The Long Road

Laura Bond

The Recovery Foundation continues to help those living with substance use illness.

Before Arapahoe House closed in January, it served roughly 5,000 people struggling with substance use illness every year.

For 42 years, Arapahoe House was the go-to provider for detox and intensive inpatient residential treatment in Metro Denver. Men and women in the throes of addiction sought treatment at Arapahoe House, to get stable and well enough to begin the long journey towards recovery.

Arapahoe House attributed the closure to rising health care costs and inadequate state and federal funding. The shuttering of the agency’s seven facilities created an immediate void. Resources for treatment of substance use illness, especially residential care, were already stretched thin amid a growing addiction crisis. Between 2013 and 2016, treatment admissions for opioid abuse grew by more than 50 percent in Metro Denver. A recent survey found that 67,000 Denverites in need of treatment for substance use were not receiving it.

Many advocates said they simply weren’t sure where low-income people in need of intensive interventions would go.

That’s why the members of The Recovery Foundation came together to help ensure people struggling with addiction, especially women with limited financial resources, are able to access ongoing care. They are working to activate spaces formerly run by Arapahoe House with as little interruption as possible.

So far, The Recovery Foundation has partnered with service providers and state and local agencies to keep the doors open on two facilities. The Aspen Miracle Center, a residential treatment facility in Westminster, serves women who are pregnant and those in their first year after childbirth. It’s now run by Mile High Behavioral Health Care, which has several former Arapahoe House employees on staff. In Littleton, the New Directions for Families Center will soon re-open on a campus with many trees as well as a playground for children. It is hoped that another facility will re-open next year in Wheat Ridge, with fresh paint and other aesthetic and safety improvements. “It’s so important that there be dignity in the environment for people who are seeking treatment,” says Bob Pipkin, The Recovery Foundation’s Chair. “That's why we want nice buildings and nice grounds."

“It’s so important that there be dignity in the environment for people who are seeking treatment”

The Recovery Foundation was established in 1996 as of one of Arapahoe House’s two governing boards. The group owned and managed the organization’s real estate holdings, including four buildings, and led some fundraising. When Arapahoe House closed, The Recovery Foundation continued to exist; it joined The Denver Foundation as a supporting organization in June.

“They clearly demonstrate a strong sense of mission, and they want to use their financial resources to partner with like-minded organizations that share the same mission,” says Daniel Darting, CEO of Signal Behavioral HealthNetwork, which manages behavioral health providers across the state. “The substance use crisis in our country requires a lot of entities to do their part. The Recovery Foundation hears that, feels that, and does everything it can to really act on that.”

Proceeds from the sale of a building in Thornton, as well as rent from the three buildings it leases, fund The Recovery Foundation’s investments in quality residential treatment for substance use illness. This includes ongoing post-rehab supports for men and women adjusting to early sobriety, which can be physically, mentally, and emotionally uncomfortable and disorienting.

The Recovery Foundation is also a partner to an organization that develops affordable housing. With a grant to that organization, The Recovery Foundation supported the development of a new 50-unit affordable housing project for seniors in Aurora that broke ground in October; some of those units will be made available to men and women who have “graduated” from Recovery Foundation-affiliated programs, including the New Directions for Families Center.

Pipkin half-jokingly refers to The Recovery Foundation as a “benevolent landlord.” In addition to partnering with service providers as a property manager, the organization also exists to address misconceptions about what substance use illness is, and who it affects.

“Substance use illness is a disease, and it’s important to erase the stigma that surrounds it,” says board member Laura Conry, who has experienced substance use illness through the struggles of three family members. “It’s at the center of so many social issues—mental health and other co-occurring diseases. It’s important to get the message out that it impacts communities in ways that are beyond the personal. It impacts families, communities, employers, and children. People think it’s a character flaw. It’s absolutely not.”

“We all have to pitch in to help change this,” adds Patti Robinson, who joined the Arapahoe House board after her father, the founder of Argonaut Liquors, stepped down after many years. She says her family has long acted on their feeling of responsibility to support the recovery community. “It’s all about dialogue, and taking the shame away from it.”

Creating a supporting organization can be a powerful tool for helping donors create an alternative to a mid-to-large-sized private foundation. Contact the Philanthropic Services Group for more information. If you would like more information about funding groups that provide treatment for substance use, please call us at 303.300.1790.

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