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New director stays busy at rehabilitation agency

SANTA FE SPRINGS — It’s been a busy year for Juan Navarro since he became acting executive director of the Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (LA CADA) last October at the agency’s headquarters, 11015 Bloomfield Ave.

A program to rehabilitate female prisoners who are hooked on drugs began in April, Allen House, a coed long-term counseling facility moved back to its former site on Painter Avenue and expanded in July and the Purple Project to counsel at-risk youths at their schools in the Whittier Union High School District started in January 2015.

But Navarro, 46, is not a newcomer to the agency. He started working there as a Cerritos College student in 1989 and rose to the post of assistant director before replacing longtime Executive Director Brenda Wiewel, who resigned last September.

“Changes every year allowed me to grow with the agency,” Navarro said. The private, nonprofit counseling facility has 103 employees and a budget of about $5.5 million a year.

Funding comes from state, federal and county grants as well as private donations from the area.

LA CADA was established in1971 by Dr. Ethan Allen, who, at 90, remains head of the board of directors and continues to make house calls, Navarro said. Allen’s wife, Alice, is the board secretary.

The custody to community transitional re-entry program, funded by the state Department of Corrections, received its first 10 clients April 9 and already has grown to 72. It is housed in an 82-bed wing of the headquarters site, which previously housed female prisoners arrested for minor drug violations and their children.

The new program, overseen by Fran Valenzuela, does not include children, although there is a playground for those visiting the women. The wing is staffed 24 hours a day.

“The women arrive in handcuffs which are removed in an enclosed, gated patio,” said Vanessa Bustos, an aide to Valenzuela.

But once inside, there are no bars. The women must change clothes, including shoes and wear GPS devices, but have freedom within the home-like area, making their own meals and washing their clothes, Bustos said.

The program consists of anti-drug abuse counseling in an effort to help the women get probation and transition back into society, Navarro said.

Group sessions are conducted in a room seating 80. Besides the counseling, the women have access to teachers should they wish to earn a general education degree, the equivalent of a high school diploma.

A major sponsor of the facility is the Whittier-based E.L. Shannon Foundation.

LA Cada was the second facility in the state to get a custody to community transitional re-entry program. A third one recently opened in Riverside County, Bustos said.

The Ethan Allen House Residential Treatment Center, a 95-bed facility at 10425 S. Painter Ave., has been around for a number of years, but last year relocated to the Bloomfield Avenue site to make room for the New Vision Multi-Service Residential Center for men and women. That program closed in June, allowing Allen House to move back into larger quarters with more services, Navarro said.

Besides the six-month drug and alcohol rehabilitation counseling, Allen House offers anger management sessions and domestic violence discussions and information on education resources in hopes participants plan to go back to work or school, he added.

In January, LA CADA joined forces with former NBA player Chris Herren and his Purple Project, aimed at breaking the stigma behind substance abuse among adults and youth alike, Navarro said.

The Herren project is a nonprofit that assists individuals and families struggling with addiction. The concept was developed when Herrin spoke at
a local high school in 2011, and launched to break the stigma of addiction, bring awareness to the dangers of substance abuse and shed light on
effective treatment practices.

LA CADA works directly with young people ages 12–19 in eastern Los Angeles County and the Whittier Union High School District.

It sends counselors to the schools for after-class group sessions with a message aimed at increasing self-esteem of students and pride in their schools. Between 80 to 100 students take part, Navarro said.

Participants have come from Downey, La Mirada, Norwalk, Covina, Pico Rivera, Montebello, Pomona, Long Beach and Orange County, Navarro said.

The Santa Fe Springs site is the main location of outpatient counseling, headed by Bill Tarkanian, director of outpatient services, and Rachel Carrillo, manager of outpatient services.

“We see about 150 clients a day,” Carrillo said. The program offers counseling, parenting classes, domestic violence prevention classes and anger management.

“Individual clients are charged on a sliding-scale basis depending on their ability to pay, but we don’t turn anyone away,” Navarro said.

There is a play room with toys and a television for kids while parents get counseling.

Staff members are aided by interns taking social work curriculum at USC, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Los Angeles.

Although most of the work is counseling, there is a small health clinic staffed by John Wesley Health Center personnel for those who need physical help, Navarro said.