The Teresa McGovern Center is Sen. George McGovern's most lasting and tangible mark on the Madison area.

McGovern, who died early Sunday at the age of 90, was instrumental in raising the money that built the center, which is named for his daughter. Teresa McGovern froze to death in 1994 in a snowbank behind a Williamson Street storefront after relapsing into the alcoholism that had plagued her for years.

The $1.6 million, 58-bed treatment center opened in 1996. It may have been the first to address head-on the insidious synergy between mental illness and addictions, said Mike Florek, who directs the facility as part of Tellurian Inc.

"You have to treat them both at the same time," Florek said Sunday.

Teresa McGovern was in and out of treatment centers around the country dozens of times as she struggled with depression and alcohol.

Florek, who met her many times, said that she stayed sober and stable for long periods, including several years while she raised her children.

Tellurian fields a "street team" that keeps an eye on addicts who've been released from in-patient treatment and sometimes is able to intervene when they relapse by taking them to safety at home, with family, or to a detox center. But the night Teresa McGovern died, she got past the team by going to a bar she hadn't previously frequented, Florek said.

At her memorial service, Florek and George McGovern discussed building a new kind of in-patient center, and McGovern worked hard to make it happen.

"This is part of his legacy, absolutely. His willingness to talk about this disease and the impact it had on his family and him personally and her personally, was very important," Florek said. "They struggled with their relationship and that's true with every addict and alcoholic and their family."

Once McGovern telephoned from an aircraft carrier in the Middle East where he was working on a humanitarian project to persuade a state housing official to approve financing for the center, Florek said.

After the center was built, McGovern visited and talked with patients about his experiences with his daughter, Florek said.

"He was just an incredibly compassionate human being," Florek said. "If more families were more open about it, the stigma of mental illness and addiction would be much less. There would be more people who would go to treatment because there would be less shame."

McGovern wrote a book — "Terry: My Daughter's Life-and-Death Struggle With Alcoholism," — that was briefly a best seller.

In it, he questioned what he might have done differently in his relationship with his daughter: "I wish that I had held her closer as she was, and judged her less by what I wanted her to be. I wish that I had always separated my resentment of her disease and its behavior from my love for her."

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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