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Home » New Milford Town Council OKs $33K to help those struggling with addiction: ‘Recovery friendly town’ – CT Insider

New Milford Town Council OKs $33K to help those struggling with addiction: ‘Recovery friendly town’ – CT Insider

Welcome sign “New Milford Settled 1707 Historic Village” and flowers planted by the Garden Club at the Route 7/Bridge Street intersection near Veterans Memorial Bridge; Aug. 4, 2007
NEW MILFORD — If residents approve, the town will be increasing its efforts to support addiction services for those who need it.
At a recent Town Council meeting, the town unanimously approved $33,000 to be taken from American Rescue Plan Act funds for sober housing vouchers to several sober living facilities in town.
The sober living houses that would receive the vouchers are Heritage Inn Recovery Residence, which would receive $24,000; and Phoenix House, Grace House, and Hope House, which would receive a total of $9,000.
Mark Echols, who owns Heritage Inn, which provides a 12-step based approach to help men with substance use disorders, said the voucher would provide the first month’s rent for free.
“And then as long as they got a job and they’re working, following all the rules and complying with the program, we can give them that second month as a cushion so they build up a little bit,” Echols added.
The individuals would then be responsible for paying their third month’s rent.
Residents at Heritage Inn can stay as long as they need to.
“It’s really just up to where they are in their program, depending on how long they want to stay here. Some guys only stayed maybe three months because maybe they’re married or just kind of need that shorter term transition from a rehab into fully independent living,” Echols said. “Other guys choose to stay longer. It just really depends on the situation.”
He said when the men come to his facility, they become a contributing member of the town.
“We do a lot of volunteer work in the community. These people are shopping at the local stores, they’re getting jobs here,” he said.
Over the years, members of church groups or private individuals have donated to Heritage Inn.
Michael Gold, who is president of Hope, Grace and Phoenix Houses, said oftentimes, people come to them “usually with two bags of clothes” and no address. “Either they’re coming from rehab or from the street, or they’re coming from a family’s home. But there is no permanent residence.”
Grace House serves women, and Hope and Phoenix Houses serve men. People come to the houses from all over the United States. Hope, Grace and Phoenix houses have helped 35 to 50 people over nearly four years.
Those who come are technically there for six months, but are never forced out.
“We don’t ask people to leave after six months if they want to stay. We let them stay. Our longest resident has been with us for two and a half years,” Gold said. “He works locally. He now has a fairly new car and he’s thriving. He came from Naugatuck, living in his car, with two kitchen garbage bags full of clothes.”
Gold said when someone comes to one of their houses, “fingers crossed they will stay sober, like the community and they’ll continue with us.”
Those who come to the sober living houses can be of any age, from 18 and up. They can also be on social security, Gold said.
In many cases, the person who needs a place to stay has “burned so many bridges” that their own family no longer wants them living in their homes, he added.
Gold said the vouchers are “a godsend” because they get people off the street.
“It’s just beautiful,” he said.
At the meeting, New Milford resident Joseph Failla said New Milford residents should get priority when it comes to getting beds, over those who live out of town.
“The first thing first is our residents with New Milford that we need to help first,” he said.
However, Echols said it works on a first come, first serve basis.
“I honor whoever calls first…I will not discriminate,” he said.
Justin Cullmer, New Milford’s community care coordinator, said all the sober housing locations in New Milford do “a phenomenal job in getting people the services they need.”
Cullmer said it’s his job to help those in need of addiction services, including housing, “make that communication” with those who can directly help them.
He also offers help when needed on resources such as financial assistance, employment, medical care, outpatient counseling — “the whole smorgasbord,” he said.
Town Council member Hilary Ram, who invited the men who offer the addiction services to the meeting, said the work that the sober living residences provides is what ARPA funding “is intended to do,” which is help people who are struggling.
“So, to me, it’s making our town a recovery friendly town, which is what we claim and we are, so that’s fantastic,” Ram said.
The town will vote to approve the addiction vouchers, and all the other funding that has been approved by Town Council over the past few months, in a Special Town Meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 11 at New Milford Town Hall, 10 Main St., in the E. Paul Martin Room.
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Sandi is editor of The New Milford Spectrum. She also contributes to the Danbury News-Times and to Hearst Connecticut’s breaking news coverage.


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