COVENTRY TWP.: Interval Brotherhood Home is redefining itself.
That new definition will be rooted in its mission to help people achieve lifelong sobriety via treatment and support services.
“We are as good as or better at helping people become sober as any other program. We need to demonstrate that and communicate that,” said Donald P. Finn, executive director of IBH, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Coventry Township.
Finn took the helm at the nonprofit agency in July 2011, replacing its founder and former executive director, the Rev. Samuel R. Ciccolini. He is serving a six-month sentence in federal prison for personal banking and income tax crimes.
Ciccolini, the popular Roman Catholic priest known as “Father Sam,” founded IBH in 1970 and had been its only leader until stepping down in July 2010 amid his legal troubles. He retired from the home five months later.
He is prohibited from performing his duties as a priest. Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Bishop Richard G. Lennon will determine his status in the church after he is released from prison in April.
Although Ciccolini admitted taking money from the nonprofit foundation that raises funds for the home, an independent audit of the taxpayer-supported treatment facility's financial records found no misappropriation of public funds or fraud. He repaid the $1.28 million to the foundation after federal authorities launched their investigation.
“IBH was Father Sam for years and years and years. He laid a strong foundation and helped thousands of people achieve sobriety,” Finn said. “Now we have the challenge of shifting the focus to our mission — who we are and what we do. The leadership has changed but the mission is still the same.”
With Finn's leadership, the board of trustees has updated the facility's mission to include a commitment to post-treatment and formulated a strategic plan that includes seven goals.
John R. Mahne, chairman of the board, said the goals were developed after an evaluation of the home's strengths and weaknesses. Mahne is one of three current trustees on the 13-member board that served when Ciccolini was executive director.
“We discovered that we need to do a better job of tracking our guests once they leave the program. By tracking their success, we can measure how successful we are at helping people become and stay sober,” Mahne said. “We now have four overall desired outcomes for our guests: We want to try to ensure that people stay sober after leaving treatment. We want to have them find safe, sober housing. We want them to either return to completing or advancing their education or to find gainful employment. And we want them to be free of any negative interaction with law enforcement or the community.
“If we can achieve those goals,” he said, “we will be a very successful program and we will have to do a better job of communicating that success and what we do at IBH.”
To help get IBH’s story out, the agency hired a marketing specialist, Marsha Pohlman of Stow, a few weeks ago. She has spent 22 years in marketing, working with for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
Pohlman, who is working on a comprehensive marketing plan, said she didn’t know a lot about IBH when she took her post. She has discovered the agency has a rich 40-year history that includes serving more than 15,000 people.
“There are several things that stand out for me, in addition to the history,” Pohlman said. “The center’s property is peaceful, serene and green. The recovery program has a very strong spiritual component that is nondenominational. And the staff is phenomenal — many are former clients and in recovery themselves.”
One of those staff members, Valerie Murphy, said she is happy with the new focus that highlights the mission. As a residential supervisor, Murphy said, she strives to give the women she works with the same kind of support she received as a client.
“IBH saved my life. When I came here [in 2005], I was homeless. It was January and cold. I came as a way to get off the streets, but I had no intention of getting sober,” Murphy said. “As I stayed here, I began to realize I wanted a different life. There were people who encouraged me and told me I could do things that I never thought I could do.”
Murphy, who is scheduled to complete her undergraduate degree in social work in May at the University of Akron, is working on a new initiative at IBH that focuses on securing safe, sober, structured housing for clients once they leave the residential program.
“Housing is a huge factor in helping people stay sober,” Murphy said. “I could have never gotten on my feet without sober, transitional housing or the employment opportunity here at IBH.”
Under Finn's leadership, IBH has forged a partnership with Goodwill to provide employment opportunities. The facility also has launched a community-supported agriculture project that last year employed eight clients. The garden project provided fresh fruits and vegetables for IBH, for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and for sale at a stand on the facility's property.
The goal is to expand the project to employ more people by providing paid shares to community members. Shareholders will receive produce for a set amount of time. Last year's garden yielded a variety of produce, including squash, peppers, lettuce, onions, carrots, tomatoes and pumpkins.
Developing employment, housing and other pre- and post-treatment opportunities for clients are among the goals of the agency’s new strategic plan. Other goals include an ongoing research project that tracks the success of clients who complete the program, using technology more effectively and finding new revenue sources.
Geri Douglas-Marshall, who started last month as the new development director, is charged with coming up with a funding plan. Among her duties is to find a way to fill the eight beds designated for private-pay clients.
The residential treatment facility has a 60-bed capacity. Seven are reserved for the courts and 48 for the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board. Last year, IBH averaged two private-pay clients at a time.
“If we can fill those beds, we can run more efficiently. We need a plan to target and reach people who are looking for private-pay services,” Finn said. “Everything that we are working to put into place is meant to make us more efficient and more effective. We have a very ambitious plan, and we’re moving ahead.”
To learn more about the center and its services, go to www.ibh.org/.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.