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An Evolutionary Approach to Treat Addiction in Central Illinois

Author: Libby Peck

With over 25 years in the field of addiction treatment, Tom Delegatto has had a hand in the development of many programs and facilities throughout the greater Chicagoland area. However, none of his prior work was as unique of a challenge as what he faced at Sunspire Health’s expansion into Gilman, Illinois with its Heartland facility.

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With over 25 years in the field of addiction treatment, Tom Delegatto has had a hand in the development of many programs and facilities throughout the greater Chicagoland area. However, none of his prior work was as unique of a challenge as what he faced at Sunspire Health’s expansion into Gilman, Illinois with its Heartland facility.

As Heartland’s Executive Director since day one, Tom has guided its transformation from a wellness center and spa retreat into central Illinois’ premier addiction treatment center. Set on 30 acres of sprawling farmland with a three-acre pond, the location was picked by Sunspire Health due to its quiet, serene setting for recovery and its accessibility to Chicago, which is less than 2 hours away.

Despite Heartland's rural location, it offers a full continuum of care that allows patients to receive complete treatment for their addiction. From on-site medical detox to residential treatment to partial hospitalization programming, Heartland is one of the few facilities in the area with this breadth of addiction treatment services.

Heartland offers more of the necessary programming for patients to have a continuum of care than many of the other addiction treatment facilities in the area.

These options give patients the opportunity to complete the full course of addiction treatment and care in Gilman then head back to their families or jobs as they see fit. Tom says, “It’s really exciting to watch a program grow and to create something that is providing an opportunity for people to work on their own recovery and to get well, move back out, or move back home; go back with their families and continue their recovery.”

In its previous incarnation, Heartland’s buildings were simply not built to accommodate the needs of patients seeking treatment for their addiction or chemical dependency. Tom and his Sunspire Health team supervised 7 months of renovations to the former spa to make it appropriate for addiction treatment services.

Private offices and group meeting rooms were created where there was previously open space, and what was a beautiful farmhouse was transformed into residential living quarters. After construction was completed, Heartland earned its licensure and brought on staff for a month of training before opening its doors in March 2016.

“I think the atmosphere here is conducive to people feeling safe and more at peace. When our patients first get [to Heartland] they’re upset, worried, concerned, and afraid to interact with the clinical team and their peers. But those fears soon begin to dissipate.” – Tom Delegatto

Heartland’s entire ethos is built around how the facility and its staff can best serve its patients. Tom and his staff quickly learned that even after Heartland’s major renovations, they would need to continue tinkering with the facility’s layout and programming to provide an outstanding experience for people trying to recover. The number of group rooms doubled; the offered treatment modalities were revised and altered to meet the needs of patients and their families.

This focus on patient experience stems from the soul of the Sunspire Health network. With 8 different locations nationwide, these facilities are unified by their clinical excellence complemented by personalized patient programming. No two patients have had the same experience with addiction, so why should their treatment be the same?

Heartland creates treatment plans that are tailored specifically to each patient’s needs during their care at the facility and after their course of treatment ends. This way, patients have the best possible tools in their arsenal to achieve lifetime recovery.

At Sunspire Health Heartland, referring professionals are able to choose how involved they want to be throughout a client’s course of care.

But the Heartland experience isn’t just personalized for patients—it’s adaptable for the referring medical and clinical professionals that the Heartland staff collaborate with who may refer their patients and clients for treatment. As long as a patient signs a release of information form prior to beginning treatment at Heartland, his or her doctor or therapist is allowed to be as hands-on or hands-off as they want to be throughout their client’s addiction treatment process.

“It’s really up to the referral source once we reach out to them to be clear about how they want to be involved, and then we do our best to follow that schedule,” says Tom. Everything at Heartland circles back to the idea of the facility adapting to the needs of the people it serves.

Tom acknowledges that “we still have room to tweak and grow” at Heartland, but the facility’s commitment to evolving with the needs of its patients and referring professionals will remain. It’s been a successful approach. Even with his lengthy experience in the addiction treatment field, Tom admits that “[Heartland] is one of the few places I’ve worked where we get regular notes from previous patients stating that ‘I’ve been sober for 6 months today,’ and thanking us for our work.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how Heartland or any other Sunspire Health facility can help you or your patients, reach out to us at sunspirehealth.com.