"Our community needs to get comfortable with the uncomfortable." -Peter Browning, Dilworth Center Board Member
I drove past Dilworth Center before I successfully found it, and that's actually a good thing.
Although our culture is making strides against the stigma and shame piled onto people suffering from addiction, it's comforting to know that their first step toward recovery doesn't have to take place in a public square like Trade and Tryon.
Dilworth Center is tucked away off the main thoroughfare, accessible only through the back of a shopping center lot, bordered by a canopy of large trees and some private parking spots.
Visitors to the outpatient treatment center are greeted by the welcoming and inherently southern sight of a large front porch lined with rocking chairs. It doesn't take long to realize that there is nothing "institutional" about Dilworth Center.
"We are known in the recovery community as Charlotte's best-kept secret," says Cynthia Sims, JD, who generously took time out of her duties as Director of Development to show me around the center and introduce me to the team.
Founded in 1990, Dilworth Center provides intensive outpatient treatment to adults, adolescents and families affected by addiction. Twenty-eight years later, it has changed locations, grown substantially, and established a national reputation for excellence.
With the opioid crisis becoming a near-constant headline, no one will be surprised to learn that Dilworth Center's admission rate has exploded recently, increasing by 83% in 2017 compared to the two previous years.
As a nonprofit, Dilworth Center is able to raise funds from the community to help patients who cannot cover 100% of their treatment, or whose insurance claims are unexpectedly denied. They typically provide partial scholarships, because the staff knows it's important for patients to be invested in their recovery.
Most of the center's community support comes from two annual events: The Christina Browning Scholarship Fund Breakfast in the fall, and the Wallace Godfrey "Courage to Change" Scholarship Award Luncheon in the spring.
Every dollar raised at the breakfast event goes toward the Christina Browning Scholarship Fund, supported by Dilworth Center Board Member Peter Browning in memory of his daughter, who he lost to alcoholism two days after her 50th birthday.
"Christina would not want her family to hide her struggle with this awful disease," says her family. "Instead she would want us to celebrate her giving and loving personality and would want broader recognition and acceptance of addiction as a serious disease."
The spring award luncheon, attracting more than 300 attendees each year, is a chance to celebrate and recognize the unsung heroes working behind the scenes in the recovery community. "It's like a homecoming," says Director of Clinical Services Tammy A. Hanson, LCSW, MAC, LCAS, CCS. "People travel in from other states for it."
It's almost unheard of for an outpatient treatment center to be nationally known, and that speaks to one of the key strengths of Dilworth Center: collaboration.
"Even if someone comes to us seeking treatment, and for whatever reason we are not the right place for them, we will never leave them alone on our doorstep," says Cynthia. "We get them where they need to be."
Tammy adds that the ability to connect people to the best resource for their specific case is a key strength of the center. "We have established relationships with inpatient treatment centers all over the country," she says. "Many times those centers refer people back to us for their after care."
In addition to connecting patients to outside resources, the team at Dilworth Center is passionate about treating addiction as a family disease. "The family piece is absolutely one of the best things we do," says Tammy.
Family therapy is required for adolescent and young adult patients and heavily suggested for adult patients. The center even offers a group for children of adult patients, where they learn about addiction and understand how it affects their parents.
"People are starting to grasp the idea that addiction affects everyone," says Cynthia. "We are always battling the stigma that comes with addiction, so it's heartwarming to see all the support we have in the community."
Dilworth Center may be Charlotte's best-kept secret, but it's no secret that addiction rates are rising in Mecklenburg County and across the country. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, this
warm and welcoming center is here to help.
To learn more about Dilworth Center, call 704-372-6969 or visit dilworthcenter.org. To make a tax-deductible donation, click here or text Dilworth to 33222.
This feature was written by Grace Kennedy. Grace Kennedy is a Charlotte-based nonprofit writer and marketing consultant. For more information visit www.gracekennedy.net.
(Illustration of Dilworth Center Staff by Callie Catchpole)