When Tara Treatment Center was founded in 1985, it consisted of an eight-room facility housing women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

Ann Daugherty used her own home to house patients. She lived on the top floor while treating people on the first floor, and dedicated her life to helping them.

Such dedication inspired her daughter, Theresa Matthews, to carry on that ideal after Daugherty died. Now, Tara Treatment Center has grown to include a 42-bed facility, working with dozens of patients at a time and employing a staff of 70.

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“I wish today she could be here. I think she’s here in spirit. I’m sure she’s extremely proud of the progress and the changes that have been made and the lives that have been touched,” Matthews said.

For her work treating victims of addiction, Matthews was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest civilian honor given in Indiana. State Rep. Woody Burton presented her with the award during a ceremony Thursday on the grounds of Tara Treatment Center.

Though Matthews was the one receiving the honor, she stressed that it actually represented all of the work of Tara’s staff, as well as honoring the mission her mother envisioned 31 years ago.

“I’m extremely humbled. I’ve never liked to put myself in the limelight. I’d just as soon people not know I’m the CEO. I work here and I address problems,” she said. “The true success of any great company is its employees. It’s been a journey that we’ve all be on. The success of Tara has been a team effort.”

The Sagamore of the Wabash is a distinction given by Gov. Mike Pence in appreciation of extraordinary service to the state. Burton, a Whiteland resident, nominated her.

“Theresa’s hard work and dedication has helped countless individuals in our community get their lives back,” Burton said in a statement. “There are few people who have devoted their life to helping those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. Theresa’s commitment to the residents of this center is tremendous, and she is truly deserving of this high honor.”

Tara Treatment Center runs the full continuum of care for addiction, dealing with everything from month-long detoxification for the most serious cases to outpatient sessions of support.

A transitional residential program allows those who have gone through detoxification to stay for an extra 90 days, adapting to their new sobriety with the support of Tara counselors at the same time.

A training program with Ann’s Restaurant provides job skills and coping tools to those who need a stepping stone to regular employment, Matthews said.

“I’m a nurse, and I’ve devoted my life to helping other people,” Matthews said. “What I like is knowing we make in difference in lives of others, not just of the client, but their families and those who love them.”

That dedication is a continuation of what her mother taught her, Matthews said.

Daugherty was working at a local mental health center when she applied for and received a grant to work with women with addictions. She had a trained background in addiction, and a personal connection too: her brother had died at age 36 from the effects of alcohol abuse.

A service to help people escape the grips of drugs or alcohol would be immensely helpful in central Indiana, she thought.

“My mother had wanted to be a missionary, and she thought could make a difference in her own backyard,” Matthews said.

Daugherty was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003, and named Matthews as her successor in 2006. She died from cancer in 2008.

Matthews had worked side-by-side with her mother for many years. Just like Daugherty, her life has also been deeply impacted by addiction; her own brother died from the effects of alcoholism at age 54.

As she prepared to accept the Sagamore of the Wabash on Thursday, it was an emotional time of reflection on everything that Tara Treatment Center has done and become.

“I don’t know too many people who haven’t been affected in some way by addition. Almost everyone knows someone — friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, loved ones — that have had problems with alcohol or drugs in some way,” Matthews said.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.