Arrowhead Center celebrates 50 years: “It takes a village”



Originally the Arrowhead Center on Problem Drinking, the name was officially changed to the Arrowhead Center, Inc. in 1989. Photo by Cindy Kujala.

Originally the Arrowhead Center on Problem Drinking, the name was officially changed to the Arrowhead Center, Inc. in 1989. Photo by Cindy Kujala.

The Arrowhead Center in Virginia celebrates its 50th year of providing services to those with addiction. It was established in 1967 by a group of concerned citizens that saw the need for a service agency to address problem drinking.

In August 1968, the AEOA began a demonstration project, providing temporary funding. The original mission of this program was to obtain services for persons reduced to poverty levels as a result of alcoholism. While under the direction of the AEOA, the Arrowhead Center on Problem Drinking (ACPD) secured an office in City Hall. Coordinators were hired and an advisory board was created to oversee the operations. The original function of the ACPD was to provide information and referral.

In the fall of 1968 preparations were made to move this program into a corporation of its own. The service area was extended to include St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties, with funding generated from the communities served.

January 1969 was proclaimed Alcoholism Information Month. The Arrowhead Center on Problem Drinking became an official nonprofit corporation on Jan. 21, 1969. Offices were moved to the Johnson School building due to an increase in services and staff. The agency was growing, more staff was hired, and activities at the center were expanding. At the same time AEOA was phasing out the alcohol program. Seminars and workshops were being organized, fundraising and independent support became a focus. Late in 1969 the center was granted the first county monies.

In 1970 the offices of the Arrowhead Center were re-located to 204-1/2 Chestnut Street where they remained for 20 years. New funding was secured through various organizations, foundations, industry contracts, state, county and private donations. There was seen a need for an area detoxification center, a campaign was organized to reach that goal. AEOA funding ended in March and the agency became self-sustaining.

The year 1971 brought more growth to the agency with expansion to a wider geographic area and fundraising efforts continued. The Minnesota legislature mandate the creation of area detox centers by law. The Arrowhead Center and Range Mental Health Center worked cooperatively on this project and the detoxification center became a reality in 1972, named the Range Area Chemical Dependency Receiving Center.

From 1973 to 1976 the Arrowhead Center functioned under state, federal and county funding. By 1975 the center had 27 employees and six offices. The offices were located in International Falls, Grand Rapids, Aitkin, Virginia, Hibbing and Ely. Services were growing with the demand.

In 1978 the Human Resources Board made a decision to integrate all chemical dependency programs under Range Mental Health Center. The plan met resistance, a citizens committee was formed, and a petition was initiated, along with letters of testimony to the advisory committee which reversed the direction of the integration. Operations returned to normal at the Arrowhead Center. State, federal and county funding remained available in substantial amounts; the ACPD entered an era of stability.

1980 brought about the consideration of a licensed outpatient treatment program. Up to this time all services were provided free of charge to all people, regardless of the client’s ability to pay.

The adult outpwatient program began in Virginia in 1981, adolescent outpatient treatment started in Hibbing. Mine lay-offs signaled the start of economic decline in the region and county funding became a concern.

More change for 1982, fundraising and donations to supplement income for the center hit the budget hard.

In 1983—as a means to reach youth—the agency began to look at the public schools as a source of implementing these programs. The first contract was negotiated with Ely.

1994 operations at the center continued at a steady pace. Some of the offices were closed, having only Virginia, Hibbing and Ely. The adolescent program was discontinued, but a new program, Prevention/Intervention/ Education (PIE), was created.

Charitable gambling was approved in 1985 and the school program grew.

In 1986 a critical change in funding happened with the proposal of Rule 25 and the Consolidated Fund. Grant-writing was utilized for the first time to finance programs. Charitable gambling was terminated and the Hibbing office closed.

1987 grant-writing produced some new revenue and a contract was secured with the district court for chemical dependency counselor services. The adolescent treatment program was developed in the Virginia area and the family program was re-established.

1989: 20 years!! And the name was officially changed to the Arrowhead Center, Inc.

1990 brought the addition of many new programs: Indian CD Education Program, Virginia DWI Clinic, Elementary CD Education Program and, in coordination with Range Mental Health, Adolescent Extended Care and Work Release CD.

1991 the offices moved to another location on 12th Avenue West with purchase of the structure in July of 1992.

A new relapse prevention program was planned with a grant from St. Louis County in 1993.

In 1994 three new programs were announced: relapse prevention, family interventions and gambling assessments. Repairs/ updates to the building’s heating and cooling system were done.

In 1995 came an era of new funding in the form of managed care. County grants were in jeopardy of diminishing or becoming extinct. Talk of forming a halfway house began. Gambling treatment services began through a sub-contract with Gamblers Intervention Services of Duluth. A one-day-per-week office in Hibbing, the Wesley House, opened a collaborative efforts with area agencies and funds through Community Development Block Grant money.

The agency connected to the Internet for the first time in 1996, and created a new contract with Virginia Regional Medical Center’s Intensive Rehab Unit. We also saw the beginning of the decline of county grant funding.

1997 a grants from HUD were received for the Arrowhead Recovery (Halfway) House and WINGS, a program for chemically dependent women—a collaboration of five agencies with HRA the fiscal agent. The advisory board was abolished in June and a new organizational chart was created.

1998 saw a new nicotine PIE class, revised salary schedules, benefit packages approved for the first time and staff on payroll was at 27.

1999 and a look back at the last 30 years. As it is written: The unselfish work of many recovering people will go without praise or deserved recognition; the shattered lives put back in order will never be recorded. Many board members, staff and volunteers have over the years brought what was once thought to be a disgraceful, moral issue to the place it ought to be: that the alcoholic, drug addict and compulsive gambler need medical treatment and support systems to combat a progressive and potentially fatal disease.

(The historical documentation I can currently find stops here.)

In 2018 there was a change in administration; three women took on their new positions as executive officer, operations manager and treatment program director. This was a year of much change and many challenges. As we have seen in the history of this organization, the dedicated staff and board members have persisted in their mission and goals to continue to provide services to those in need.

The mission of the Arrowhead Center is to address the needs of individuals, families and society by providing comprehensive client care. Service, change, challenge and growth in organizations like the Arrowhead Center should bring us to a statement of belief I recently read, “We have to stop moralizing , blaming, controlling the person with the disease of addiction and start creating opportunities for individuals and families to get help and provide assistance in choosing proper treatment.”

I joined the board of the Arrowhead Center in June 2018. My personal story dealing with addiction is what brought me to apply for a position on the board. I am grateful for this opportunity to do what is in my power and ability to assist the organization in meeting their goals and continuing on with its mission.

My definition of addiction was hurt, anger and broken promises. From my definition you can guess which side of addiction I was on. I have learned that addiction has many definitions, some of which are not in the textbooks. I am in a learning experience about addiction, how and why it happens. Addiction affects all of us! It may come in many forms and some so subtle you might not even acknowledge it. You don’t have to be the person committed to the bad habit, the alcohol or drug. It can be a personal hurt or the cause of a crime happening in your neighborhood.

As we celebrate the Arrowhead Center’s 50th year, we invite and encourage you to help us celebrate this event and support us in meeting our goals and mission. Do you have story of addiction and recovery you can share with others? Maybe you can help us with a fundraising event or make a donation. Maybe you like to cut grass or wash windows. Maybe you just want to be there, support our efforts, and have our backs. As the saying goes, “It takes a village.”

Bonnie McDowell lives in Eveleth, MN. She is an Arrowhead Center board member.

One response to “Arrowhead Center celebrates 50 years: “It takes a village””

  1. john dickinson says:

    I never thought that one day we would visit the Arrowhead Center. Our family had a visitor from another country who had forgotten her pills at home. So the only place we could go for help was the Arrowhead Center, and help the staff did. The services the center provides to underprivileged young adults is not found anywhere else.

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