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Fairbanks Wellness Court celebrates recovery, helps homeless

September 22, 2018

In this Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 photo, Fairbanks Wellness Court probation officer Montie Fords, right, embraces wellness court project coordinator Amy Bollaert during a wellness celebration at Golden Heart Plaza in Fairbanks, Alaska on Sunday Sept. 16, 2018. The event included a food and clothing giveaway, a barbecue, and a 5-kilometer walk. Since the program started in 2007, 121 people have graduated. (Sam Friedman /Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — There’s an overlap between people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and people who have been homeless, so it made sense that organizers and members of the Fairbanks Wellness Court chose to distribute food and clothing at a community event to celebrate recovery at the Golden Heart Plaza.

“When you see lives changing, look around you. This is what it’s all about. Most of us have laid on the street. Most of us have been drunk for days, months, years, drugged out,” said Montie Ford, the probation officer for the wellness court program and the impromptu emcee Sunday.

“I’m just thankful today that I’m standing with you. At least we’re standing right?”

About 30 people came out despite the rain, joining a 5-kilometer walk and a food and clothing giveaway to the Fairbanks homeless. Participants served up hot dogs and gave away bags of groceries and goods. This was the second year the event has taken place as part of the nationally designated Recovery Month. This year, the Fairbanks Wellness Court partnered with Interior Medication Assisted Treatment, an opioid treatment program.

With Ford’s encouragement, a half dozen people came forward to share their experiences with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as with sobriety. Their experience with sobriety ranged from six months to six years.

The Fairbanks Wellness Court is a diversion program for people facing drugs and driving under the influence charges in criminal court. People have the opportunity to have their criminal charges reduced if they successfully complete the 18-24 month program of monitoring and treatment. Since the program’s founding in 2007, 121 people have graduated.

Tim Willis, who manned the barbecue at Sunday’s event, came to Fairbanks from Glennallen in 2016 because of the wellness court program here. He’d been an alcoholic for 34 years — since middle school — and hadn’t had any success with other treatment programs, despite nearly two decades of trying to get sober.

“Two and a half years ago I came to Fairbanks a pretty broken man,” he said.

“They set a structure for me and totally left it up to me to whether I was going to do anything or not. When I graduated I said, ‘Wellness court pours a foundation for us, structure and stability. It’s up to each of us what we build on it. I can lay down on a blanket and freeze to death on it, or I can build a mansion on it.’”

Becca Brado, a community liaison for Interior Medication Assisted Treatment, has been sober for six years.

“My story is a lot like others,” she said. “I never felt like I fit in, and I found that when I used drugs, alcohol, I was able to relax and be with people more, but over time my dependence grew and it damn near ruined my whole life.”

Interior Medication Assisted Treatment is a branch of the Interior AIDS Association that was previously known as Project Special Delivery. The program treats opioid addictions with medications, including methadone, and more recently, Suboxone and Vivitrol.

In Fairbanks, Recovery Month events continue Tuesday with a screening of “The Anonymous People,” the 2013 documentary about people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions and the campaign to help people in recovery by breaking the social stigma against talking about addictions.

The screening is 6-8 p.m. at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, 101 Dunkel St.

Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter:

@FDNMoutdoors

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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