Unlimited Visions Aftercare Founder Marilyn Jones Reaches Back to Bring Hope to Sunnyside with Inaugural ‘Building

ABOVE: Marilyn Jones

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our country, with more than $740 billion in costs annually being attributed to crime, lost work productivity and health care.

Sadly, African Americans, and other people of color, often experience the greater burden of mental and substance use disorders, primarily as a result of having poorer access to care, inadequate care, and because of higher social, environmental and economic risk factors.

Seeing that as a huge issue, one local woman created an organization to provide a highly effective treatment program in an outpatient and residential environment that meets the spiritual and physical needs of chemically dependent adults and adolescents on their journey of recovery.

That organization is called Unlimited Visions Aftercare, Inc., and its founder is Houston native Marilyn Jones from Houston’s historic Sunnyside community.

As a person in long-term recovery herself, Jones transformed her struggle with her own personal addiction into a calling to help Greater Houston area communities eradicate substance use disorders. She was not only determined to get her life together, she was also focused on helping others get their lives back together also.

“My experience with substance abuse began with my abuse of alcohol and crack cocaine. I used for two years to the point of losing everything,” said Jones. “I could not go any further. I drove myself to treatment and was able to process my underlying issue which was loneliness.”

Jones began attending the 12-step meetings for alcohol and drug anonymous. She learned to live life and practicing the principles of the 12-steps. This led to building a strong relationship with God and getting her life back in order. It was suggested that she become a counselor and so she began counseling school at the University of Houston. She became a chemical abuse counselor in 1995. Jones initially spent four years as a counselor-in-training at various Houston-area chemical dependent treatment facilities, but in 1996, with only $200, a God-given vision, and the support of her father, Lonnie Jones, she launched Unlimited Visions Aftercare, Inc.

One year after opening the doors, on February 4, 1997, the very first client walked into UVA and Jones’ vision finally became reality.

UVA first began as a provider for outpatient adult substance abuse treatment. In 1998, UVA expanded its services to include youth, criminal justice, and CPS participants and opened a new location in Baytown, TX. In 2008, Jones was approached by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to open a residential treatment program for adolescents in the Region 6 area of Texas. UVA opened a residential 52-bed facility in Pasadena, TX, for adolescents, to assist youth from the ages of 13-17, with both recovery and educational services through the University of Texas High School available onsite. The residential program is now home to adolescents from both Region 6 and Region 8, as well as over 25 counties.

In 2010, UVA became a multi-million dollar non-profit, effectively serving hundreds of participants in three (3) locations each year, as well as offering mobile services in local school districts, and neighborhood community centers throughout the Houston, Baytown, and Pasadena areas. Because of their quality work and excellent service, UVA became the first agency to receive funding from the state to start a pilot service for recovery support services for both youth and adults. Most recently, in 2016, Jones opened the UVA Recovery and Wellness Center, to provide the community with a safe, drug-free environment in which people can engage in social and personal development activities.

In the years since inception, UVA has expanded its services to provide comprehensive substance abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services to adult men and women, as well as mental health treatment services for children, adolescents and families. The organization serves an average of 1,200 outpatient clients per year. UVA’s outcome measures are higher than the national and state averages, and they utilize research based curriculum with proven effectiveness.

Over its 20-year service to the community, Jones has transformed UVA into a multi-million dollar recognized agency, licensed by the Texas Department of State Health Services and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) to provide highly effective and evidence-based care in an outpatient and residential environment to meet the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of adults, adolescents, and their families struggling with substance use disorders (SUD).

Jones’ transformational leadership style has not only impacted her employees, participants and the community as a whole, but she has also gotten the attention of officials at the state level. She was awarded a Texas State flag by the State legislature, and former Governor Rick Perry recognized her as a ‘Yellow Rose of Texas’.

Jones continues to serve as Chief Executive Officer of UVA, with a vision to continue influencing the many people she comes in contact with and serving the thousands of individuals who need the services of UVA. She is total proof that a vision for a business can become reality with spirituality, determination, and passion.

Now, however, Jones has a tremendous burden on her heart for the Sunnyside community where she was born and raised, and she wants to make a difference in that area by any means necessary.

“When I was growing up, Sunnyside was seen as the ‘Black River Oaks’,” said Jones. “I moved out of Sunnyside years ago, but returned home to care for my aging mother. Sunnyside has drastically changed over the years, but the people have not. There is still kindness, creativity, and good in Sunnyside. I plan to be a part of helping Sunnyside turn around.”

Jones, along with her UVA Board of Directors and a growing list of city officials and partners, have come together to begin that transformation, and have committed to being a part of restoring Sunnyside, by hosting the ‘Building a Community of Hope Summit’ on Saturday, October 21st at the Sunnyside Multiservice Center (9314 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 77051) from 8am-3pm.

The ‘Building a Community of Hope Summit’ is a FREE public event, designed as a call of action for the Sunnyside community. In partnership with the Houston Police Department and UVA, the event seeks to strengthen harmony between the police and the community, offer resources to heal the community from violence and addiction, and provide hope through educational and career opportunities. Attendees will take part in exciting sessions where they will learn about their rights and responsibilities when interacting with law enforcement, discover information and resources on health issues affecting you and your family, and obtain educational and career resources. There will be a ‘Solutions for Sunnyside’ panel that will include: Troy R. Finner, Executive Assistant Chief of Police, Houston Police Department; Dwight Boykins, Council Member, District D; Anthony Haughton, Attorney and Associate Director for the Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Policy, Inc. (ECI), Thurgood Marshall School of Law; Michelle Beck, Criminal Defense Attorney at Law; and UVA CEO Marilyn Jones.

There will also be breakout sessions for the youth, parents and the community as a whole.

Joining UVA as sponsors and partners of the event include: Houston Police Officers Union, Houston Police Department, Afro American Police Officers League, Industrial Welding Academy, Earl Carl Institute and the City of Houston.

The public is being asked to come early to this FREE event, and be prepared to get engaged and empowered. Registration begins promptly at 8am and refreshments and lunch will be provided.

For more information about Unlimited Visions Aftercare, Inc. (UVA), please visit www.unlimitedvisions.org.