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Mattoon Teen Challenge 12/03/18

Wingman Ministries founder Gary Stephen talks about Teen Challenge in the former Douglas Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Mattoon on Monday.

MATTOON -- Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois has proposed opening a residential, Christian faith-based addiction recovery program in the former Douglas Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois, which has a main office in Carlinville, has applied for a special use permit from the city to operate an alcohol and drug addiction rehabilitation facility at this former nursing home, located at 3516 Powell Lane along Illinois Route 121/DeWitt Avenue in Mattoon.

Executive Director Paul Hinzman said Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois offers an approximately 14-month program in three phases for its clients, who voluntarily enroll. There is a first phase for those going through withdrawal; a second phase of counseling, discipleship and life skills education; and a third phase of transitioning out of the program.

Hinzman said he has proposed using the former Douglas Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to provide second phase services for men ages 18 and older.

Teen Challenge was founded in 1958 in the United States and has since grown into a worldwide network of ministries, including in Illinois, that provide recovery programs for men and women.

Hinzman said Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois leaders were drawn to the former nursing home because new owner, Wingman Ministries founder Gary Stephen of Mattoon, has offered to provide it for use by the program at little cost. He said this will enable his organization to expand its ministry to East Central Illinois. He added that building renovations would still be needed.

Stephen, whose ministry provides education services for jail inmates, said that after the nursing home closed in April, he approached the previous owner about donating the property instead of incurring demolition costs for the building there. Stephen and his wife, Teresa, have been maintaining and cleaning up the building since then.

Regarding offering the property to Teen Challenge, Stephen said he appreciates that this organization's recovery program helps prevent relapse by lasting for more than a year and by including discipleship and life skills training.

"A drug addict does not have a functional life," Stephen said. "The whole point of the second phase (of recovery) is to learn the skills of life that make life successful."

First United Methodist Church youth and worship pastor Jordan Thomas, who served as an intern with Teen Challenge in Romania, said Teen Challenge takes a systematic approach to recovery that involves life skills classes, worship services, recreation and many other daily tasks, including chores. He said clients clean their rooms and their building.

"We are going to do upkeep on our building and keep it the best it can be," Thomas said of the daily chores.

City Code Enforcement Official Matt Frederick said Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois filed a special use permit application Thursday for an addiction rehabilitation facility that includes plans to eventually serve up to 70 clients. He said a public hearing before the city planning commission has been set for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 8, possibly at the Burgess-Osborne Auditorium.

The planning commission will hear testimony about Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois' plans for the former nursing home and then vote on the special use permit. The commission's recommendation will be forwarded to the Mattoon City Council for a final vote at a later date.

Hinzman, who is a part-time police officer in Carlinville, said he understands why nearby homeowners would be concerned about the prospect of an addiction treatment facility opening in their neighborhood. Hinzman said he wants to assure them that Teen Challenge has a proven track record throughout the United States and worldwide.

"This is a voluntary program. They have chosen to be with us," Hinzman said of their clients. He added that clients who choose to leave the program are driven back to their hometowns.

The proposed phase two location in Mattoon would be a 24-hour residential location at which the clients would remain on site and not "roaming the streets," Hinzman said. He added that the site would be staffed by a shift supervisor, transportation and education staff, certified alcohol and drug abuse counselors, and other employees.

Mattoon resident Donna Homann, who lives near the former nursing home, said she was worried when she heard talk in the community that this facility might be used to house up to 80 former prisoners transitioning to life outside of prison.

Homann said she is relieved that Adult & Teen Challenge is the prospective occupant and that it would operate a locked and staffed facility, although she still wants to research this organization and its plans further. She said this facility could provide a needed service in the region.

"I know there is quite a drug problem in Mattoon. I know there is quite a drug problem everywhere," Homann said.

More information about Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois is available online at https://teenchallengeillinois.com/.

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @RobStroud

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