A safe place to be

Your Haven, a recently opened Recovery Community Organization, is looking to lower substance abuse recidivism in the county by supporting those in recovery.

A refuge like Your Haven in Buchanan can make the difference between staying sober and falling back into a drug or alcohol habit, said the director of the recovery community organization.

“The thing is when you’re in your addiction, you’re surrounded by people that are also struggling,” Director Brandon Quesada, an addiction counselor, said. “When you make the transition to recovery a lot of times you feel isolated because you have no one, you feel like you have no one.”

The support that the recovering get through the 12-step meetings with a counselor and their peers can make them fell less alone and help strengthen their will to stay sober, he said.

“To have community support here is something that’s imperative for early success in recovery,” Quesada said. “I burned up a lot of time in addiction because I knew no other way.”

Quesada has been sober for eight years. If there had been a place like Your Haven when he was first struggling with his addiction, he might have been able to avoid a lot of setbacks, Quesada said. In fact, he still refers to himself as recovering because the pull of addiction is so strong.

“If you’re not constantly moving forward in your recovery, then you’re moving backwards,” Quesada said.

Sheriff Stacy Williams has seen the power of addiction at work in the community. It can affect anyone and everyone, he said.

“When people take meth for the first time, oh my God, they’re wide open,” Williams said. “You can’t get ‘em off of it.”

He and the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office are a strong supporter of Your Haven. He admitted that not every addict is going to take advantage of the programs Your Haven offers, but he added that if the program isn’t there then you can’t help anyone.

“It’s time that we here in the county that we have programs like that,” Williams said. “We have to have these resources for people.”

The scope of drug abuse

The rate of opioid abuse in Haralson County is high. In 2018, the last year that numbers are available on the Drug Surveillance Unit of Georgia’s Department of Health webpage, Haralson County had 30 emergency room visits that involved opioids — a rate of 95.8 per 100,000 people. That is almost twice the state rate of 45.9 per 100,000 people. There were six deaths in the county related to opioids, a rate of 20.5 per 100,000 people, nearly 2.5 times the state rate of 8.3.

While opioids are the most used drugs across the country, the use of stimulant drugs including methamphetamine is on the rise.

According to the Georgia Department of Human Services website, in fiscal 2002 in Georgia, 1,532 meth addicts were admitted to treatment programs. In 2005, 4,329 were admitted, an increase of more than 182%. More recent numbers released in an annual report in 2020 by the Drug Enforcement Agency note that the agency seized 53,079 kilograms of methamphetamine nationwide in 2019 an increase of 55% from 2018.

Williams has said that something like 90% of the inmates in the Haralson County Jail are there on drug related charges.

Until Your Haven opened in Haralson County, there were few resources for people who had graduated from a recovery program or been released from jail once they returned home. The recovery community organization is now in the county through the hard work of a group of people who recognized the need for support resources in the county.

“We have so much drug abuse and misuse in this county that there wasn’t enough resources for people who wanted to stay sober. They would get out of incarceration or out of rehab and they would come home to the same thing,” said Sandie Shackleford, a member of the Your Haven Board. “It was a cycle: get clean and sober and all of a sudden they’re back with the same friends back with the old habits, back in the same place, but they had no resources to help them.”

In cases where they had court orders to attend recovery meetings a week, they had to attend meetings at a church or travel out of the county, she said.

A refuge

Shackleford was one of the members of a subcommittee examining substance abuse in the county in what once was Tanner’s Healthy Haralson’s initiative, she said. After the initiative ended, they continued, Shackleford said.

About a year and a half ago, this small group of concerned residents made a trip to recovery community organizations in nearby counties and knew that was something needed in Haralson County.

They visited every local government in the county explaining the need and asking for financial support for the project. The city of Bremen allocated some funds and those funds, along with money from the CARES Act and the Patriot Act, the Carroll EMC Foundation. A State of Hope grant through the Department of Family and Children Services, Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities allowed them to open Your Haven, she said. In January, the board incorporated, and in May, it registered as a nonprofit, she said.

The two state grants will help fund daily operations going forward, Shackleford said.

Your Haven offers 12-step meetings including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous and All Recovery for adults and teens. Currently between 10 to 15 people attend each of the adult meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at Your Haven; about five teens attend the teen meeting on Sundays, Quesada said.

The facility also has a computer lab where people can apply for jobs, work on a resume or General Equivalency Diploma courses. There is a community room where people can just hang out in a safe place.

The forgotten victims

There is also a play room for children of the clients of Your Haven.

The children are often a forgotten victim of drug abuse, Shackleford said. Some 85% of Haralson County children in the foster care system are there because of substance abuse by their parents, she said.

“Children are living with grandparents because Mom and Dad are in jail,” Shackleford said. “If we can keep them clean, we can keep them out of jail.”

And substance abuse is “a generational curse” that follows children into adulthood. They often fall into addiction themselves because it’s all they know, she said. So breaking the cycle of addiction for the parents is often important for the children as well.

But it was hard to explain to local officials exactly what they were trying to do, she added. But she hopes now that its open, Your Haven’s results will show them how important it is.

“Recovery is something that most people don’t know what that means and I didn’t either,” Shackleford said. “We’re providing a place for people to be safe, a place where they don’t have to worry about being offered some type of substance, a place to just kind of hang out — and it’s all free of charge.”