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Duluth Adult Teen Challenge again offers outpatient services for substance abuse

The outpatient group meetings are once again offered in person to help with substance use recovery, but clients do have the option to attend hybrid groups virtually depending on their needs.

Becky Revier, treatment director for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, poses in the center’s conference room
Becky Revier, treatment director for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Duluth, poses in the center’s conference room March 23. The treatment center is in the middle of an expansion and renovation.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge is once again offering outpatient treatment services for substance use disorder. The treatment program had only been offered as a virtual option at the Duluth campus since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Outpatient services allow for clients to find a community among other people looking for recovery, plus peer and professional support, and connections to resources in the community. Becky Revier, treatment director at the Duluth campus, said outpatient services are a great option for people who can’t step away from their daily routines of working or taking care of family. In addition, outpatient services help people in recovery transition back into life after completing a residential or inpatient program.

“Outpatient gives you enough support to learn skills to stay sober, and joins you with other people who are also working on being sober,” Revier said. “So many times when we have a substance use issue, everybody else that we surround ourselves with also do.”

The Duluth campus of the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge at 2 E. Second St. offered outpatient services before the pandemic, but clients were referred to online groups based at other Minnesota Teen Challenge locations. Now, clients can choose between an in-person, hybrid or Zoom group. Outpatient services are offered to adult men and women.

Teen Challenge.
Michael Johnson visits with Becky Revier at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Revier said having a virtual option has helped them stay connected with more clients, especially those who live outside Duluth and can’t make a trip into town regularly, and those without reliable methods of transportation. It also allows clients with mental health conditions that make it difficult to leave their homes, like depression, anxiety or agoraphobia, to participate in treatment.

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However, Revier noted that many clients have a harder time committing to sobriety when they don’t have face-to-face check-ins with support staff, and she noted a barrier in emotional vulnerability for many clients.

The renovation provides clients in the treatment center's program with more space to live and learn.

“If you don’t feel safe, you won’t be vulnerable, and you cannot change if you’re not vulnerable,” she said.

To help make clients more comfortable, the Duluth campus is in the process of a $3 million remodel and expansion that began in 2019. Revier said she hopes the updated spaces will provide clients with an environment that feels safe and doesn’t trigger any trauma clients may have experienced in their lives.

The remodel is happening in three phases, which have included adding apartment-style living for the 72 residential clients who participate in the 13-month inpatient program and adding more recreational space for those inpatient clients. The facility, which includes the connected Chatham Building Apartments for residential treatment, is now 36,000 square feet.

Teen Challenge 3
Chatham, a therapy dog, hangs out in the lobby of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Duluth Director Brandon Torgerson said the project, which is now in the process of moving all licensed services from the program’s rented building on First Street up the hill to the Second Street building, will keep all of the organization’s services under one roof. The renovation and move-in is expected to be complete in a couple months.

The newly offered outpatient services were scheduled with front-line workers in mind, Revier said, and specifically, people who are working a second shift or night shift.

“The pandemic has seen such an incredible increase in mental health and substance use among front-line workers because they’ve taken the biggest hits,” she said.

Revier said the Duluth area lacked group sessions that happened in the morning, and many people working in jobs like construction, nursing or hospitality were unable to attend evening meetings. However, the groups are open to anyone, not just front-line workers.

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Teen Challenge.
Becky Revier shows a visitor the sports-themed “man cave” space in the renovated Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge building.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

If a client is unable to make the morning meeting, which meets from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays, Revier and the team at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge are able to help them find another group that best fits their needs, either in the Duluth area or online through other Teen Challenge branches. Groups are available for co-ed, men or women only, faith-based recovery and other niches.

“Not everyone can move into a facility for three months to a year,” Torgerson said. “They have a home and a family and a mortgage and a job, so they need to come and do group during the day and get help that way, while maintaining their life outside of here. It’s just an additional service that’s needed for a lot of people, so we want to meet that need.”

The Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Duluth has wraparound mental health services through a partnership with WebMed. Clients can be connected with WebMed for additional addiction services and medication management. WebMed Founder Tim Weber, who is a family and psychiatric nurse practitioner, can meet Teen Challenge clients on-site.

Revier said this service is a game-changer, because getting a psychiatrist appointment in the Duluth area can take six to eight weeks, if not longer, due to the high demand.

“Just having those wraparound services in our partnerships with people in the community has been incredible,” Revier said.

Teen Challenge.
One of the rooms being renovated at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge is being converted into a chapel. The center currently holds religious events in an old gym.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Teen Challenge is able to offer its clients peer recovery support services, chemical dependency services, mental health services, treatment coordination, and adult rehabilitative mental health services. The organization specializes in all types of substance abuse treatment. It is also well-connected with other addiction treatment organizations in the area, including the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment and Duluth Bethel.

Revier said the Teen Challenge program has really taken off at its Duluth location. The facility is now licensed for 300 people, which is far more than they have had a need for. However, if more people are in need of outpatient groups, Revier and Torgerson said they are happy to form additional meeting options. Teen Challenge currently provides about 1,200 hours of services each week.

About 40% of the Teen Challenge staff are graduates of the program, Revier said, and even more are people in recovery. She said that clients are able to relate to staff who have had similar experiences, and it also inspires them to have hope about what their own futures can look like.

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“There doesn’t have to be shame,” Revier said. “There doesn’t have to be a sense that they’re in this alone. They’re not alone. We’re here and we’re a community that will come alongside them and work with them.”

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