Nonprofit opens county’s first sober living program

It’s been a year-long process for Sojourner Recovery Services to open its new recovery housing program, said Scott Gehring, president and chief executive officer.

The program encompasses three adjacent homes on Buckeye Street with a combined, enclosed backyard. The first two residents moved in Monday, and the nonprofit agency says it has the capacity for 26 clients.

Gehring said the program is for adult women who are at least 30 days sober and currently enrolled in a treatment program of some sort — ranging from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to outpatient services such as counseling.

“It’s safe, sober, peer-supportive housing,” Gehring said. “It’s housing for people who want to remain sober and don’t want to use drugs to live. In recovery, you tend to live together.”

Nearly 90 percent of the clients served by Sojourner are addicted to heroin. He said the need is great for sober living units in Butler County.

The nonprofit is currently scouting locations for a men’s recovery housing program to open in the future.

“(For those) who don’t have a job, money and no where to go,” Gehring said. “They’re on the edge of homelessness or don’t have a sober place to go.”

Gehring said the new Sojourner program follows a Tier III recovery housing model, which focuses mainly on supportive services to improve life skills, such as job coaching, coping skills and timeliness. The program also includes a clinical aspect with a case manager to facilitate on-site, outpatient group and individualized counseling.

Gehring said Sojourner does have its own vocational program but outside partners come in from SELF, Goodwill and Workforce One of Butler County to help with job placement.

Gehring said the average age of the female clients in the sober living program will be between 20-26. He said the average length of stay will range from four to six months, with some clients staying longer based on need.

Women enrolled in the program will follow itineraries with approved leave, a curfew and undergo random drug testing, Gehring said. Referrals are currently being accepted, as well as walk-in assessments to determine eligibility.

“Too often you see a client in a program living in an environment not conducive to treatment,” Gehring said.

Gehring said Sojourner has invested about $25,000 into the renovations of the three properties where the agency’s adolescent residential program was housed for at least 10 years. The program has also created eight new jobs.

Each sober living home has been renovated with new flooring, couches, beds, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, dressers and televisions. While there are a couple single units, most of the women will live in rooms with one, two or three roommates. Hot meals are provided by Aramark at no cost to the residents but they can also prepare their own meals.

The Butler County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board is also trying to establish sober living units in Hamilton.

The ADAS board earlier this year applied for $100,000 in state support that would be used to renovate space at the former Resolutions building on South Second Street into sober living units, said John Bohley, executive director of the ADAS board. The grant funds would also support ongoing operational expenses.

Bohley said Tuesday the grant winners should be announced later this week.

The establishment of sober living housing inside the old Resolutions building would be in partnership with the nonprofit Community Behavioral Health that owns part of the building.

“We’re in the process of looking at opening a sober living environment,” said Laura Sheehan, president of Community Behavioral Health, with a goal for the next 12 months.

CBH already offers an intensive outpatient therapy program, one-on-one contact with a therapist and a weekly relapse prevention group called After Care.

Sheehan said the relapse prevention program is usually six to eight weeks for individuals but can go longer depending on a patient’s unique situation.

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