Started 32 years ago, pioneer addiction treatment center Gateway to Prevention and Recovery held its annual meeting this week, packing in more than 150 attendees.

Started 32 years ago, pioneer addiction treatment center Gateway to Prevention and Recovery held its annual meeting this week, packing in more than 150 attendees.

Proving itself still to be a leader in clinical treatment for substance abuse, as well as prevention, the nonprofit continues to grow, offering services across the state with its staff of now more than 50 employees.

Gateway Director of Prevention Jon Greenwood said the work the group does, whether it's on the clinical side or the prevention side, could not be done without community.

“When I started at Gateway 19 years ago, I had three staff,” he said. “We are now up to 16 staff — covering six counties — dealing with issues of suicide, opioid prevention, marijuana prevention, alcohol prevention and health and wellness.”

He said all of those issues fall under the umbrella of health.

“If we can ever get the idea of substance abuse as a health issue, it will change drastically,” he said. “Our goal is to get substance abuse recognized as a health issue.”

Greenwood said most know somebody or has a relationship with someone struggling with some sort of addiction or mental health issue.

“What's sad is we feel like we have to whisper about it,” he said. “We feel like we have to keep it quiet.”

He said people don't think twice about supporting other health issues like cancer or diabetes.

Coweta Little shared her experience with substance abuse and its consequences, which led her to make the call to get help from Gateway.

She said she remembered three things that stuck out to her at her first Gateway meeting: get a higher power; one day at a time; and just don't use (substance abuse) no matter what.

“These people sitting around were happy,” she said. “They were getting their kids back, I wanted that. I wanted it real bad; I was so lost.”

So she committed to the program.

“It changed my life,” she said.

Little is now in a leadership role as chair of Gateway's participant-led Community Service Team. She is helping others work the program, build positive relationships and stabilize their lives.

“I don't ever have to go back to that dark and lonely place I once was at,” she said.

Gateway history

According to the nonprofit's website, Gateway to Prevention & Recovery started as a group of local, concerned citizens coming together as a result of watching two Chemical People television specials in the 1980s. These citizens sustained a planning group in an effort to pave the way for addiction treatment services to be offered in their community. Gateway was initially named the DARE program of Shawnee. In 1985, DARE secured its 501c3 non-profit status; hired its first professional staff member; and received a foundation grant for operating capital. Through efforts from the board of directors, private donations, the Shawnee Noon Day Lion’s Club and United Way, funding was acquired to start providing addiction treatment services to the community.