CHICAGO (CBS)– One medical center in West Garfield Park is trying to take on violence and substance abuse outside of the criminal justice system.
The Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center, located at 4133 W. Madison St., has couches rather than plastic chairs.
They do take care of emergencies, but James Rocquemore, who was treated for drug and alcohol addiction, said it doesn’t feel like a hospital emergency room.
“I’d say this is the best ever,” Rocquemore said.
Yet there is indeed triage at the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center, the attempt to heal wounds underlying much of Chicago’s violence.
“It’s huge. It’s really huge,” said Dr. Rashad Saafir, the center’s co-founder and co-director. “A young person who has been exposed to trauma in the form of violence, they are more likely as adults to be involved with the criminal justice system. They are more likely to have engaged in some act of violence.”
At the center, they treat trauma, mental illness, and substance abuse.
“We wanted to make sure this was a very inviting environment, one that was very warm, one that people wouldn’t feel was like a sterile clinical medical environment,” co-founder Donald Dew said.
Chicago police officers bring those threatening suicide or those fearing they might be murdered to the center.
“When a police officer takes someone to the emergency room, there’s not guarantee that they’re going to be linked to the services they need once they’re discharged from the emergency room,” Saafiir said. “We make sure they get linked to care, that we follow up to make sure that persons are continuing to receive the services that they need.”
“The routine normally is that police either take them to jail or take them to the emergency room. Now there’s an alternative,” Dew said.
They offer strategies for coping with stress or the possibility of a violent confrontation.
“Mind over matter, consciousness over emotion using cognitive behavioral approaches,” Dew said.
The Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center is taking on violence without handcuffs, or courtrooms, or jail.
“It’s definitely life-saving,” Rocquemore said.
The center, which gets funds from the Cook County health system, said it’s already provided services to thousands since it opened last August.
People who need help can just walk in off the street. No appointment needed. The center has a mobile crisis team that travels anywhere in the city to pick up those in need.