Atwater, California is home to plenty of local agriculture and to former Castle Air Force Base. As of 1989, it’s also home to Community Social Model Advocates (CSMA). The first of CSMA’s residential treatment houses were exclusively for women, but they also opened men’s houses down Highway 99 in Merced in 1991. CSMA operates under the belief that chemical dependency is an illness that needs to be addressed at both a personal and familial level; it treats men, women, women with children and entire families.
Accommodations and Food
CSMA provides separate campuses for men and women, each completely self-contained. Originally set aside for families of the now defunct Air Force Base, the 12 women’s houses sit side-by-side in a cul-de-sac. Five miles away are the five Merced men’s homes, which are also all next door to one another.
Both the men’s campus in Merced (called Hobie House) and the women’s Atwater campus (Tranquility Village) sleep six people per home, for a total of 25 beds for men and 56 for women. Each carpeted room has two twin-sized beds and two nightstands with accompanying lamps. There are no private sleeping quarters; however, women with children can get rooms to themselves (provided they have at most two children, each five years or younger). Shared spaces include two bathrooms, a fully furnished living room with television, a plush couch and loveseats, a dining area, a kitchen and a group room. Television privileges are limited to after 4 pm.
Residents learn to prepare their own meals over the course of treatment. In order to teach clients how to prepare meals and plan shopping lists, meals are kept simple and cost-effective. Breakfast includes things like pancakes and cold cereal, while lunch items can be nachos, chili dogs or sandwiches. Dinner is often spaghetti, pot roast or hamburgers with vegetables. Sugar and caffeine are allowed here.
Treatment and Staff
As the name suggests, CSMA adheres to a community-based social model of recovery, with programming that combines Celebrate Recovery with the 12 steps. Clients stay for 30, 60 and 90 days, but can extend their stays for six months to a year. CSMA doesn’t provide medical treatment or detox services, but they do transport clients to an off-site doctor and arrange for dual diagnosis support. In addition to Celebrate Recovery, CSMA also supports SMART Recovery, a secular alternative to the 12 steps.
Residents receive one individual session and 33 hours of group therapy per week. This includes process groups, addiction education and relapse prevention. For female clients, CSMA uses Dr. Stephanie Covington’s evidence-based curriculum, which focuses on gender-specific issues of trauma and anger management. Fitting with California’s residential facility healthcare guides, clients are required to attend three off-site meetings per week, most of which are within walking distance. Sponsorship is not required though it is highly recommended.
CSMA allows visitors on Saturdays and Sundays between 1 and 5 pm. All visitors must be clean, sober and supportive of their loved one in recovery. Additionally, family members are allowed to participate in groups sessions once a week as well; residents are always present for these sessions.
Clients at CSMA start their days between 5:30 and 6 am. They have breakfast followed by chores which include vacuuming, dusting, mopping, doing laundry and raking the yard. The rest of the day is filled with group and individual therapy, homework assignments, letter writing and recreational activities. Lunch is served at 11 am and dinner at 5:30 pm. Residents either go to an AA/NA meeting, a Celebrate Recovery gathering or attend another group in the evening, all followed by free time. Clients must be in their rooms at 11 pm for lights out.
There are a total of 13 staffers at CSMA, six for the men and seven for the women; because there are twice as many female clients as there are male at any given time, staff are spread more thinly on the women’s campus. Many of the staff are in recovery themselves, and all counselors are gender-specific for therapy (meaning men treat men and vice versa). Only the female staff are on location 24/7.
Extra-curricular outings include trips to movies, parks and lakeside hangouts. Other physical activities include camping, roller-skating and volleyball, and there’s also the opportunity to do arts and crafts and play board games. Exercise is also encouraged; the men have a basic weight room and the women take walks or can follow a workout video—fitness sessions normally happen at 10 am daily.
For clients with children in residence, CSMA offers an extensive children’s program that goes beyond babysitting. Services provided to children include psychological screening, case management and recreational activities.
CSMA provides solid, long-term recovery to men and women in need—there is even the possibility that homeless women can be accepted free of charge. For a program that is generally 12-step in focus, the SMART recovery option could be a bonus for those struggling with the concept of a Higher Power. Another plus for women is being able to bring their children into recovery. Combining all this with their fair price makes CSMA worth consideration for family-oriented care.
Community Social Model Advocates
508 Mendocino Court
Atwater, CA 95301
Community Social Model Advocates Cost: $1,000 (30 days). Reach Community Social Model Advocates by phone at (209) 357-5261 or by email at [email protected]. Find Community Social Model Advocates on Facebook
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