By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — —
Retiring substance abuse counselor Sharon Fradelos has seen a lot of changes at Jefferson County Comprehensive Services during her over 32 years at the agency.
When she started there in 1981, JCCS had a small, four-bed residential rehab program and a two-bed detox service. The agency now operates a 16-bed residential facility and a seven-bed detox program.
But one thing hasn't changed over the years – the agency's commitment to helping those in need, Fradelos said.
“The goal has always been to help those who come to us needing help and it's our duty to do that,” Fradelos said. “I think the philosophy has been very consistent in that we want to be a value to the community, to help anybody that needs the services.”
Fradelos, 66, is the director of substance abuse services at JCCS. She oversees both inpatient and outpatient services, as well as the agency's treatment program at Big Muddy River Correctional Center. She will retire this Friday.
Her co-workers and family held a surprise retirement party for her June 21 to honor her years of service. At the party, Fradelos was presented with a cake and several gifts.
Before being named substance abuse director in 1990, Fradelos held several positions at Comprehensive Services.
She started as an entry level substance abuse technician. At that time, the program was operating out of an office building behind the former Good Samaritan Hospital site.
Fradelos then moved up in the agency to detox supervisor, then to residential supervisor, and finally to director of substance abuse services.
“I think we've had lots of challenges along the way and I guess those have, in truth, made us stronger,” Fradelos said. “Of course, they're difficult when you're going through them and not much fun.”
The most pressing issue currently is the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect programs at Comprehensive Services, Fradelos said.
In addition to the substance abuse program, JCCS also helps the developmentally disabled find work, operates a mental health counseling program, and provides aid to senior citizens.
“All of us are going to be affected in some way throughout the agency,” Fradelos said of the Affordable Care Act. “We've struggled over the years early on to meet payroll and then we became a very self-sustaining facility for a long, long time. Our agency was doing very well. And now we're back into some more challenging times.”
John Metcalf retired as director of the JCCS rehab division in 2005, and worked with Fradelos throughout her time at the facility. He said Fradelos played an instrumental role in the growth of the substance abuse program over the years.
“Everything happened on time and right,” Metcalf said of Fradelos' work. “During her leadership of the substance abuse program here, it grew immensely.”
Dan Boehmer, executive director of JCCS, said Fradelos and her staff have accomplished a great deal while serving the organization.
He added that certain myths about rehab need to be dispelled, and that everyone should understand how important the service is. It's not only young people in their early 20s who run into trouble with substance abuse. Often, it's people in their 30s who have families and good jobs, but that need some help to turn their lives around, Boehmer said.
“It just amazes everybody of the really truly life-changing things that happen when people come through rehab here,” Boehmer said.
Fradelos said she decided to retire because it “felt like it was time.” She looks forward to traveling and spending time with family.
“I don't want to have a schedule,” she said.
Fradelos lives in Mt. Vernon with her husband, Conn. She has two grown children and four grandchildren.