BRISEIDA COURTOIS, Director of Substance Use Treatment Services

During a 2016 family vacation, Briseida “Bee” Courtois, Program Director for Substance Use Treatment Services, and her 12-year-old daughter, shared food from across the table with a man they had never met, listening as he told tales of his time in Texas, and how he ended up there — in a small roadside diner, alone and hungry, somewhere out in California. Bee didn’t think twice about purchasing a gift card to buy the man food, but instead took action as if duty had called. And all the while an impressionable young girl would be watching yet another act of kindness from a mother whose compassion knows no bounds.

Raised in Chicago by immigrant parents who believed in always helping one another, Bee and her older siblings learned early on the true meaning of humanity. As a 10-year-old girl, Bee began serving her community as an interpreter, working alongside her parents to help fellow neigh­bors complete unemployment applications or taking them to appointments because they didn’t speak the English language.

Kindness and compassion were as much a part of her then as they are today, and what drove her to the Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas where she began the first of many experiences in what would become her life’s work in social services. Over the years, Bee’s journey would bring her into the lives of so many including children, adults and the elderly, but it was an internship with a methadone program that sparked her interest in substance use treatment for women, and the complex nature of their needs.

25 years later, Bee’s passion would carry her into her current role as Director of Substance Use Treatment Services, where she oversees approximately 60 team members with a caseload of 1,300 clients, and all sub­stance use treatment programs including: Outreach, Screening, Assessment and Referral (OSAR); Co-Occur­ring Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Disorders (COPSD); Opioid Addiction Treatment (OATS); Neonatal Absti­nence Syndrome (NAS) Residential Treatment Program; Mommies Program Specialized Female IOP Substance Abuse Treatment; Intensive Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment; SA Job Development; and Centro de Vida — HIV prevention, intervention, outreach and testing. Additionally, in this role, Bee manages local, state and federal funding to ensure evidence-based, client-centered services are being provided to help people move forward in their lives.

“At The Center, we’re offering well-rounded, curriculum-based, substance use treatment servic­es to a predominantly Hispanic community,” said Bee. “It’s a lot of moving pieces so I have to ensure that the right staff is in place to perform a very im­portant job — a job that could mean life or death for someone. The team is what makes the services, and every member must first possess passion, compas­sion and drive. It’s not something you can learn from a book. You either have it or you don’t,” she added.

But for Bee, that innate sense of kindness and compas­sion that was handed down by caring and emphatic parents is what rings true, and the reason why she keeps coming back to The Restoration Center day after day. “I’ve always felt a huge drive to serve and will keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore,” said Bee. “For me, it’s the clients — it’s who we serve that keeps me coming back. It’s simple really — our clients are you and me. They are mothers, daughters, nieces — they are us. Substance use disorder does not discriminate, and it’s imperative that as a society, we accept this from a disease-model concept just like heart disease or diabetes,” she added.

Open-minded and nonjudgmental are how clients describe Bee. She is a champion for all and never gives up. Bee is a tried and true advocate of hope and healing, and believes whole-heartedly that the programs and services offered by CHCS are saving lives and helping people get better. “Our clients are important, and so many times they don’t have support or someone to tell them they matter,” said Bee. “What they really need is for someone to listen. Be kind to people. You don’t know the journey they’ve been on,” she adds.

Of the thousands of lives Bee has touched since the early age of 10, perhaps what hits home the most is seeing her now 14-year-old daughter follow in her footsteps, faithfully armed with a bag full of healthy snacks and a compassionate heart for that someone who might need a little kindness along the way.