Our History

The Birth Of Community Addiction Services

Emberwood Center began in 1979 as the first drug and alcohol prevention program for adolescents in Indianapolis.  This was part of the Near Eastside Multi-Service Center (now the John H. Boner Community Center).   We were first known as the Near Eastside Primary Prevention Project and, a year later, adopted the shorter name of the Alternatives Project. In 1981, we added outpatient treatment for adolescents and shortly thereafter adopted the name Prevention Intervention Treatment Services, or “PITS,” for short. Needless to say, we took some grief for PITS, but the young people we served could definitely relate to being in the PITS!

In 1984 EmberWood Center decided to reach farther and opened Mirage Retreat, a statewide residential adolescent treatment center. Mirage was designed to continue our focus on providing affordable services to those individuals who lacked the means to access services elsewhere.

Empowering Youth

In 1987 we launched our signature youth-prevention project, the Confidence Club, which is a variation of the alternatives approach to prevention we started in 1979. The Confidence Club uses the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do to teach young people life skills by focusing on mental and physical disciplines. 

In 1989 Indianapolis had the highest infant mortality rate of any first world country. In response to that alarming statistic, we collaborated with Westminster Presbyterian Church and People’s Health Center to raise awareness about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs affecting infant mortality. That program became know as HIFI (High Intensity Future Investments).

In 1994 our agency incorporated as Community Addictions Services of Indiana. In 1997 CASI, Inc. becomes founding member of Addiction Resource Network of Indiana (ARNI), a managed care network of free-standing substance abuse treatment providers, and in 1998, we opened an outpatient office in Hamilton County (Noblesville).


In 2000 and the following years, the agency redefined its mission, vision and values and focused on technological improvements. EmberWood Center’s mission was to promote growth, respect and integrity through community-based services to address the cycle of addiction with individuals and families. 

In 2006, the Board and staff completed an in-depth assessment and procured grants for a capacity-building and rebranding/marketing process, leading to the name change to Emberwood Center in early 2009.  In 2010 Emberwood became a subsidiary of Mental Health America and moved to their facility at 1431 N. Delaware Street, and continued to provide high quality services treating issues of addiction and maintaining their prevention programming for adolescents.  

In the end of 2019 Emberwood joined with another program of MHAI, Indiana Center for Children and Families (ICCF) that provided mental health and supportive services to adults, children, and families facing a variety of issues.  This resulted in Emberwood expanding its mission to addressing mental health along with addiction issues for all ages.


Our name, Emberwood, symbolizes a strong and intense, deeply-seated source of energy that we all have inside us and can ignite our growth toward our goals and our desired life, just like ember can rekindle an extinguished fire. 

An ember is the glowing part of greatly heated wood that remain after, or sometimes precede, a fire. Embers can be as hot as the fire which created them. They radiate a substantial amount of heat long after the fire has been extinguished and can rekindle a fire up to 12 hours after it has gone out, provided that there is enough space for air to circulate between the embers and the introduced fuel (e.g. wood).

An ember is formed when a fire has only partially burnt a piece of fuel, and there is still usable chemical energy in that piece of fuel. It continues to stay hot and does not lose its thermal energy quickly.

We like to think of the ember as the fire we all have inside us that keeps us going during difficult times and can lead us back to where we want to be; it’s our internal light that is hard to put out despite of the adversities we face. With a little outside help we can rebuild our lives and become stronger than ever.