Twenty-three years after its humble beginnings, UNC Horizons Program unveiled a new state-of-the-art facility in which to treat women and their children under one roof.
UNC Horizons is a world leader in treating women with substance use disorder and also addressing and treating underlying trauma all while keeping the women with their children.
Leaders from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care were joined Wednesday by Gov. Roy Cooper and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr to open and dedicate the new UNC Horizons Program center in downtown Carrboro. The new facility features patient rooms for prenatal care, substance use disorder treatment and psychiatric care. There is also a five-star Early Head Start child development center on site, and career counseling and housing assistance are also available at the new facility.
“This is a very special opening and a wonderful step that takes an internationally recognized UNC Horizons Program to the next level,” Chancellor Carol L. Folt said at the ribbon cutting. “UNC Horizons has a record of helping women get the assistance that they need to move forward with their lives. It helps families building a better future and it helps resolve issues of drug use specific to women and their families. This is an amazing facility.”
Dr. John Thorp Jr., a professor and division director of obstetrics and gynecology at the UNC School of Medicine, started Horizons in 1994. Just two employees worked at UNC Horizons then. Today, the program employs more than 80 people, many of whom graduated from the program.
Thorp wanted UNC Horizons to address the trauma in the lives of women who suffered from substance use disorder and to help women in an all-female environment. Unlike most treatment programs for women, UNC Horizons added a childcare and child therapy element.
“Just like UNC Health Care’s beautiful cancer hospital, this beautiful space will say to women and children bravely embracing treatment that they merit the healing powers of an aesthetically lovely location,” Thorp said.
Hendrée Jones, the executive director of UNC Horizons and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine, said the program empowers women to “find their voice and use their voice.
“We give them the tools to be the parents they want to be and establish economic self-sufficiency,” Jones said. “Most importantly, we help break the cycle of physical, sexual and emotional abuse that for so many can be a root cause of shame and they use substances to numb emotional and physical pain.”
Cooper praised the program and its staff as a global leader.
“We know that substance abuse and addiction can do as much as anything to destroy people’s lives,” Cooper said. “Addiction causes domestic violence. It causes financial strife. It causes child neglect. UNC Horizons is a model for the rest of the world.”
Among Wednesday’s speakers was Lucy Brown, a UNC Horizons graduate who now works there as a lead residential advisor.
Brown said that coming into treatment, she feared that she would be separated from her unborn child or that she would be a terrible mother. Less than one month into treatment, though, she said she was equipped with more skills and tools than most women having their first child.
“Twenty-seven days into recovery I was given three things: Compassion, hope and a beautiful baby girl to raise all on my own,” Brown said. “The staff at Horizons knew what I was capable of before I could even imagine it.”
Story by Caroline Curran, UNC Health Care. Video by Melanie Busbee, University Communications