MASON CITY | About 75 people watched Gov. Kim Reynolds and others cut the ribbon and tour a new facility at Youth and Shelter Services' (YSS) Francis Lauer's Adolescent Residential Addiction Treatment's North Iowa Campus.
Along with Reynolds — who personally described her alcohol addiction before becoming Iowa governor — YSS President and CEO Andrew Allen also addressed the crowd, as well as Shanda Hansen, Francis Lauer's Community Based Center Director.
Hansen will be heavily involved in helping run the new facility, located at 30 N. Eisenhower Ave., across the street from the current complex.
Reynolds told those gathered it's extremely important for Iowans to prioritize mental health and addiction recovery for its youth.
"If Iowan youth aren't healthy, they can't learn, they can't earn, and for God's sake, they can't succeed," she said.
Allen, like Reynolds, told the crowd he had overcome addiction —but much earlier on in his life. He stated he had drinking and drug addiction issues when he was 10-11 years old.
Now, he's leading YSS, the same organization that helped him overcome his addiction. According to Allen, 7,000 youth in Iowa who need treatment for substance abuse each year don't receive it.
"Many people think this is a moral failure, that it's still a choice," Allen said of the stigma of drug addiction. "And families find themselves increasingly isolated."
Hansen also stated to those in attendance — which included Mayor Bill Schickel, State Sen. Amanda Reagan and Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley, among numerous other local leaders — that she had overcome drug addiction.
She noted the numerous programs the new facility will offer, including mental healthy therapy, medication management, crisis management and several other programs.
After she finished her speech, her and the Mason City Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors walked outside YSS's main complex at 50 N. Eisenhower Ave., and helped cut the ribbon outside the new facility, as snow slowly fell down late Thursday afternoon.
Inside the new facility, Hansen told the Globe Gazette it will be important to create relationships with local mental health facilities and hospitals to help youth overcome their addiction.
She added the full amount of services the new facility will provide is important to youth who need the tools to overcome addiction.
"When we have somebody come into our shelter, many times they need other support besides just that safe place," Hansen said. "They may need outpatient treatment, they may need residential treatment ... it's just important instead of pushing them out to another facility or getting on a wait list for a unit to meet their needs. We want to do that here."
Along with the new facility opening, YSS presented Reynolds with the Youth Advocacy Leadership Award, specifically for helping young people in recovery. Reynolds commended those in attendance for their help in opening the new facility.
"With a team like YSS behind you and a community behind you, life can be so much better," he said.
The YSS is asking for household items for its new facility, ranging from towels and bedding to new TVs. Those interested in helping should visit www.bit.ly/YSSRTwishlist.