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Newport Area Hopes To Open Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Center

Charlotte Albright
Newport is hoping to open the state's twelfth addiction recovery center.

Surveys show one of the most effective ways to help people fight drug addiction is to give them mentors who are themselves in recovery. The Vermont Recovery Network includes 11 resource centers statewide that offer such peer-to-peer support and link clients to social services. But there’s no recovery center in Orleans or Essex counties, so a group of activists is trying to launch one.

Currently, people trying to turn away from drugs or alcohol can attend local Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings in Newport. But Shaun Donahue, Field Services Director for Vermont’s Agency of Human Services, says people in recovery in northeastern Vermont need other kinds of long-term support to avoid relapses—especially if they are not interested in the spiritual component of  12-step programs.

“And that recovery center can provide you that centering place, not as a hangout but as a place where there are some structured activities. One of the things we tell people that get into recovery is, you know, change. Change a thought change your mind, change an action, and that’s what helps people get sober and get clean,” Donahue said.

But change is daunting without shelter or employment.  So recovery center counselors help clients find housing and jobs. That  can be tough in this economically challenged area, but Brandon Malshuk, chairman of the committee to start what he is calling the “Journey to Recovery Center,” is confident those services will be provided.

“I think as long as the Executive Director and the volunteers and the part-time help have networked enough to build relationships with community members and some organizations those answers will come and as the recovery center is here longer those relationships will be even greater,” Malshuk said.

But first, the group of about thirty local activists has to find more than $100,000 to open the doors. They plan to raise some money locally, but they want the state to kick in $92,000, on par with other recovery centers. That appropriation is not included in Governor Shumlin’s budget, but the organizers are optimistically moving forward, visiting other centers, looking for space, forming a board of directors, and crafting a budget. Jim Biernat is District Director for the Department of Health in Newport.

“We are at the cusp of rolling this even ever more strongly and having this jell to the point of having a roof over our head and having a safe place where people can learn and explore and have support in living in recovery,” Biernat said.

The closest recovery center to Newport is in St. Johnsbury, almost 50 miles away. Substance abuse counselors say if addicts can’t find help close to home, many will not seek it.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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