50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION
THE ORIGIN OF WESTCARE AND WESTCARE NEVADA AND OTHER STORIES FROM THE PACIFIC ISLANDS, TEXAS, & THE DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION WORKGROUP
THE BEGINNINGS FITZSIMMONS
By Rebecca Hernandez, Creative Services Manager, Foundation The 1970s in America were characterized by political turmoil, social unrest, and significant cultural shifts ushering in a decade of profound transformation. Amidst the uncertainty of war and the increasing societal acceptance of drug use, rates of experimentation and substance usage surged across the nation. It was within this dynamic landscape that Fitzsimmons House came into existence. Nestled not far from the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip, Fitzsimmons House welcomed its first residents in 1973. This pioneering endeavor was kickstarted with a generous $50,000 grant from the Teamsters Union. With a noble mission to provide support and services to individuals grappling with substance abuse, the program initially focused on establishing a structured environment for men struggling with heroin addiction. As the organization expanded, so did its client base as well as the issues they were facing. A few years earlier, on the other side of the world, a young Richard “Dick” Steinberg investigated drug use amongst his battalion in the Vietnam War. It became apparent to him that if they were to discharge all the soldiers who were using drugs, it would encompass a staggering 55 to 60 percent of their personnel. Consequently, as head medic in his battalion, he assumed leadership of a drug program to address the issue. Impressed with Dick’s success, his colonel asked him to analyze and help address the racial issues as well and Dick understood why. In his work as a medic, men of color would often plead with him not to be returned to the front as they were almost always put “on point,” the most dangerous and exposed position to enemy fire.
Uplifting the Human Spirit
It was through his experience in Vietnam that Dick gained a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by veterans, individuals struggling with addiction, and people of color. Dick turned to his trusted friend and fellow soldier, George “Tiny” Hegg. Together, they created programs to discuss racial issues in the military. It was through his experience in Vietnam that Dick gained a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by Veterans, individuals struggling with addiction, and people of color. Upon returning from his military service, Mr. Steinberg's passion for addressing addiction-related issues only intensified. While attending the University of Nevada for his master’s in science and rehab counseling, Dick was approached by a classmate about an open position at Fitzsimmons House. They wanted to create an outpatient program, but in order to receive the funding for it, they needed someone with a college degree. Dick accepted the position and came on as an outpatient counselor. In his new role, Mr. Steinberg provided guidance and support for people suffering from addiction. He was a bit of an outlier amongst his colleagues in the sense that he was the only clinical employee who hadn’t personally navigated the program or experienced incarceration. Nevertheless, he viewed the work he was doing as vitally important - despite not having ever suffered from a drug addiction himself. Around this time, Fitzsimmons House was facing some challenges to do with the lease at their first location, the old Las Vegas Hospital. Dick was tasked with checking out an old camp in the mountains and deciding whether he could design a program that would work there. He thought he could and he turned to his old buddy, Tiny, to help him get it started. Dick and Tiny, along with 12 TC residents, affectionately referred to as “the Dirty Dozen,” spent two months getting the buildings and the grounds prepared for the program to move there. Despite some pushback from others about whether a program in the mountains could work, the Harris Springs Ranch location still operates there 44 years later. Seven months after coming onboard as an outpatient counselor, Fitzsimmons House was in need of an executive director. Dick took on that new role 13 months to the day after his initial hire, laying the foundation for his remarkable ascent within the organization. With his passion for healing and vision to improve rehab, Mr. Steinberg was poised to lead the program to new heights.
As Fitzsimmons House expanded its programs and services, it became clear that a more encompassing name was needed to reflect its broader reach and evolving mission. Thus, the organization transitioned to Western Counseling Associates (WCA). This name change was a testament to its commitment to providing comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment in a variety of different settings. Even today, the stigma surrounding drug addiction programs proves to be a tough hurdle to overcome. In the 1970’s and 80’s, it was nearly impossible. From potential funders/donors to even Dick’s own family, skepticism prevailed. No one wanted their reputation to be associated with the idea of drug use. It wasn't until a shift in the political landscape, marked by Nancy Reagan's iconic, "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign, that people began to feel comfortable getting involved without fear of being labeled as having a problem themselves. A pivotal moment arrived when Western Counseling Associates transformed into WestCare, a name that encapsulated its multistate presence and global outreach. It was a symbol of the organization's commitment to making a difference in people's lives regardless of their background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or geographical location. As society began to open to discussions about addiction and mental health, WestCare embraced the shift. Amidst this journey, the organization found itself expanding its reach beyond the borders of Nevada. WestCare extended its services to Arizona and California. This growth was not driven by profit margins but by a steadfast dedication to uplifting the human spirit and supporting individuals dealing with addiction and mental health challenges. Today, WestCare stands as a shining example of resilience and dedication. With more than 150 locations under its umbrella and over 1,700 dedicated staff committed to its mission, the organization has become a haven and a place to heal for those caught within the throes of addiction. WestCare’s reach extends from the Atlantic and the Caribbean Islands to the Pacific, and the Pacific Islands - a different form of manifest destiny.
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HARRIS SPRINGS RANCH
WESTCARE NEVADA: THE FIRST
outpatient counseling, intake evaluations, residential treatment, and referrals for community services. The growth continued. In 1985, WestCare Nevada began the Social Model Detox Program, which in 1996, became the Community Triage Center, a facility still in operation on Las Vegas’ Maryland Parkway corridor.
By Rebecca Hernandez, Creative Services Manager, Foundation Born out of the necessity to address the lease challenges faced by Fitzsimmons House at the Old Las Vegas Hospital, Harris Springs Ranch (HSR) birthed a groundbreaking approach to healing that would inspire countless others in the years to come. Set against the majestic backdrop of the mountainous terrain of Mount Charleston, the camp harnessed the therapeutic power of nature, becoming a sanctuary for individuals on the path to recovery. Here, amidst the rugged beauty of the wilderness,
By 1987, as the scope of services continued to expand, it was ultimately decided that a new name was needed to represent the organization, so a meeting was held. Those present included Dick Steinberg, Mike Lavin, and others. In the midst of a spirited brainstorming session, the moniker WestCare was offered as a suggestion, which would immortalize the destiny of our organization and define our journey. Another remarkable initiative that began in 1998 was the Dusk to Dawn program. As the name implies, this extraordinary effort was dedicated to aiding homeless, runaway, and trafficked youth who found themselves navigating the neon-lit streets of Las Vegas from sundown to sunrise. At its core, Dusk to Dawn had a two-fold mission: To ensure the well-being of this vulnerable demographic through the provision of
individuals in care found solace, rediscovering their connection to the natural world and in turn, themselves.
essential supplies for safe living and to extend a lifeline offering
As the jewel in the crown of WestCare’s enduring legacy, HSR
In 2001, WestCare acquired the Healthy Families Project, initially
has not only stood the test of time, but paved the way for a multitude of other programs. HSR housed many programs over the years including a residential program for boys aged 13 - 17
located on Apricot Lane. By 2003, the Duncan Drive property was
that was moved from the 4th Street location that had become known as “Vegas House.” As services expanded, so did our footprint across the city. In those days, bearing the name Western Counseling Associates, we opened the Regional Family Resource Center at the 401 S. MLK Blvd location. This vital hub offered services including
access to vital support services, be it shelter or rehabilitation.
purchased, known as “Rancho” to those in the know. Originally a nursing home, the building underwent renovations to transform into a rehabilitation facility, leading to the establishment of the 40,000-square-foot Women and Children's Campus, which continues to operate to this day. Aside from residential treatment, this location also housed a woman-Veterans program, women’s transitional housing, and a girl’s program for victims of human trafficking.
FITZ HOUSE COUNTRY FAIR
Evolves into a long-term Therapeutic Community (TC) model for polydrug users, serving both males and females.
First annual event held at Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Center to increase community awareness and raise money.
Adolescent outpatient services, day treatment, and a DUI school are added.
FRANK E. FITZSIMMONS HOUSE Began as a residential program for adult male heroin addicts on D & Jackson in Las Vegas.
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HARRIS SPRINGS RANCH
VEGAS HOUSE ACQUIRED
The Community Involvement Center provides a central location for intake and referral services; outpatient and continuing car services; and to serve as a liaison with criminal justice system and other community agencies.
Dick, Tiny, & the Dirty Dozen renovate the HSR on Mount Charleston to provide a unique and serene TC environment.
A residential drug treatment program for boys aged 12 – 17.
With the acquisition of this property, it was an opportunity to separate males and females. “We felt it was a better location to treat those folks and to separate the sexes… it’s particularly hard to run co-ed programs,” said Mike Lavin, retired Senior Advisor to the President on the topic. In 2013, the City of Las Vegas invoked eminent domain to acquire the 401 MLK location, slated for a freeway construction project. This marked the genesis of FitzHouse Enterprises as a general contractor, its name paying homage to Fitzsimmons House. This WestCare affiliate would subsequently oversee the reconstruction of the site on Maryland Parkway, where the Community Triage Center found its home. FitzHouse Enterprises currently maintains 96 sites and a fleet of over 120 vehicles in 17 U.S. states and territories where WestCare operates. Nowadays, WestCare is synonymous with the word, “help,” in Nevada. Jennifer Hilton, Director of Training and Technology, FN says, "I run into people in the community all the time... if they haven’t personally interacted with us themselves or through a family member, WestCare has impacted their lives in some way." And that is how WestCare Nevada continues to serve through recognizing the needs of the communities they operate in and evolving to support those needs. At
numerous locations, bolstered by a dedicated team of 102 employees. Yet, what truly stands out is the remarkable community of over 300 passionate Alumni members, graduates of WestCare Nevada programs, who are actively engaged in WestCare's mission. While the organization has nurtured thousands of alumni, this exceptional cohort remains tightly knit through social media - uniting to offer their support when the community calls. The Original WestCare Las Vegas Alumni Family, and request assistance. “Everybody wants to mirror and copy what the WestCare Nevada Alumni do” says Leo Magrdichian, Vice President of WestCare Nevada. “They participate in Alumni events and many of them received treatment before I even started 13 years ago.”
1986 REGIONAL FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER
HISPANIC OUTREACH PROGRAM
Offered services for men, women, and children, including outpatient counseling, intake residential, and referral for community services.
Provided substance abuse education and prevention services to Las Vegas schools.
RENAMED WESTCARE In a brainstorming session “WestCare” is written on a board and was later adopted as the new name of the organization.
NEW MLK FACILITY
RFRP and boys residential programs move to new MLK Blvd. facility and co-ed emergency shelter, homeless/runaway youth services, and 24-hour youth crisis hotline are added.
SOCIAL MODEL DETOX
COMMUNITY TRIAGE CENTER Through triage, detoxification, and crisis stabilization, clients stay for a short period of time (2-5 days) in order to first stabilize before going into treatment.
Social model detoxification and civil protective custody (CPC) acquired and relocated to Fourth Street along with re-entry/transitional program for those completing HSR program.
“...if they haven’t personally interacted with us themselves or through a family member, WestCare has impacted their lives in some way.” As the needs of the community evolve and the knowledge around best practices in therapy expands, Leo looks to the future with a type of therapy very close to his own heart. “I’m actually certified in equine therapy,” he shared. “Complex traumas get stuck in the body, so my goal for Harris Springs Ranch is that we will eventually include equine-assisted psychotherapy. A lot of men won’t talk about their trauma, but you can develop a trusting relationship with an animal, especially if you’re in a place that you don’t trust humans.” “We're going to continue to evolve as the need of the community evolves. That’s what we’ve been doing since we started - go where the community has asked us to go,” added Jennifer Hilton. “And as we see trends change in the field, we will adjust. We've grown tremendously and have only gotten better at what we do and we're going to keep getting better and doing what the community needs us to do.” In the ever-evolving landscape of community care, WestCare Nevada remains steadfast in its commitment to adapt, improve, and meet the ever-changing needs of the people it serves driven by a dedicated team, ensuring a brighter, more hopeful future for all.
STREET OUTREACH SUPPORT TEAM
WOMEN AND CHILDREN’S CAMPUS
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
A variety of services offered aiding runaways, homeless or trafficked youth in Las Vegas, including Dusk to Dawn overnight program.
Property on Duncan Drive was acquired: 10 acres to house programs for women and children.
102 dedicated staff at WestCare Nevada celebrate 50 years of Uplifting the Human Spirit, and embrace a legacy of compassion while serving and enriching Nevada communities.
ADOLESCENT DETOXIFICATION New program opens in Las Vegas, the second of its kind in US.
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HEALTHY FAMILIES PROJECT
Originally housed on Apricot Lane, it was eventually moved over to the Women and Children’s Campus.
Fitzhouse Enterprises, a general contractor, is named for Fitzsimmons House and is managed by Mike Lavin.
“The impact WestCare has made is enormous in terms of lives saved and made better over those years.” -Mike Lavin
“Anybody that is celebrating 50 years of doing anything, must be doing something right.” -Leo Magrdichian
A QUICK LOOK AT OTHER HAPPENINGS THROUGHOUT OUR WESTCARE FAMILY
Day Trip at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
Alumni Day at Judi Patton Center for Healthy Families
By Chanel Harris, HVRP Outreach Specialist In a recent event, the SSG Fox Peer Support program organized a trip for our Veterans to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville. Our Veterans had a blast, and we can't wait to plan more adventures with them.
VETcare Oregon @vetcareoregon @_vetcareoregon_
By Dr. Tiffany Sloane, Regional Vice President On March 18, 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, WestCare Kentucky’s Judi Patton Center for Healthy Families (affectionately referred to as “Lookout”) welcomed its first resident. Since then, Lookout has witnessed eighty-two successful program graduates from the female residential substance abuse treatment program. The program recently celebrated its 2nd Annual Alumni Day. Multiple Alumni attended the event; some traveling over 3 hours to join in on the festivities. The day was a true celebration of recovery, in which Alumni reconnected and shared life histories with current residents, lending encouragement and hope. Alumni also participated in scheduled treatment activities, offering insight from lived experience that role-modeled the essence of a therapeutic community model. “The alumni showed me I am not alone, and how important a community is in recovery,” one resident described, “The hope I felt was motivating and inspiring... seeing other people living their best life gave me strength and the courage to keep pushing forward”. Dr. Slone, WestCare Kentucky’s Regional Vice President said, “The alumni were such an inspiration and encouragement for me. Seeing their bright faces, big smiles, hearing authentic laughter, and their success stories that radiated messages of hope; those are the unforgettable moments that sustain treatment providers so we can carry on and be a part of another person’s successful recovery journey!”
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A Seat at The Prevention Table By Krisha Ayson, Program Coordinator (Thrive Coalition) Prevention work embodies the culture of our island style fiestas. To get this village-wide feast prepared to celebrate its rich history and successes, the entire community comes together, with each family contributing something. Whether it is a specialty dish, a cleaning effort, or setting up canopies and tables, this same spirit drives the prevention community in Guam. Prevention work is more meaningful when everyone has a seat at the table, bringing different strengths, attention to the goal, and capacity to the effort. When everyone collaborates in prevention work, the mission becomes easier to accomplish. This spirit of collaboration was showcased during the month of October to celebrate Red Ribbon Month and National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month. Through WestCare Pacific Islands (WPI) Thrive Coalition’s partnership with the Guam National Guard CounterDrug Program, Guam Police Department, and Guam Department of Education, we created sustainable and meaningful changes that will continue to promote a drug-free and vibrant community.
October was filled with activities that encouraged the youth to promote this year’s Red Ribbon theme, “Be Kind to Your Minds. Live Drug Free.” There were island-wide school presentations aimed to educate youth about the dangers of underage substance use, emphasizing how it could jeopardize their dreams and goals. A community outreach was hosted with various organizations at the mall on the island, to provide pro-social activities by showcasing the youth and their talents, including dancing, singing, and artwork display. As WPI’s Thrive is committed to achieving the mission of reducing substance use, banding together with our community partners can accomplish more and push us further in creating a positive environment where youth can thrive. Having a place at the table of prevention alongside the various community partners makes the effort of educating and empowering our island's youth even more worthwhile.
WestCare Pacific Islands
Inspiring Youth, Connecting Communities By Alisa Garza, Administrative Assistant In September, WestCare Texas partnered with local schools to host educational events. Salvador Garcia Middle School organized an event called Cougar Fest on September 15th to help promote the City of Rio Bravo’s resources and local businesses, with support from the mayor and sponsors like Raising Cane's, Domino's, and Pizza Hut. WestCare Texas also worked with various organizations, including the Laredo Police Department, the Laredo Sheriff Department, and the City of Laredo Health Department, to engage the community. The Laredo Public Library distributed free books, and Jay's Barbershop offered free haircuts to students and families. On September 29th, we visited Los Obispos Middle School on to teach the Botvins Lifeskills curriculum, which focuses on teaching kids skills to resist drug use, violence and other high risk behaviors. Using a Super Mario-themed obstacle course to emphasize the importance of sobriety, the event focused on the "One Pill Can Kill" campaign. This hands-on experience inspired ten 8th-grade students to join WestCare Texas' Youth Advisory Council (YAC), where students and WestCare staff collaborate to plan community events and advocate for solutions to community challenges. Amid a rise in cartel violence along the border, it is crucial for students to learn that they can seek support from counselors and law enforcement when needed. WestCare Texas was proud to host these events, providing safe environments for students and families to ask questions, gain insights into the dangers of drug involvement, interact with high-ranking officials and law enforcement, and connect with local businesses in their area.
WestCare Texas @westcaretexas
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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Staff Workgroup In January 2023, WestCare’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Staff Workgroup administered a DEI staff survey via SurveyMonkey that was comprised of five closed-response questions and one open-response question in English and Spanish. Accessible for 10 days, the survey aimed to establish a baseline understanding of personnel’s knowledge of and interest in DEI. Also, the survey was intended to gather feedback to guide future DEI initiatives. Anonymous responses were received from 575 employees - approximately 34% of the personnel. Personal Knowledge and Understanding of DEI
Personnel Sense of Belonging
Likert scale utilized, from 1 to 5, with 5 indicating the highest level of knowledge and understanding.
Likert scale utilized, from 1 to 5, with 5 indicating the highest level of the feeling of belonging.
Awareness of Organizational Commitment to DEI
Personnel Feeling Valued
Likert scale utilized to measure awareness.
Likert scale utilized to measure feeling that personnel’s unique attributes, skills, experiences and backgrounds are valued. Note: 1% of respondents noted they were “unsure”.
Not Aware (8%)
Very Aware (57%)
Somewhat Aware (35%)
Importance of DEI to Personnel Likert scale utilized, from 1 to 5, with 5 indicating the highest level of knowledge and understanding.
The sixth survey question asked, "What training or professional development do you need to serve diverse populations?" Out of 575 respondents, 69% (398) gave feedback, while 31% (177) saw no need for training or didn't comment. Responses unrelated to DEI were redirected to appropriate departments. However, among the 398 who gave DEI-related feedback, 70% requested training on topics such as DEI understanding, cultural competency, mental health in diverse contexts, trauma-focused care, culturespecific training, inclusive language, gender, and inclusive leadership. The DEI Staff Workgroup is sharing these findings and working with WestCare leadership to address the identified needs. Do you have questions? Email us at Diversity@westcare.com
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF
Uplifting the Human Spirit In celebration of 50 years of Uplifting the Human Spirit, The Express is embarking on a journey through time. Over the next year, we will feature the origin stories of two entities every month, tracing our history in chronological order. Each entity will be informed when it's their time to shine, but it never hurts to start investigating your origin story now! We welcome pictures and anecdotes from throughout the years, as we delve into the fascinating narratives that have shaped WestCare. Join us on this extraordinary odyssey of discovery and inspiration.
Help us tell WestCare’s story from around the world! Our commitment to showcasing the incredible work that makes WestCare a beacon of healing and support in our communities remains steadfast. While we are featuring the history of WestCare, we will continue to feature highlights from the remarkable journeys of individuals and groups who inspire us all. We urge you to continue to submit your stories of success, education, prevention, and healing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your narratives fuel hope and contribute to our collective mission of Uplifting the Human Spirit.
NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS
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U.S VIRGIN ISLANDS
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