Prescription For Recovery: New Facilities Help Those Fighting Addiction
The desire to live a healthy life is the first step to kicking a drug or alcohol addiction. But sometimes the will, alone, isn’t enough — there needs to be a way. There’s been a shortage of ways on the central Kenai Peninsula, but three new facilities are opening up new hope to those wanting a clean start.
Freedom House will be a nine-bed, nine-month, clean-living transitional home for women getting on their feet after getting off drugs and alcohol.
“The women I work with in the prison, they’re really trying to make it, but they’ve got nowhere to go,” said Jennifer Waller, director of Freedom House in Soldotna. “I hear it over and over — ‘Jen, do you know where I can go when I get out? Do you have any idea — a church, a basement, a floor? Because my two options,’ this girl said to me, ‘is the streets,’ and it was 12 below zero, ‘or my old dope dealer’s house.’”
Waller, who grew up in Sterling, knows first-hand how important this sort of refuge will be. She got hooked on drugs and alcohol after high school.
“By the grace of god I didn’t die. I’ve overdosed five times, in hospitals, and very suicidal towards the end because I didn’t think there was any hope for me,” Waller said.
She credits Serenity House, an in-patent recovery facility in Soldotna, with saving her life by helping her get off drugs. But it was difficult to learn how to rebuild her life after rehab.
“When I got sober I didn’t know how to be a mom. I didn’t know how to cook, other than Top Ramen and toast. I didn’t know how to do just pretty normal stuff,” she said.
Freedom House will help women get their lives in order once they get sober. Women must have jobs and pay rent, participate in programs and follow house rules. In return, they’ll have a safe place to live, classes in life skills and assistance getting plugged into community resources.
“We’re really not looking to give these girls a hand out, we’re going to give them a hand up. They’ve really got to take ownership of their lives at this point. That’s how they’ll be able to succeed nine months later because they weren’t given anything, really, other than encouragement, love and support,” Waller said.
Since it’s faith-based, Freedom House is not eligible for governmental funding; the organization is completely volunteer- and donation supported. They hope to rent out two commercial office spaces for additional revenue. So far, they’ve raised over a third of the $500,000 needed to renovate their building on Shady Lane in Soldotna.
“You can see guys behind us working on the house right now, so it’s just amazing. All volunteers,” Waller said.
Waller hopes to open in two months and already has more people waiting just to get on a wait list than they will have space to accommodate. She’s happy to hear that Central Peninsula Hospital is also working on a transitional living facility.
“I’m going to tell you every single bed in both facilities plus if we could open three or four more will be filled,” she said.
The Diamond Willow Sober Living Project will be a 16-bed, co-ed facility on Tyee Street in Soldotna. The project has an estimated $1.26 million price tag, most of which comes from grants. Bruce Richards, director of external affairs at the hospital, hopes the facility will be operational in August.
There’s another facility in the works that will address yet another hole in the support system. A withdrawal management center will give people a place to go while they’re coming down from drugs and alcohol. Right now, they often end up in the emergency room.
“And it’s not always appropriate for you to be admitted to the hospital, and even if you are you don’t have all those other services here. It’s really not the right place for that to occur,” Richards said.
The hospital is teaming up Peninsula Community Health Services and the Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse to open a detox center. The facility will have living quarters for in-patient treatment. It will also treat people on an outpatient basis.
The facility just got approval of $2.5 million in funding from the Department of Health and Social Services.
“We have around 1,500 folks a year that show up here at the hospital, specifically related to substance-abuse use disorders. This grant is allowing us to set up a program that is way more appropriate. It’s a much better setting. It’s going to provide a lot better access for them and, I hope, a much, much better outcome for a lot more people,” Richards said.
For more information on Freedom House, including a chili cook-off fundraiser Feb. 10, visit freedomhouse907.com.