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How Serenity Inns is expanding to serve men struggling with addiction

September 28, 2023
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Five months ago, Tyler S, as he would like to be identified for privacy reasons, found himself at the mercy of his addiction to methamphetamine. For years he had struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. Growing up and living in a small town in Iowa, Tyler found that much of his social time started to revolve more and more around alcohol and using meth. Throughout his adult life, he knew he had a problem. But he did not know how to move forward. “I didn’t have the strength to take the first step,” he said. What finally pushed him toward a path of recovery was his inability to properly care for his 11-year-old daughter. A friend mentioned a treatment facility called Serenity Inns. Serenity Inns is a 12-bed drug-treatment facility located in the Walnut Hill neighborhood. Serenity Inns serves adult men struggling with alcoholism and substance addictions. This week, leaders of the facility broke ground on an additional 16-bed facility across the street from Serenity Inns’ current location at 2825 W. Brown St.

“It’s weird how powerful something can become, where you start to center your life around this drug and not the one person you care most about in the world, which was my daughter,” Tyler said. Tyler said he became interested in improving his life after learning Serenity Inns offered six months in its treatment facility and up to another 18 months in its Alumni House, which provides affordable housing for persons committed to living in a drug and alcohol-free environment. “They give you the tools to succeed in your life. It’s a treatment facility unlike anything else,” Tyler said.

In the first month, men go to group counseling and therapy sessions. After the first month, they can start looking for jobs to gain an independent footing. “Our mission is to offer an opportunity for holistic recovery from addiction and alcoholism to men who need it most, in a compassionate community of accountability,” according to the group’s website. Its expansion comes at a critical time, said Ken Ginlack, the CEO of Serenity Inns. “The need for expanded services is now especially critical,” he said. Ginlack said that although the opioid epidemic has caused an increase in funding for prevention, there is still inadequate support when it comes to treatment. He said Serenity Inns averages about five calls a day from individuals and programs looking to place people in a treatment program. “We’re seeing a big uptick in people who are dying in stimulant use because of fentanyl,” Ginlack said.

Ginlack said that many Black and Brown people on the South and North sides of Milwaukee are in dire need of access to treatment. He said men suffer a much higher overdose and death rate at about two to three times the number of women. Funding often does not address these issues, he added. “Men are more reluctant to ask for help,” Ginlack said. “Serenity Inns is proud to break that stigma by being a loving and caring environment.”

Ginlack is a licensed mental health and substance use disorder therapist. He has had his own struggles with drug and alcohol use. This, he said, allows him to empathize with everyone who walks through Serenity Inns’ door. Ginlack said the new facility will be used to offer more intensive treatment in addressing trauma in the first 30 days. During the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, Ginlack addressed a crowd that included Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Ald. Russell W. Stamper II. “Every extra bed we will have at this new facility will be a life saved,” he said.