A local alcohol and mental illness treatment center hopes to continue its legacy after the passing of a prominent advocate.

George McGovern, co-founder of the Teresa McGovern Center, passed away Sunday at the age of 90.

The Teresa McGovern Center Director and Founder Mike Florek said the center was founded in 1995, a year after McGovern’s daughter Teresa, passed away.

“One of the wonderful legacies of George McGovern is that he provided a face to the issue of alcoholism as it related to his daughter,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 8, said.

Florek said Teresa was an alcoholic and had depression. He said other centers only treated alcohol or depression, but not both of them together.

Verveer said instead of trying to hide the tragedy of Teresa’s death, McGovern and his family publicized the effects of alcoholism.

By doing this, McGovern was trying to prevent the same tragedy from happening to another family, he said.

Verveer said McGovern used the tragedy to provide an opportunity to educate and also to create a treatment resource center in the Madison area that has helped a lot of people and will continue to do so even after his passing.

Florek said the McGovern Center is a safe place for people to get treated for mental illnesses and alcoholism, which go hand in hand.

He said he was amazed how no other center was treating both alcoholism and mental illnesses, so the center hired counselors who are licensed in treating both.

Florek said the short term and long term goals for the center are the same: recovery.

“We [the center] want to give families hope that there is life after addiction and life after mental illness,” he said.

The center has the right therapy and medicine to get patients to recover and stay recovered, he added.

The McGovern Center is part of the bigger incorporation of Tellurian. Tellurian treats 8,000 patients a year, while the Teresa McGovern Center has 55 beds in their treatment center. Florek said the beds are full most of the time. He said there is a turn over on average every month, therefore the center treats about 660 patients a year.

Florek said there are about 20 different centers in Tellurian, including a detox center, housing for patients who are out of treatment and groups that work with people on the streets. There are multiple locations in Rock County, as well as LaCrosse, he said.

The center works primarily to combat the issue of alcoholism, a disease that approximately 10 percent of the population has, according to Florek. 

“People who have the disease need to be in a treatment center,” he said.

Florek said he talked at length with founder George McGovern about what they could offer families. He said McGovern was passionate and willing to speak for families about his own family’s problems, and that McGovern wanted to open the door for other families.

“The most important thing to him was to shed light on the disease,” he said.