ST. IGNATIUS — The big pink house on St. Mary’s Drive is dark and quiet on this late afternoon when Lynn Reeves answers the door with a smile and offers a tour.
Inside, the living room chairs are empty, the kitchen dark and the three bedrooms upstairs just waiting to be filled.
“Hopefully, the next time you visit, the front yard will be filled with kids and the rooms will be full of people with hopes for a better life,” said Reeves, the operation’s manager for Western Montana Mental Health and Addiction in Lake County.
Sometime in March, the home that people in St. Ignatius have come to know as “The Nest” will begin to fill with mothers or mothers-to-be who are struggling with addiction.
From 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, The Nest will offer the community the chance to come learn about the new chapter that’s unfolding there.
The home, at 410 St. Mary’s Dr., already has a history of changing lives.
In 2014, Jen Blumberg’s nonprofit called Domestic Violence Education and Services, or DOVES, purchased the home as a place where women suffering from domestic abuse could be safe.
“When we first started the nonprofit, we received a substantial anonymous donation that allowed us to buy this home and staff it for a year,” Blumberg said. “The community came together and offered us a lot of support right from the beginning.”
Almost right from the beginning, they discovered another need.
Many of the women seeking out their services suffered from substance abuse disorder.
“We weren’t trained to be able to help them,” Blumberg said. “I’m not a nurse. We didn’t feel like we were qualified to become a treatment home, but it became very, very clear that’s what was most needed.”
They were familiar with Western Montana Addiction Services’s Carole Graham Home in Missoula, which offered a 24-hour residential addiction treatment program for pregnant women or women with children.
“We knew they already had the blueprint for what was needed to make it successful,” she said.
And so she called the Western Montana Mental Health Center last year and asked if they were interested in establishing a new home in the Mission Valley.
The answer was a resounding yes.
Tammera Nauts is the executive director of Missoula’s Recovery Center, which treats people with chemical addictions and mental health disorders. The center sometimes refers mothers or pregnant women to the Carole Graham Home.
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The challenge is that facility has a waiting list, which means that sometimes women have no place to go after they complete treatment at the Recovery Center.
The need for additional housing became crystal clear for Nauts last winter when she spotted a mother the center had worked with attempting to navigate three feet of snow with her baby strapped to her chest.
“When they called to ask if we would be interested in assuming ownership of the home and making it a place where recovering women could stay, we were thrilled,” Nauts said.
The Carole Graham Home has been open for about a decade. It often has a waiting list of 10 or more.
“We’ve found that in treating substance abuse, the longer a patient can remain engaged with their provider, the higher the success rate,” Nauts said. “The Carole Graham Home has a very high success rate.”
When the new therapeutic home in St. Ignatius opens its door this spring, it will follow the same treatment program that’s been used successfully in Missoula.
The five bedroom home will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will be a therapist, rehab therapist, case manager and house managers at the facility. Initially, it will employ about eight people.
The women staying there will receive at least eight hours of therapy every week, as well as a case management service and help with developing life skills.
“The ultimate goal is secure permanent housing for them after they’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of the services that will help them become sober and self-sufficient,” Nauts said. “We’ve been providing this service for women and children for over a decade. We’ve seen the need grow. We’re really happy for this new opportunity.”
A recent bricklaying ceremony cemented the notion that this program can change lives.
Remember that woman who Nauts saw trying to navigate the deep snow while carrying her baby?
“She just received her one-year brick,” Nauts said. “When a past patient has been sober for a year, we engrave a brick for them and then host a little bricklaying ceremony.”
It marks a change in a person’s life that could result in a completely new course for generations to come.
Blumberg hopes that’s what The Nest’s new course will mean.
“We like to say that when a plan isn’t working, you need to change the plan, but not the goal,” she said. “Our goal was always to be a place that cares about women and kids.”