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Pandemic challenges plenty as Project Turnabout sees more need for chemical dependency treatment

Project Turnabout continues to provide treatment at its 122-bed residential facility and through outreach programs despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The demand for treatment is high. "Stress feeds addiction," said Mike Schiks, executive director of the nonprofit organization

Project Turnabout offers residential treatment at a 122-bed facility in Granite Falls and offers outreach programs in Willmar and Marshall. West Central Tribune file photo

GRANITE FALLS — Project Turnabout is continuing to provide inpatient and outpatient treatment for chemical dependency despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Addiction feeds on stress,” said Mike Schiks, executive director of Project Turnabout.

Providing treatment during the pandemic is as important as ever, and the demand for treatment is high, he added.

He has seen media reports about increased alcohol sales in recent weeks, and suspects that other drug use is up as well. Alcohol and methamphetamine remain the drugs most frequently abused in rural areas. He worries that there may be a rise in the number of people experiencing problems in the months ahead as usage increases during this period of stress.

The nonprofit center offers drug, alcohol and gambling treatment at its 122-bed residential facility in Granite Falls, and operates outreach services in Willmar and Marshall.


Schick said Project Turnabout has pared back by only a small amount the number of people in residential treatment. It did so to allow for some flexibility in the event someone should become infected by the virus that causes COVID-19.

Patients being admitted to treatment are carefully screened. Staff start each work period by being tested for temperature and oxygen level, he said.

The director said the facility was designed and operates as a health care center. It provides on-site medical care. It was built to separate and isolate groups of patients in many different ways, he said.

The need for social distancing creates its challenges, of course. Treatment benefits by support from friends, family and others. Schiks said Skype and Facetime and other internet platforms are being used so that patients can continue to receive social support while the pandemic requires physical separation.

Schiks has worked in the field of addiction treatment since 1978. He is quick to acknowledge that he has never seen anything quite like these times. On the other hand, he points out that this is not entirely new territory for those in the field of substance abuse.

He recently penned his thoughts on the similarities of this pandemic with that of addiction.

Many people are coming to terms with how the coronavirus is impacting all aspects of their lives, and on the need to take the situation seriously. Addiction requires a very similar coming to terms.

“Addicted people feel like they’re facing something that came out of nowhere and hijacked their lives,” Schiks wote.


“Addiction can’t be cured any more than COVID-19 can be eradicated,” he stated.

Both can be contained, and in both cases, it starts with and depends on supporting each other, he wrote.

People with addiction are the most resilient people he knows. The lessons that recovering addicts learn can help us all, he said.

“There is hope. Take things one day at a time. And perhaps above all, this too shall pass.”

The director is confident that Project Turnabout will continue to serve those in need through this pandemic. The organization has been through a tornado that flattened many of its facilities, and weathered many financial challenges in providing affordable care in a rural setting.

He said the organization’s board of directors has responded to the pandemic just as it had following the July 2000 tornado.

“What do we need to do” is the question the board raised, he said. “How do we be safe and move forward in a way that helps people.”


Mike Schiks, executive director of Project Turnabout, looks over the campus grounds during a groundbreaking ceremony for a 2014 expansion project. West Central Tribune file photo

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