Our organization has been on an incredible journey since the idea of a carefully curated sober living house for Butte was first mentioned between our co-founders in October 2018. From the formation of a non-profit entity and recruitment of a robust board of directors, to the overwhelmingly positive response from community members and other organizations, we have felt like the next right step was always evident. At this time, we have more attention than we bargained for and it still feels like this is exactly what is needed to push the vision forward.
Being an all volunteer run project, we have made incredible progress in a short time. When we received our first grant, $15,000 from the Montana Healthcare Foundation, in July 2019 it further identified that we are indeed on the right track. Since then, we have been able to begin working with a consultant to apply for endorsement from the state of Montana as a substance use disorder provider, and have begun refining our business plan to ensure that we can sustain the level of service that meets our board’s aspirations.
We want to benefit as many recovering addicts as possible, and so our vision began as a sizeable one… a 20+ bed transitional living facility, and we had our eyes on the old YMCA building. A thorough investigation revealed that this space was simply not a feasible investment for what we hoped could be a self-supporting transitional living center. As we continued to seek out models of success around the country, it soon became apparent that building yet another large institution is not what is going to effectively transition recovering addicts into a happy and productive lifestyle in Butte. While they offer fertile ground for individuals to learn about themselves and begin a commitment to recovery, institutional settings do not effectively help people find healthy connection to their community.
For a little background on addiction treatment: During their stay at an inpatient treatment facility, individuals have 24-hour supervision and rigid structure. Each day is planned out and filled with recovery-related programming. When an individual returns directly from this structured treatment environment back into freedom in the environment where they were using, they are easily overwhelmed. Many individuals may be tempted to turn to mind-altering substances as they return to the stressors of daily life or may be triggered by certain places, people, or situations.
Sober living houses provide a safe transitional living environment for individuals moving from treatment back to their original community. If an individual in recovery is to maintain a healthy sober lifestyle, they must be empowered to raise their own standards, discover their own worth, and find their own connection to a healthy environment. A desire to create that shift in perspective is what led us to the search for a suitable house, in a comfortable and safe neighborhood, to be our first operational facility.
The Butte SPIRIT Center will provide a sense of structure for residents by linking them to mandatory recovery activities (including enrollment and active attendance in outpatient treatment), house meetings, chore schedules, and curfews. Individuals will also be held accountable for their sobriety with random drug testing and breathalyzers. In addition to these essential elements of sober living, we intend to provide life skills classes, connections to education, job training, and work placement, as well as connecting residents to affordable housing once they are ready to leave our facility. Already, there are Peer Support Specialists, Licensed Addictions Counselors, Nutritionists, and other recovering addicts that are waiting in the wings to volunteer their time to welcome residents into this community, cook a meal, hold a meeting, and create a positive peer-supported environment for those that are earnestly seeking recovery.
The screening process for residents is really the most important step. Unfortunately, there are many people that only want to be sober because they have to, and our operation is not for them. Sobriety for the sake of compliance with another person or institution’s expectations is not Recovery. What we are seeking to create is a community-based, peer support organization. In cooperation with a Licensed Addictions Counselor and at least one Butte SPIRIT Board Member, a house screen and vet its own prospective residents, as the success of one addict helping another is unparalleled. Background checks and mental health evaluations are also essential to ensure that we are not putting the community at risk, but this interview process is paramount.
We have anticipated that the Butte SPIRIT Center could be fully operational by Spring 2020, but in order to attain our state endorsement, we need to have a place to call home. Knowing that we were still some time away from being ready to open our doors, we seized upon a great opportunity that presented itself as a house on West Platinum Street, but we never imagined the situation which arose from this somewhat hasty purchase offer. Now that the dust is settling, we have certainly found some new friends, learned the value of timely communication, and we have seen the strength of community that Butte holds. It is that same community that will give tremendous value to the Butte SPIRIT Center. I feel safe in saying that everyone in Butte has been affected by drug and alcohol addiction; I know that many people feel hopeless, many people have fear, and many more have no idea what can be done to truly help someone recover. Whatever the emotion that is stirred in you, know that people are hurting all around us, and whatever you can do to muster a loving touch, a smile, or a helping hand is always the right thing. Butte, you are an inspiration.
-Demetrius Fassas, co-founder, Butte SPIRIT Center