Traverse City is known for its beauty; the lakes, dunes, and beaches are just a small part of what makes up the picturesque landscape. With all this breathtaking scenery, it is often easy to overlook the less attractive aspects of this town; the homelessness, mental illness, and addiction that is more common than locals care to admit. Addiction Treatment Services (ATS) is fighting to raise awareness and bring help to the individuals who suffer from these afflictions. This month marks the one year anniversary of the grand re-opening of Phoenix House and ATS is celebrating with the Phoenix Open House on May 17th, 2013 from 11am-2pm, designed for the public to come tour the home and learn about all that takes place there.
Phoenix House is a women’s home that aids in recovery from addiction. Speaking with Lou Gamalski, the coordinator of community development at ATS and a former therapist for Phoenix House, I was able to learn firsthand about the care that takes place there. It is a short-term residential home, with residents typically staying 21-28 days. Therapists use the holistic approach while treating residents and aim to cover four pillars necessary for the recovery process: health, home, purpose, and relationships/community. Through the first pillar, clients are restored to health with nutritious food and medical and psychological assessments. Having a safe home environment is essential for the second pillar, which is exactly what residents get at the Phoenix House. In order to achieve a sense of purpose, residents volunteer at the Women’s Resource Center in Traverse City. For the final, relationships, pillar, therapists work with residents and their families. Family visit days are on Sundays and families are able to learn about the disease of addiction. When a person is struggling with addiction, about 25 people in that person’s life are affected by that addiction in some way. With proper communication skills and education, those also affected by the addiction are able to start recovering as well. Phoenix House aims to help repair an individual’s entire life, not just the physical addiction itself.
There are approximately 10 beds available for women in Phoenix House. When the home first reopened, neighbors were concerned that the residents would be problematic. However, one year has passed and Phoenix House has integrated into the neighborhood wonderfully. The police have never been called and the fire department has only been by a few times due to a trickster smoke detector that is located too close to the bathroom. Located on the corner of State Street and Wellington Street, Phoenix House is the ideal location for a recovery home. With close proximity to the beach and parks, residents are able to get out and enjoy the beauty that Traverse City has to offer them. Not only are the women of Phoenix able to heal during their time in this residential program, but they also learn about community resources available to them. Employees help them with job searching, general life skills, trips to the library, and awareness of additional resources, such as the Father Fred Foundation. “By doing that,” Gamalski stated, “they have a ghost of a chance.”
Gender specific treatment has proven to be successful. Addiction Treatment Services brought Phoenix back as a women’s only treatment home because they know that it works. Gamalski mentioned that not only is this an open house for the public to attend, but for all of the clients from the previous year as well. She wants them all to know that they are still important in the lives of the staff members and coming back to where they started the recovery process will help them remember why they are in recovery in the first place. Gamalski loved her time spent as a therapist at Phoenix Hall and keeps a card on her desk from a former client that states, “you helped me grow in a place I didn’t even know I needed to.” It is comments like this that are the perfect reminder of why she works for ATS.
Addiction Treatment Services is aiming to reduce the negative stigma of mental health and addiction. I have had the pleasure of working for this non-profit organization for almost two years now and I can testify firsthand that their tagline stands true, Hope Happens Here.
Phoenix House is located at 445 E. State Street and the open house will be held on May 17th from 11am-2pm. Do you plan to attend? What community resources do you know of that are particularly helpful?