Our History

How it all started in 1967...

The Council was given life by a group of people seeking to help others. Its origin dates back to 1967, when a group of concerned individuals, some of whom were recovering alcoholics, and a social worker had the desire to sustain their sobriety and share their inspiration and recovery with others struggling with alcoholism. Among these visionaries was Herb Perkins, a retired long-time employee and counselor of The Council. Their persistence would eventually result in the establishment of the area’s first alcoholism treatment center. Their dream was not only to support each other’s sobriety but also to reach out to help others who wanted to stop drinking. Their dream would provide a new alternative to sobering up in a local jail cell, on a unit of a state mental health facility or at the closest formal detoxification center at Manteno Mental Health Center.

In October of 1967, the founders’ dream became real when one of the founders donated $25 for the formal incorporation of The Council. Newly incorporated, the founders established the Agency’s first official location in the Red Cross Building located in Harvey. Their mission then, as it remains today, is to serve those in need regardless of their financial situation.

Ben Thomas was hired as the first Director. With the assistance of Shirley Sisson, The Council operated as an information and referral service. Its existence was maintained through donations by its founders and by volunteers who performed numerous tasks including transporting patients to Manteno Mental Health Center’s Silvis Grove Program for treatment.

The operations during the early months of The Council were characterized by numerous calls from alcoholics and their families who were reaching out for help. Family members were referred to Al-Anon. Local Al-Anon groups, which were rare at that time, began to grow in membership. Of note during this period was an in-kind contribution from the local Star Newspaper. The Star ran ads inviting readers who had alcohol problems or their family members to call The Council for assistance. These ads ran for five years and contributed significantly to publicizing the new agency.

Building on the vision over the years...

In the early 1970s, The Council experienced the first of many opportunities for growth when the Illinois Department of Mental Health granted the Agency its first grant-in-aid contract. By 1973, the State’s funding broadened The Council’s information and referral service through a grant-in-aid contract for outpatient counseling. One year prior, the Agency had relocated to Chicago Heights and Joliet. By this time, its staff included four full-time positions and one part-time position. Also in 1973, Ben Thomas resigned his position and Shirley Sisson was appointed Program Director.
With a staff of five counselors, 1974 marked the addition of group counseling to the Agency’s clinical array services. By 1975, The Council employed seven staff and moved to Park Forest. With a budget of just over $100,000, The Council’s board was chaired by Dr. Harry Hannig, who later became the agency’s first medical director. In 1976, Newt Haney, Jr. was hired as Administrative Executive. For nearly a decade and one half, Newt Haney would lead the organization through notable programmatic growth and revenue expansion. The first of many program expansions resulted from a statewide initiative to decriminalize alcoholism and recognize it as a treatable disease. In 1976, the State of Illinois passed the Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act.

While at Park Forest, the Agency would experience increasing demand for outpatient services. With increased funding from the Department of Mental Health, The Council hired Peter Palanca as Youth Program Director. Peter began reaching out and serving the area’s adolescents who were experiencing problems due to their use of alcohol. Through his leadership, the Agency’s Youth Outpatient Program grew. Through this program, a new sense of awareness began throughout the South Suburbs of recognizing the alcoholism prevention and treatment needs of area youth.
Consistent with the State’s initiative to de-institutionalize individuals utilizing State operated mental health centers, a movement was begun to enhance community services, particularly for alcoholics. With the closing of Manteno’s Silvis Grove alcoholism treatment programs, State funds were awarded to The Council to establish an 8-bed social setting detoxification program. This program became operational in May of 1978, and was housed in a rented wing of the Mercy Health Care Center in Homewood.

In 1979, the Department of Mental Health once again looked to The Council and awarded funding for an 8 bed, 28-day alcoholism residential treatment program. Soon after this program became operational in Homewood, it was relocated to a section of the Esma Wright Nursing home in Robbins.

One of the Southland's first alcoholism treatment centers...

By October of 1981, The Council was providing 20 residential treatment beds and 12 detoxification treatment beds. Residential services were provided to women as well as men. Its various programs were spread among Park Forest, Homewood, and Robbins. In 1982, the Agency began providing intensive outpatient services. With the implementation of this new program, The Council became one of the first alcoholism treatment centers to offer a less restrictive alternative to residential treatment while providing a greater degree of structure than traditional outpatient treatment.

Needing additional nursing home space, Mercy Health Care Center asked that the Detox Program be relocated. While the Detox Program was temporarily housed in a building on the grounds of Tinley Park Mental Health Center, the Board of Directors began searching for a new location. In 1984, The Council established a related organization, the South Suburban Foundation, which purchased the Chek Inn Hotel located in East Hazel Crest from Marathon Oil Company. The Council’s new home brought together and centralized the Agency’s many programs.

In 1984, Illinois combined the administration of state alcohol and drug treatment by creating the Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. By the mid-1980s, The Council was serving individuals with alcoholism as well as other drug addictions. To reflect this practice, the Agency name was revised in 1987 to The Council.
Again, with the financial support of the State, The Council expanded its array of services. To meet the increasing demand for serving adolescents, a 12-bed Youth Residential Rehabilitation Program was established in 1989.
Medicaid reimbursement changes would eventually force reductions in staffing and operational expenses and the closing of this program after only two years. Soon after, The Council was awarded additional funding through a special federal “Waiting List Reduction Initiative” to increase the size of its residential programs.

Joint Commission Accredited...

At the end of 1990, Newt Haney retired from his role as Administrative Executive after building The Council into the largest provider of chemical dependency treatment services in the South Suburbs and establishing it as a partner within a broader healthcare delivery system. In 1991, Allen Sandusky was appointed The Council’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Entering a new era of managed behavioral care, The Council began positioning for stability within an ever-evolving and changing healthcare landscape. In order to maintain its important service niche, The Council adjusted administratively and clinically to funding and service demand changes. Among administrative changes was the formation of The Council Property Holding Corporation, a related organization holding title to the property for use by The Council. The South Suburban Foundation began focusing its activities on raising funds to support the work of The Council. Among the clinical enhancements was a renewed focus on serving the substance abuse treatment needs of women. This was an expansion of gender-specific programming that began in 1990. After closing the Youth Residential Rehabilitation Program in 1991, The Council reorganized its detox and residential rehabilitation programs to react to a loss of State Medicaid funding. The resulting residential reorganization, which occurred in 1992, established a 40-bed men’s program (16 detox and 24 rehab beds) and a 32-bed women’s program (16 detox and 16 rehab beds).

In July of 1993, an outpatient satellite program was established in Orland Park. The following year, HIV and tuberculosis testing and counseling services were initiated. In addition, an “Alternative to Suspension Program” for area middle and secondary schools was established and operated in space provided by Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
To better respond to the needs of individuals, families, and referral sources seeking The Council’s assistance, a centralized intake and assessment function was initiated in 1995. That same year, an HIV/AIDS Case Management Program was developed to help affected substance abusers.

Again in response to changing State funding and reimbursement, The Council reorganized residential operations. This reorganization progressively combined the detox and rehabilitation service within a residential program. This treatment program model allowed for the transitioning of care and intensity of treatment based on criteria established by the American Society of Addictive Medicine (ASAM). Specifically, residential programming was organized under a 42-bed Men’s Rehabilitation Program, a 16-bed Women’s Rehabilitation Program, and a 16-bed Addicted Mothers’ Rehabilitation Program.

In 1996, a positive parenting and child safety program was offered to women in both the residential and outpatient programs. Also, that same year, The Council incorporated new ASAM revisions into its clinical programs. Although continuing as a non-medical facility, The Council enhanced its medical support by providing physical exams for its residential patients. Services were further enhanced in 1996 to meet the needs of patients with co-existing situations to their chemical dependency. Among these groups are those involved with the State Department of Children and Family Services, individuals involved with the criminal justice system, and those suffering from mental illness. After two decades as Medical Director, Dr. Harry Hannig retired from his medical leadership role. Dr. Edward Winter was appointed the Agency’s new Medical Director while Dr. Hannig continued as “Medical Consultant.”

In July of 1997, the Illinois Department of Human Services was formed. Its goal is to progressively administer various State operations as well as enhance publicly supported services to a broad array of Illinois citizens with special needs. This major infrastructure change occurred at the same time The Council and other organizations combined efforts through closer associations and affiliations to better serve the behavioral treatment needs of our communities. By the end of Fiscal Year 1999, The Council had achieved accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the highest of standards for quality.

Affordable CareAct brings new opportunities...

In May of 2000, The Council opened its second satellite outpatient location in Chicago Heights. The Council also implemented a new program called Work First, a comprehensive job readiness and employment program for women enrolled in the State’s TANF project. In 2001, The Council’s HIV program was expanded to screen and treat sexually transmitted diseases. Case management services were also added to augment the comprehensive treatment provided in the residential and outpatient programs. Also in 2001, the Agency’s Women’s Recovery Center enhanced its programming to include screening and counseling of victims of domestic violence through a unique collaboration with South Suburban Family Shelter. Due to funding limitations, in 2003 both the Chicago Heights and Orland Park satellite locations were closed.

Over the years, The Council has sustained its presence as a leader in the treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse for residents of the South Suburbs and surrounding communities. With a budget of $8,000,000, The Council is able to serve over 3,000 clients annually through its broad and comprehensive array of programs. Numerous partnerships have emerged including contracts with Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Illinois Department of Corrections, US Department of Probation, Cook Count Court Systems, Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, Cook County Development Block Grant Program, Grand Prairie Services as well as many other entities and organizations.

With the experience of a severe economic recession in 2008 and 2009, addiction healthcare services faced severe cuts in funding, particularly State funding. The Council responded to less revenue in part by matching service and staffing in order to remain financial stable. While these financial challenges have been serious, The Council has focused on remaining responsive to the service needs of its clients by maintaining sound and effective clinical services. As national healthcare reform unfolds, The Council will work to be positioned favorably in this new environment.

The year 2010 was marked by clear signs of changes in the addiction use disorders field. National and state healthcare reform initiatives and legislation began shaping a future that will look different for addiction treatment and recovery support. The Council has been preparing to adjust to changes related to expanded Medicaid, insurance exchanges, parity legislation, evidence-based treatment components, outcome measures, utilization management as well as a host of new concepts and undertakings. The Council is up to these new challenges.

As we move through a new century, The Council will evolve, grow and change to meet the needs of those needing its services. This evolution will continue while The Council holds firm to its charitable mission and its support of the disease concept of chemical dependency. Programs and services will be embraced through evidence-based treatment practices and recovery support models to achieve the best possible outcome. The Council will also maintain its belief in the philosophy and practice of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as a necessary element for sustained recovery. The Council will move forward by continuing to advance its administrative and clinical practices in order to deliver effective services which enhance and improve the lives of the clients and community.
The passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act will mean new challenges and opportunities for The Council in the years ahead. Expanded private insurance coverage and medical expansion will make treatment for substance use disorders available to more Americans.

Continued success is on the horizon...

During Fiscal Year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted The Council’s ability to provide a full array of services for a period of 6-weeks during March and April. Despite the difficulty faced during this pandemic, The Council was able to provide substance use disorder treatment and supportive services to 1,531 residents of the Chicago south suburbs and surrounding communities. From March thru June, The Council was able to host many homeless patients or patients lacking a safe place to stay, regardless of the funding available for those patients. Our front-line workers, who are our heroes, served the patients with the same compassion as they have shown during the fifty-plus years of existence of The Council, even during these difficult times.

The Council maintained its status as a licensed and Medicaid-certified provider of the Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery (SUPR) in the Illinois Department of Human Services and Department of Mental Health.  The Council was successfully able to renew its accreditation from The Joint Commission.  The Council was able to become a licensed Gambling Addiction provider. The Council was also able to successfully submit a licensing application for opening a Recovery Home in its current location. The Council initiated a new Youth Educational program campaign in October 2020 and was able to provide over 45 hours of educational programs to 162 youths and families in 8 schools in the South Suburbs of Cook County. The campaign was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, but The Council is committed to expanding Youth education regarding addiction and mental health disorders.

This report conveys our continuing tradition of being a leader in meeting the substance use disorders treatment needs of residents of our communities and also addressing the increasing need for co-occurring disorder services among those patients who are diagnosed with mental health and substance use disorders. The documented statistics, financial data, and narrative summaries depict an agency providing essential services to those needing our help.  Our continued fiscal health and effective clinical programming have enabled us to be positioned as a stable and strong organization in an evolving and changing healthcare environment.  We are committed to being there for those who need our specialized healthcare services, particularly those who are financially disadvantaged.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many of uninsured patients were able to enroll into Medicaid. Medicaid contracts were awarded to Managed Care Organizations. These transformations are creating new challenges and opportunities for providers of behavioral healthcare services.  The Council continues to strive to remain a valued provider of substance use disorders treatment services, crisis stabilization services and co-occurring disorder services, as this evolution progresses and will stay connected and integrated within the broader healthcare system.

The Council owes its continuing success to our dedicated Board of Directors, professional staff, and friends.  Your support, encouragement and prayers have kept us as a progressive and effective treatment provider.  Please take a few minutes to read our Annual Report 2020 (1)  and take pride in all we have collectively accomplished on behalf of those suffering from substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
Thank you for your support of our mission and belief in our work.

Located in East Hazel Crest, IL