Although substance abuse touches one in four families in metro Atlanta, alcohol addiction is, by far, more prominent and hurts more people, especially if the person who has been drinking gets behind the wheel.

This is how CHRIS 180 President and CEO Kathy Colbenson, LMFT, viewed the addiction problem in the region.

However, the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities has a new weapon to fight these addictions and the damage to lives they cause.

CHRIS 180 is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that aims “to improve our community by providing children, adults, and families with high-quality, trauma informed behavioral health services and support systems,” according to its website. CHRIS is an acronym that stands for its core values: Creativity, Honor, Respect, Integrity and Safety.

The CHRIS Counseling Center facility for youth and young adults program is a partnership between CHRIS 180 and the Summit Counseling Center. They held an open house Tuesday to showcase the expansion of its facility at the North Fulton Service Center in Sandy Springs.

According to a news release, the service expansion will aid teens and young adults mainly in north Fulton (Sandy Springs and all cities north of it within the county), but also in west Gwinnett, south Forsyth and northwest DeKalb counties – an area known in drug circles as The Triangle – in an initiative called the Tree House program. CHRIS 180 recovery effort received a $2.5 million grant over a five-year period from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

This grant will allow the Tree House Program to offer free outpatient support for youth and young adults, ages 13 to 24, who are suffering or recovering from an alcohol or substance use disorder.

CHRIS 180 applied for the grant (with Summit aiding as a subcontractor and partner) to serve one of the growing troubling drug hot spots in metro Atlanta. The Triangle has seen a major surge in heroin and opioid use in recent years.

According to statistics provided by the Fulton government, the number of heroin- and opioid-related deaths in The Triangle has skyrocketed 4,000 percent. CHRIS 180’s program will address this growing problem of substance use disorders and related mental health disorders and will meet the needs of those who lack insurance coverage for treatment.

A news release on the facility’s expansion stated CHRIS 180 and Summit Counseling are contract providers hired by Fulton to deliver behavioral health services to adults and youth who are unable to afford private sector services to address behavioral health issues.

The county outsourced Behavioral Health Services in 2018 to increase efficiency and increase the number of citizens served by the programs at this facility.

Laura Davis, project director of the CHRIS 180 addiction recovery program, said the purpose of the open house was to showcase the facility to the community, “and let everyone know that we are taking referrals about our services, because many people are not aware there is a substance-abuse recovery facility on the north side.”

Despite the expanded facility having just reopened, Davis said it has already signed up five clients with its goal of serving 50 youth with substance abuse or alcohol problems and 75 families for counseling regarding family members who are addicted.

“We are a no-cost program, which is important for people to know as our program is funded by a five-year grant and we are completely open to talk to people who may be unsure if our recovery program is right for them,” she said.

Colbenson said the benefit of having an expanded facility offers a tremendous advantage for the community.

“We are lacking in targeted substance abuse, prevention and treatment services for teens and young adults,” she said. “Several years ago, the state cut back on substance abuse and recovery funding and, as such, there has been a dip in services for the community since then.

“We decided to locate in this area because there is a substance and alcohol abuse problem in north Fulton.”

Colbenson said she hopes this expanded facility, once people become aware it exists, would serve at least 25 clients weekly and 150 to 200 annually.

For more information on the program, call 770-522-9909 or email Davis at laura.davis@chris180.org. For more information on CHRIS 180, visit www.chris180.org.

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