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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Former Johnson Church To Reopen As Recovery Center

The exterior of the closed St. John the Apostle Church, in Johnson, Vt.
Amy Kolb Noyes
VPR File
The former St. John the Apostle Church, in Johnson, has been purchased by a group hoping to open a recovery center on the site.

A former Catholic church in Johnson has been sold to a new nonprofit aiming to fight opioid addiction.

"We just closed on the property in Johnson," Fr. Francis Prive, church's former pastor, said on Thursday. "So that has become a recovery center. And Greg and Dawn Tatro, who are members of the parish, have purchased that."

The Tatros bought the closed St. John the Apostle Church on behalf of Jenna's Promise, a nonprofit named for their daughter who died of an overdose in February.

More from VPR — After Losing Their Daughter, A Johnson Family Tries To Fight Opioids In Their Community [March 29]

Prive said, before the sale was finalized, details had to be worked out regarding plans for a heath care clinic on the property.

"There was a question of would that recovery group be also involved in abortion counseling, and the bishop was totally, absolutely against that," Prive said. "And so, that's the language that had to be changed."

Greg Tatro said they worked with the church to keep restrictive covenants in place for the church building, but relax them for other parts of the property. That will allow Jenna's Promise to build a full-service health care center on the site.

Meanwhile, Tatro said they intend to work with the local community to help shape their plans; he said he knows they have some minds to change. One of the way they hope to do that is by hosting "sober parties" on the site and inviting people in recovery, as well as families from the local community.

"This sober community is going to be good for our community of Johnson," Tatro said. "You hear a few people say, 'Oh, we really don't want those people here.' But you do, because these are the people that are trying to recover. They're not the people that are, you know, leaving needles in the streets and ... overdosing on St. John's Street. These are the people that want to get better. So, it's kind of the exact opposite of what some people may think."

Tatro said the next steps are to talk with the neighbors, work on fundraising and start developing plans for a sober house.

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
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