Local psychologist Frank Lieggi admits that alcoholism is one of the toughest addictions to treat and beat.
The popular and pervasive drug of choice is everywhere, universally accepted and legal. More problematic, he says, is that drinking and driving is still prevalent in the United States and that usually no one is the wiser until a driver is convicted for drinking under the influence.
“When people drink, they lose judgment. They lose their timing. They lose their coordination,” Lieggi says. “So they are making impaired decisions when they are drinking. ‘I’ll drive the car’ is just one of those.”
This April, the Way Back Inn launched its DUI service in two new locations-one in northwest Chicago and the other in Broadview-that offer assistance for Polish and Spanish speakers. Now, says Lieggi, the agency’s executive director, offenders can access public transportation to complete court-mandated treatment without putting anyone else at risk. The new service sites are at 2821 N. Harlem Ave. in Chicago (for Polish speakers) and at Way Back Inn’s Broadview office at 1915 Roosevelt Road (for Spanish speakers).
“Our hope for this new program is straightforward,” he says. “I don’t want to have people who are not suppose to be driving to get into a car and kill somebody because they are trying to drive far away to a place and get their mandatory DUI services. I want them to be able to get on a bus, arrive there, and not have to take unnecessary risks.”
Drinking and driving
In Illinois, the Secretary of State’s office reports that close to 50,000 drivers are arrested annually for DUI violations. Violators receive stringent penalties and licensing sanctions, following a court-ordered mental health assessment. The Way Back Inn will render the mandated treatments (from 10 to 75 hours) in order to push forward the reinstatement of a license.
“When I work with individuals after a DUI conviction,” says Way Back Inn clinical director Anita Pinduir, “no one thinks about leaving their car overnight to be towed, even though it would be cheaper than the consequences of a DUI.”
She says it is the post-conviction need for rehabilitative services for drunk drivers that was not being addressed in these areas until now. Lieggi agrees that help is needed.
“It doesn’t matter if they are coming to us for a DUI conviction, and possibly underlying issues with alcohol, or a persistent drug or gambling problem,” he says. “We don’t know with any of these clients who is going to make it and who is not. Our philosophy is to put as many beds as we can out there in an effort to reach into underserved communities and save more lives.”
-Deb Quantock McCarey