In 1972, Frank Constantino was released from prison, in Florida, and as an ex-felon out on parole, experienced a spiritual awakening. As a result, he opened his first outpatient treatment facility, the first iteration of Bridges of America, in 1980, after publishing his book The Autobiography of a Gangster: Holes in Time. Frank passed away in 2006, but his daughter took up the Bridges of America mantle and remains involved in its operation. Bridges of America now offers residential as well as outpatient care to adolescents and adults struggling with substance abuse; treatment based on a holistic version of the 12-step philosophy. Bridges of America’s headquarters is in northern Orlando, but they have three locations in Central Florida offering residential programs to adults facing felony drug charges, as an alternative to incarceration.
Accommodations and Food
Bridges of America has three facilities that offer residential care to adults: two in central Florida and one in northern Florida. Jacksonville, the northern location, is home to Jacksonville Bridge, which has beds for 39 adult men. The property is perhaps more sterile than Bridge of America’s other locations, more like a hotel than a home; two stories enclosing a small courtyard with outside seating. The bedrooms are plain, with clients sleeping in metal bunk beds, sometimes eight to a room.
There is one other location for men: the Orlando Bridge home. Orlando Bridge is Bridges of America’s largest facility, with 91 beds. Clients are housed in several buildings within a complex. Orlando Bridge is effectively a miniature campus of white buildings with green trim, with a cafeteria and vending machines, a basketball court, volleyball court, big lecture hall and spaces for family events. Auburndale Bridge, the only women’s home, is almost as big, accommodating up to 71 women in a similar style; even the paint color is the same. Auburndale also has a classroom of computer labs with desktops for clients to use.
Bridges of America clients are taught and encouraged to be self-sufficient. To that end, clients help to prepare meals. At the inpatient level, meals are served, buffet-style, three times a day.
Treatment and Staff
There are three phases of treatment in Bridges of America’s residential program, which altogether could last anywhere between six to nine months, depending on the client. The first phase lasts for two to three months, during which time clients focus wholly on their recoveries. Their days are filled with addiction education, individual counseling, group work and organized recreation. In the second phase, clients begin to re-engage with the outside world and start to look for work. This phase begins with employment education, then job search and acquisition. Clients continue with therapeutic groups during this phase, which lasts between three and four months. In the final and shortest phase (one to two months), clients begin the process of community re-entry. At this point, they have progressed to a place in their sobriety when maintenance is key. The schedule is less structured, but clients are tasked with keeping up their recovery through action on their own volition, from continuing with 12-step meetings to self-care to checking in with counselors and fellows.
While the timeline of treatment is all set out, the individualized treatment plans created for Bridges of America clients creates a hodgepodge of recovery activities. As a 12-step based program, meetings and 12-step workshops are part of the bedrock of treatment. All clients also receive some form of education about addiction itself. Bridges of America’s founder himself discovered religion, so the program continues to offer a Bible study. Therapeutic groups focus on self-esteem and living a purpose-driven life. Other, more practical life skills groups focus on employment skills, money matters and recovery maintenance. Other groups, such as art therapy, are creative in nature. Specific grief counseling is also offered, in addition to domestic violence education and a sexual abuse survivor support group. Smoking cessation aid is available to clients.
Each Bridges of America facility has its own director and staff. The directors all have experience with addicts and offenders. The Director of the Auburndale program is a certified addiction professional and board-certified addictions counselor; the Jacksonville Director has a Master’s in Human Relations and is a retired US Army veteran and the Director of Orlando Bridge is a CADC and addiction professional.
Bridges of America also offers programs for clients who are currently incarcerated. These Transition Centers (TC) and Community Release Centers (CRC) work with clients nearing the end of their sentences. TCs are for adults with 24 to 36 months of their sentences and CRCs are for adults within the final months of completion. Clients will sometimes step down from a TC to a CRC. The goal of both programs is to prepare incarcerated clients for living a sober life in a social context. More about the offerings of these programs and locations of these facilities can be found here and here.
Chaplains are engaged by Bridges of America to provide all manner of religious services for clients and inmates. They assist clients with any needs regarding religious literature, observance of holy days, and spiritual guidance.
At its core, Bridges of America is a peer-directed and driven program. A lot of work and dedication is expected from clients who have been given the opportunity for recovery. There is by no means a mandate to get religious, but because embracing God was so integral to the founding of this program, offering clients a way to a spiritual path is emphasized here more than at some other programs. Embracing the 12-step philosophy is the main takeaway for clients at this program, next to leading a life of personal accountability.
Bridges of America Head Office
2001 Mercy Drive
Orlando, FL 32808
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