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Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC) Heart of Iowa


Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC) Heart of Iowa Review

Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC), a nonprofit based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been offering treatment services for substance abuse, since 1962. In addition to its adult and adolescent residential programs and its outpatient services, in 1993, ASAC developed a specific residential treatment program called Heart of Iowa for pregnant women and women with children, giving priority to IV drug users and to those who are currently pregnant. All clients are vetted for treatment in two ways: they must score at least a III.5 on the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) assessment and be preauthorized by Magellan (MBC), a behavioral health care plan out of Iowa.

The Heart of Iowa program offers a full continuum of care for the women it helps, from residential treatment to multiple levels of outpatient services to transitional care. Area Substance Abuse Council’s Heart of Iowa clients have the opportunity to live in this affordable sober support community for several months—an attractive enough prospect that there is often a waiting list.

Accommodations and Food

Heart of Iowa serves pregnant woman and mothers with children, up to 18 years old. There are three, 12-unit apartment buildings just 10 minutes south of downtown Cedar Rapids, on a road lined with pine trees. At maximum capacity, there are 36 women in treatment. Families live together in one of 36 fully furnished apartments. Each apartment has two to three bedrooms, a living room, dining area and kitchen. Bedrooms have twin beds and simple bedroom sets; living areas are carpeted, with small dining tables and floral print sofas. Kitchens come with a refrigerator, microwave, oven and coffee maker. Clients are responsible for taking care of their own space, keeping their apartments clean and doing their own laundry. Each complex has free laundry facilities. And if someone finds herself in need of something extra, every two weeks, clients are driven to Goodwill to shop.

Clients at Heart of Iowa eat lunch and dinner during the week in the main building’s cafeteria. There are no designated vegetarian entree options, but Heart of Iowa tries to accommodate special diets where they can. Every Friday, a Heart of Iowa tech transports clients to the grocery store where they buy new food for the week, with their own money, for breakfast meals, school lunches and the weekends. After a few weeks, having progressed to a certain point in the program, clients are allowed to leave campus on Saturdays and eat out.

Treatment and Staff

ASAC is not a medical facility, so Heart of Iowa does not offer medical detox, though referrals are made when necessary and mental health counseling is available for co-occurring disorders. Heart of Iowa was developed so that mothers with substance abuse problems could receive treatment and still remain with their children. While clients are in group therapy during the day, children, from newborns to toddlers of preschool age, are provided with daycare. For older children, Heart of Iowa offers summer and afterschool programming.

In group, mothers discuss 12-step philosophy, how to avoid triggers and relapse prevention. There are didactic groups around the acquisition of life skills: nutrition and meal planning, parenting and budgeting. Heart of Iowa believes that learning to schedule leisure time and self-care is equally important for living a balanced life in sobriety. Clients meet individually with their assigned counselors on a weekly basis at the beginning of treatment. Additional counseling around sexual abuse and domestic violence is also available. ASAC also recommends 12-step attendance for all of its clients: AA, NA, or Alanon. For clients who want to work towards their GED completion, Heart of Iowa staff provides tutoring and vocational assistance. There is special programming, too, for clients who want to work on their literacy skills. Treatment length varies from client to client; most stay in residence between 60 and 90 days, but with 30 days sober, clients are eligible to graduate to transitional care; halfway housing and therapy on an outpatient level.

Staff at Heart of Iowa includes six licensed drug and alcohol counselors, support staff (techs) and administration. A therapist visits on Mondays and a psychiatrist comes on Wednesdays for consultations. The ratio of staff-to-clients during the day is approximately one-to-three. At night, there are several staff members who begin their shifts by doing bed checks at the apartments between 8:30 and 11 pm.


Caregivers from Saint Luke’s Family Health, 10 minutes north of Heart of Iowa, come to campus to provide monthly check ups for pregnant women. Clients and children are given initial medical screenings when they arrive to treatment, and are transported to any medical appointments at local facilities as needed.

Heart of Iowa sponsors Family Education Day and offers family therapy sessions so that loved ones can learn about addiction, how they can best be supported and support their family member in recovery.

Follow-up counseling and continued support is available to all Heart of Iowa alums, aftercare consists of on-site individual and group counseling. Extended transitional living is also an option in the ND Housing Program.

In Summary

Heart of Iowa is a coveted program: there is often a waiting list. It makes sense that this would be the case: Area Substance Abuse Council takes insurance, but without insurance, bases the cost of treatment on income, so there is a sliding scale fee with an initial 100 dollar deposit. This program provides comprehensive treatment, a fellowship of mothers and the potential for families to stay together. As long as they’re in school, kids up to 18 years old can be living in the treatment residences with their moms—many programs top out at elementary school aged children. It sounds like Heart of Iowa might be worth the wait.

Area Substance Abuse Council Heart of Iowa Location

4050 Bowling Street
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Area Substance Abuse Council Heart of Iowa Cost

Sliding scale. Reach Area Substance Abuse Council Heart of Iowa by phone at (319)-862-1050 or by email at Find Area Substance Abuse Council Heart of Iowa on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest

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Photo courtesy of Corey Munson (IMG_6754.JPG) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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