In our third post we visited one of our newest sites, Above & Beyond, a day treatment center on Chicago's West Side where we met program participant Mario Navarro, top, and acting clinical director Brenda Dixon.

Sent to prison for a crime he committed after completing eighth grade, Mario Navarro saw his sentence as time to work on himself. “I didn’t let it become my downfall,” Navarro says. “I understood I was in a place where I could get better.”

Navarro took classes, got his associate’s degree, and became a peer educator during his more than 20 years in prison. When he returned to Chicago in November, he was assigned to do 25 hours of counseling at Above and Beyond, a new day-treatment center on the Near West Side.

Brenda Dixon, lead counselor and acting clinical director at Above & Beyond, helped him pick several groups to attend at the center, as well as connecting him to housing and employment resources. He attends Harmony, Hope & Healing’s song-and-drum circle regularly at 9 a.m. Tuesdays. It’s a high point of his week--“this morning I was up and ready at 5 a.m.” he says.

Looking at the experience as both a participant and a peer educator, Navarro says HHH gives participants comfort and tools for their struggle to recover from addiction and trauma.

“HHH helps you to become comfortable in a group setting,” Navarro says. “It relaxes everyone. The songs inspire you, the facilitators have an energy that fills you. You have the feeling ‘I’m appreciated, someone cares and they believe in me… so I can do it.’”

Dixon, who has been a counselor for more than 20 years after initially starting her careers as a licensed professional nurse, says that Harmony Hope & Healing is a great addition to other group programs the site offers free of charge to people who are mandated to attend as well as walk-in clients.

“Our clients are age 18 to age 70 and what we’re seeing is that the young and the old are loving it,” she says. “They can relate to that and it can show them life doesn’t have to be dull after drug use.”

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