Watching her behind her neatly kept work desk, it’s clear that Kendra McInerney — her blonde hair pulled away from her face and a bright smile at the ready — knows who she is and what she does best.
As intake coordinator at Prototypes Women’s Center Ventura County, McInerney speaks to women who, whether by choice or referral, seek treatment at the 30-bed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center where rough lives end so that better ones can begin. You can’t tell, just by looking at McInerney, that she used to sit on the other side of the desk.
McInerney — a 40-year-old mother of four boys who range in age from 4 to 20 — began using methamphetamine while on a date when she was 20. Though she was addicted to meth, she was able to hold a grocery job for 16 years as she struggled with her addiction. “I was very functional,” she said. “In some ways, that was good, but in other ways it was the worst thing that could happen.”
She was arrested just once, for being under the influence, but that arrest lead to a five month stint at Prototypes, where women in treatment live in a structured environment, most often for six months to one year. “We’re teaching them how to be productive members of society — and part of that is teaching them how to be productive members of this community,” said Vel Linden, clinical manager at Prototypes.
In addition to the 30 beds for program participants at the center, there is also space for 30 children to reside with their mothers, in a dorm-style setting, as they undergo treatment. Though Ventura County provides $80 a day for each woman in treatment, staff at the center must raise the much needed additional funds to provide for the children, as well as for the basic needs of the entire household. There are always more women who wish admittance to Prototypes, which opened about eight years ago, than there is space. “If we had 100 beds, we could fill them all,” McInerney said.
Many of the women recovering at Prototypes — which provides group therapy, psychiatric evaluation, educational programs, parenting training and much more — have undergone various mental and physical traumas, including but not limited to domestic abuse and rape.
“We really want people to know that we’re here and providing a service to people in the county,” Linden said. “We keep moms and children together. We keep families together.”
For the women, the routine is strict and demanding, but the rewards are countless.
For Tabitha, 23-year-old mother of infant son Adrian, Prototypes is where she was sent following jail time. She has since graduated from Prototypes, where she has lived for the last 10 months, and continues to live, like McInerney, in the center’s transitional housing — where women can receive room and board for $600 a month. She also attends college and holds a job.