Prior to 1974, except for a small number of outpatient clinics scattered sparingly throughout the State, primary treatment of alcoholism was available only through admission to one of Alabama’s two mental institutions or to a private psychiatric hospital.
Studies conducted in the early 1970’s by the Jefferson County Mental Health Association and the Jefferson- Blount-St. Clair Mental Health Authority indicated a serious need in the Jefferson County Area for a structured program of intensive treatment services for people addicted to alcohol. Needs further indicated that the program should be available to persons of all income levels. Through the concerted efforts of local community leaders and mental health officials, the Alcoholism Recovery Center, a 28 day residential detoxification and rehabilitation program for alcoholics opened on October 1, 1974. Recognizing the community’s tremendous need for the Center, the Birmingham, Jefferson County, the Alabama Department of Mental Health, and the Meyer Foundation provided initial funds to establish the program. It was the first of its kind to open in Alabama.
The Center was originally governed by the Jefferson-Blount-St. Clair Mental Health Authority Board through its Alcoholism Committee. This regional organization was designated by the State Legislature in 1969 to plan, develop, and coordinate mental health programs and facilities in accordance with standards and criteria established by the State Board of Health and the Alabama Mental Health Board.
Through the guidance of the Jefferson-Blount-St. Clair Mental Health Authority Board, on July 30, 1975 a private non-profit corporation, know as the Alcoholism Recovery Services, Inc. was organized under Alabama Act 578 (the Alabama Non-Profit Corporation Act). In 1983, adjusting to new needs established in the community, the organization changed its focus from alcoholism to drug dependencies. At that time the Alcoholism Recovery Center closed, and a new program and facility, Pearson Hall opened its doors. Pearson Hall has become a major community resource. The agency offers an array of services designed to meet the varied needs of substance abusers.
In 1992, faced with increasingly complex issues presented by its female clientele, along with the community’s demand for more services for women, the ARS Board of Directors decided additional action was needed to properly address the issues of women’s chemical dependency.
In March, 1993, ARS, in response to a state-wide Request for Proposal (RFP),submitted a proposal to the Alabama Substance Abuse Services Division to establish a new program, Olivia’s House. This would be a free-standing comprehensive residential treatment program for chemically dependent women and their children. Funding for this RFP was delayed and the project was put on hold.
In June, 1993, in response to a RFP for demonstration projects, ARS made minor modifications to its original proposal for Olivia’s House and submitted it, through Alabama Substance Abuse Services Division, to the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). In September, the state was informed that Olivia’s House had been funded as a five year demonstration project. In July, 1994, Olivia’s House opened its doors, receiving its first clients in September of 1994. One year later, Olivia’s House received a supplemental grant from Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) for the provision of integrated services for children ages 0 to 6. This grant brought badly needed mental health services, as well as enhanced case management and parent training to clients of Olivia’s House.
Olivia’s House, since its inception, has been actively involved in state and national efforts to improve the quality of care for chemically dependent women and their children.
Funding to construct the Zukoski Center was approved as part of a state bond issue to construct new mental health facilities. Intensive Outpatient and HIV services are provided at this location.
“Women in Recovery,” a self-help group established at Pearson Hall will also have meetings at Olivia’s House. This group was initiated as a means to fill gaps found in established self-help groups relative to meeting the needs of chemically dependent women.
Efforts will be made to recruit temporary sponsors from community self-help groups for all clients in the program.