Not many businesses in Southern Nevada can say they’ve been around for 40 years. Most businesses are lucky to last for one, maybe two generations, while many nonprofit organizations are forced to close their doors due to a lack of financial support.
WestCare is the exception to the rule.
Started in 1973, WestCare was a residential substance abuse program called Fitzsimmons House in Las Vegas. It was funded by a grant from the Teamsters Union to provide community-based treatment for adult male heroin addicts who were indigent or from low-income households.
Within a few years, a similar program was made available to women and addicts of other drugs, but that was just the beginning of the organization’s expansion.
WestCare now operates programs and facilities in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois and the Virgin Islands. Services have moved far beyond substance abuse to include homeless and runaway shelters, domestic violence treatment and prevention, and mental health programs, in residential and outpatient programs.
Today, WestCare’s budget is $10 million annually and it employs 171 people.
Kevin Morris has been with WestCare since 1999. He works as the nonprofit’s regional vice president in Nevada.
“I joined WestCare straight out of college,” Morris said. “I was looking for a job and found an ad in the newspaper for a street outreach worker, dealing with teen runaways and prostitutes. Our goal was to reduce the number of sexually exploited kids living on the streets.”
In Nevada, WestCare has facilities in Southern Nevada, as well as in rural areas and Northern Nevada. WestCare’s first facility in Northern Nevada opened in February 2008 when a triage center opened in Reno.
Besides the Women’s and Children’s Campus, Southern Nevada facilities include the Community Triage Center at 930 N. Fourth St.; Community Involvement Center -- Outpatient Services at 401 S. Martin Luther King Blvd.; Harris Spring Ranch at 1200 Harris Spring Road; and Voyage - Rancho at 5659 Duncan Drive.
Services for rural Nevada areas include Amargosa, Beatty, Logandale, Laughlin and Pahrump. Morris said WestCare offers a preventative educational program for schools to prevent problems.
“A lot of my day is spent trying to figure out where our money needs to be spent,” Morris said. “At the end of the day, it’s about how do we help these people, many of them don’t have insurance and need services.”
Morris said the problems with substance abuse and homelessness are similar between Nevada’s rural areas and cities. He said pills and opiates seem to be the drug of choice in Northern Nevada, meth in rural areas of the state and heroin in Southern Nevada.
Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.