For the past eight years, Gulf Coast Rehabilitation Services Inc. has helped patients recover from substance abuse while also helping families heal from the effects of living with an addict. As a chemical-dependent treatment facility licensed through the Department of State and Health services, Gulf Coast Rehabilitation Services (GCRS) provides rehabilitative services for substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs. 
“The ultimate goal of the agency is treating the individuals in order to keep the families unified,” said president and owner Santos Ramirez (BS, LCRT, CART). 
According to Ramirez, a high percentage of children in foster care or who have been placed with family members are those whose parents struggle with substance abuse. 
“If we’re able to treat the mom and dad, and they have been rehabilitated, then we can bring the children home,” Ramirez said. “That‘s the ultimate goal.” 
GCRS uses a holistic treatment alternative method designed to help recovering addicts gain confidence and competencies. The focus on family rehabilitation as well stems from Ramirez’s own personal background and experience. He grew up on the west side of Corpus Christi in a family of migrant farm workers with limited English. He started working at age 16 to help provide for the family. 
“One valuable lesson that I learned is from my mother, whom I watched wake up every day go to work as a housekeeper to provide for a family of five,” he said. “Through her actions, she taught me that a sacrifice made today to provide for your family is an investment towards the family’s future.”
After dropping out of high school, Ramirez found himself making poor choices early in life. Yet his mother continued to support him and be his best advocate, which inspired Ramirez to do better for himself. 
“I realized that nothing comes easy in life and that we all have to work hard to successful, he said. “But for me, the measure of success is not financial gain but how we can help broken homes to become united again.” 
After attending school at Texas A&M University and Del Mar College, Ramirez earned a Bachelor of Science and an associate’s degree in criminal justice and became certified as a licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC). For the next 20 years, he worked for various agencies, including outpatient treatment programs, private clinics, hospitals and nonprofit organizations. One fundamental principle he felt was missing from the standard approach was recognizing that treatments should cater to the individual.
Ramirez decided to start his own company with the individual in mind while also including programs that catered to the whole family.
“I prayed, and with the support of my wife and two daughters, I left my secure job to start my own practice on the principle that each patient is unique and problem-solving should be based on individual circumstances,” Ramirez said. “I also wanted a facility for families to receive counseling services where clients can fully express themselves without fear of judgment.” 
What began as a 200-square-foot office space with one employee and 20 clients has expanded over the past eight years into several office suites with five licensed employees serving more than100 clients a month — not just in Corpus Christi but also the Gulf Coast counties of Aransas, Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Nueces and San Patricio.
Ramirez believes the secret to the agency’s success is not about volume, but instead, the quality of services delivered.
“When you establish relationships with clients, they’re more apt to come back to receive the help. So the first step is establishing a rapport with the client,” Ramirez said. “So we build trust, treat them equally as others, then through counseling and group meetings, address the issue of substance abuse and how this is affecting their abilities with their children.” 
Administrative assistant Savannah Rosales has been an eyewitness to the company’s growth.
“I’ve been here for two years and like my job a lot,” Rosales said. “When I first  started, we were in Suite A8, a much smaller office, but since July, we now occupy several offices and conference rooms.” 
In addition to its office space expansion, working with GCRS has inspired Rosales to expand her own horizons. She is currently enrolled in the addiction studies program at Del Mar College, working toward her license for chemical dependency counseling. 
“It was probably after my first year doing secretarial duties that I was motivated to also become a licensed counselor,” Rosales said. “I am most inspired when clients complete their program and are so happy to get their kids back, and they even come back to visit us. I feel like I want to do more. If I’m licensed, I’ll be able to do counseling or run a group session. I especially want to work with moms.” 
Licensed professional counselor Janette Garza-Westra (LCDC, LPC) has been with the company since 2013. She is concerned with how the high cases of drug involvement and addiction is destroying families and individuals all over the world.  
“I have stayed with this agency because I strongly agree with the mission statement of strengthening families, promoting safe, stable, and nurturing relationships away from drugs and alcohol,” Garza-Westra said. “I agree with the holistic approach in dealing with the mind, soul and body to overcome such a battle/bondage of addiction. If I can help one person, it makes a world of difference.”
Garza-Westra provides counseling for families, including adolescents and couples that are struggling with substance abuse. She serves on the Nueces County Family Treatment Drug Court and handles the majority of Nueces County clients from the Department of Family Protective Services as well as private pay clients. She also facilitates Positive Parenting workshops and group sessions on topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and domestic violence and women’s only sessions to help them deal with such issues and heal.  
“When clients come to GCRS Inc., they can expect a staff that is diligent in devoting time and effort to help them, one, gain insight on their addiction and, two, make life changes to reunify or keep their children,” Garza-Westra said. “They can expect to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Licensed counselor Debra Winger (BA, LCDC) conducts Relapse Prevention group counseling and drives to rural areas in six counties to see clients in their homes. The sacrifice of working 12 hours a day, five days a week and occasional half-days on weekends is worth the joy of seeing people’s lives change, she said.
“The reward lies in happy smiles, reunited families, improved relationships between moms and dads and children who can come home to a happy, sober family,” Winger said. “When people send us their family pictures or come back to the group sessions when they don’t have to, it’s rewarding to know we played a small part in these real miracles.”
For Winger, the real reason for Gulf Coast Rehabilitation Services’ success is unconditional positive regard and a firm belief in the client’s potential to succeed.  
“A visionary sees change before it happens and the rainbow after the storm,” she said. “Changed lives and united families is the core mission of GCRS — unifying and improving families in sobriety.” 
As for the future, Ramirez has bigger plans for the agency’s upcoming 10-year anniversary. 
“Our hope in two years is to have a wrap-around service where clients can come in and meet their needs, whether it’s mental health, parental counseling, substance abuse and depression counseling,” he said. “Basically, we want to build an all-inclusive agency where clients can walk in and receive their services without having to drive to three or four places to get the care they need and address the needs within the family.”
According to Ramirez, families should never give up hope – even up until the last day available to get the help they need.
“Rehabilitation indicates that people can receive help and that the problems that existed don’t have to continue to exist in the future,” he said. “We’re not just rehabilitating a client; we’re also rehabilitating a family.” 
Gulf Coast Rehabilitation Services Inc. is located inside One Agnes Plaza on 1231 Agnes St., Suite A-18, in Corpus Christi. For more information, contact (361) 882-1413 or

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