ELKO – From its humble beginnings in 1971 to its current multi-location service, Vitality Unlimited has come a long way.
“It was a community-based organization with public/private partnership,” said CEO Ester Quilici. “It was created by a group of citizens here in Elko as well as other groups around the state of Nevada.”
Quilici said when the federal government decided to promote community-based programs that would address alcohol and drug addiction, they reached out to communities.
“I saw the original document where nine people signed on the bottom that they wanted to be on the committee to create the Elko Area Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs of Abuse, ENCADA.”
She said the organization incorporated in 1972, then began to flounder.
Then, Dorothy North came on board in 1977.
Quilici wrote that North “… had vision, drive, talent and training as a substance use disorder counselor. She was also a good administrator and developed a good relationship with the state to apply for funding. In the early ‘80s she had an established outpatient practice, a transitional house and a detoxification program. In 1982 she established residential [care].
“When I came in 1984 she was underway in negotiating with a local developer to build Vitality Center, which was completed in 1985. We began our expansion into Winnemucca, Wendover, Ely, Caliente and Pioche. These were subsequently closed because of lack of funding.”
Quilici describes herself as an “Elko County girl.” She went to college in California and worked for some time in Las Vegas. When she took the job with Vitality she was returning to her hometown.
“I came back to take a job and the job took me,” she said. “It became a life career.”
“I’ve always said Vitality is a living organism,” Quilici said. “My job was to make sure it stayed alive because it cared for so many.”
Quilici said that in the ‘90s they developed a prison-based treatment program at Warm Springs in Carson City. There was an 82.25% success rate with this group. The program operated for almost nine years, treating over 1,500 inmates. But it, too, closed due to lack of funding.
Also in the ‘90s, Vitality opened an adolescent program in Washoe County along with a program for parolees. Lack of funding ended those operations as well.
During that time the institution started an affordable housing plan in Elko and Wells. They created Sage House Transitional Living for Men in the ‘90s.
“In the mid-2000s we operated a California state-approved DUI program, out-patient and residential program close to Lake Tahoe,” Quilici wrote. “We closed our program, sold our properties because of the difficulties operating in California, and moved our residential and detoxification program to Carson City.”
Quilici has written a historical recollection of the organization’s operations for the next publication of “Vitality Way,” an internal magazine.
“We are pretty broad-scoped as a company,” she said.
The operation is run as a nonprofit.
Gov. Brian Sandoval did the state a big favor during his term in office, according to Quilici. The state increased Medicaid opportunity, which allowed for more funding for the organization.
In 2017 the company took a giant leap, according to Quilici. It was one of the first to add the new behavioral health model and expand services to offer Vitality Integrated Programs. They are now a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.
Now the center can treat co-occurring problems involving substance use disorders and mental health issues, Quilici said.
“We used to have substance abuse treatment and now most of them have a dual diagnosis,” she said.
The organization now has a psychiatrist and three advanced practitioners of nursing.
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