Over nearly 60 years, the Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services has evolved from its modest beginning in a nondescript brick storefront on East Fourth Street into an addiction treatment provider that its small group of founders would not recognize today.
CADAS, tucked off Cherokee Boulevard in the North Shore on 4.4 acres, has toiled quietly, out of the spotlight and in partnership with many local organizations, law enforcement, government and nonprofits to address one of society's most vexing and complex challenges: addiction to drugs and alcohol. CADAS offers treatment services that span the broadest of options, including residential programs for adults and adolescents, halfway housing, day treatment, outpatient treatment and supportive, sober housing alternatives. The organization serves about 2,200 people a year.
"The stigma is less, and we are grateful for that progress," Executive Director Paul Fuchcar says. "Addiction is a disease for which there is a remedy that does allow you to have a full and healthy life. We want to share that message of strength, hope and experience."
That CADAS has matured into a stable, resilient organization is a testament to its founders' vision, the dedication of longtime board members and their stewardship, a professional, enthusiastic staff and passionate executive leadership, according to several nominations CADAS received for the Community Outreach Champion of Health Care award this year.
"CADAS was born of a self-help movement when traditional medicine met its match in the field of addiction," writes Dr. John Standridge, a family practice specialist who worked as medical director. "Our clients are despairing and often in painful withdrawal. Our counselors offer hope and guidance for a new way to live."
CADAS fills a vital role in the community as it offers its services to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
That public service mission requires financial discipline, which was sharpened after CADAS nearly closed its doors in 1998, according to Fuchcar, who has led the organization for the last 18 years.
"An anonymous donor stepped forward and pulled us out of the fire," he says. "Out of that, our board learned how to be a high-functioning board. The financial report comes first."
CADAS is well-positioned to handle the coming surge in demand for its services thanks to a year-plus of hardship the pandemic has imposed on thousands of area residents, he says.
Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services
* Address: 205 Minor St. in the North Shore area
* Founded: 1964
* Employees: 140
* Annual budget: $10 million
* Accolades: 2018 recipient of the Better Business Bureau’s nonprofit Torch Award for business ethics; 2017 recipient of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s nonprofit of the year award; Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations accreditation with commendation.
* Worth knowing: The camel, which begins and ends its day on its knees and can go a day without a drink, was adopted as CADAS’ symbol of recovery about 20 years ago. The camel is synonymous with sobriety, long rooted in Alcoholics Anonymous.
"People stayed at home, and they stayed in their addiction," Fuchcar says. "There were and are economic pressures, isolation and a lack of structure."
Patient acuity is more severe than ever, he adds.
"We are seeing more [intravenous] and opiate drug users, pregnant women, veterans," he says. "At least 80% have co-occurring disorders including hypertension, diabetes, depression, anxiety, psychosis and bipolar disorder."
In his nomination, Standridge praises the staff's clinical skills and commitment to providing clients with safety, structure, key insights and actions plans as they move toward a life of sobriety. Staff members approach their work as a calling; it's rewarding, but not easy, work, he writes.
"CADAS recognizes a community problem, then rises to meet it," he writes. It is "a distinguished model-example of community outreach service to the area — a true champion of health care."
CHAMPIONS OF HEALTH CARE 2021