hire recovery coaches—someone with lived experience. We go on the road meeting people where they are at. We advocate for them.”
“We help them find their path to recovery,” Wille concluded.
Connie Wille, CEO
Champlain Valley Family Center
20 Ampersand Drive
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
All Ways to Recovery Community Center
14 Dormitory Drive
Plattsburgh, NY 12901