Minot Area Recovery Community Organization takes aim at addiction

Jill Schramm/MDN Minot Area Recovery Community Organization board members Sarah Bachmeier, vice chair, and Scott Burlingame, chairman, work at Independence Inc., an organization that assists people with disabilities and those in recovery. They and others on the board are studying ways to better address recovery in the community.

Rallying the community around removing barriers to addiction recovery is the goal of the Minot Area Recovery Community Organization.

The organization grew out of initial efforts by the Minot Mayor’s Committee on Addiction to identify gaps in recovery services and create a coordinated effort to address addiction. In March 2018, the Bush Foundation awarded Minot a grant of $208,000 to develop strategies to address the opioid epidemic and create a regional hub for treatment and family services.

As part of that grant, the Minot Recovery Community Organization formed in January with the selection of a six-member board. The board is being expanded to seven members and has named Minot attorney A.J. Schultz as executive director.

Board members meet two to three times a month to share information.

“We are not a treatment provider. We don’t provide services. We don’t advocate for any one treatment path,” Schultz said. “Our job is basically to keep a database of what’s out there, study how it’s doing, review it and come up with new ideas for new resources if they’re needed.”

He said the advantage of a recovery organization is the ability to pull together treatment providers, employers, medical professionals, counselors and others who can play a role in creating that coordinated approach to helping people in recovery.

“By and large, I think it’s high time we had a group like this, who can basically help all the other groups help themselves,” Schultz said.

Sarah Bachmeier, vice chair for the board, said the Recovery Committee Organization encourages a holistic approach and going beyond offering a 30-day bandage to people seeking recovery. There are a multitude of facets to recovery, and the organization seeks engagement in each of those areas, she said.

For instance, Schultz and Bachmeier say, housing is a particular issue facing people in recovery.

“We do still need another option for people that need emergency housing right now,” Bachmeier said. “They need that first step in order to get clean and get into treatment and start working on themselves.”

“It really is a cycle,” Schultz added. “If you have employment problems, you can’t pay for your housing. If you aren’t going to pay for housing, you’re going to crash on someone’s couch. If you’re going to end up doing that, you’re going to be more likely to use and continue using and relapsing so you won’t have a job.”

The Recovery Community Organization is promoting the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s Opening Doors Landlord Risk Mitigation program. The program provides individuals facing barriers to housing, such as poor credit or criminal backgrounds, with coverage to encourage landlords to rent to them. Bachmeier said people in recovery aren’t necessarily rental risks, but landlords are more comfortable knowing the program will reimburse for excessive damage or lost revenue, up to $2,000. Landlords can retain the right to accept or reject rental applicants on an individual basis. Renters must be participating in supportive services or case management to participate.

Another solution being looked at by the Recovery Community Organization is a community court. A concept tried in a few other parts of the country, a community court works as a diversion program. If the root of a crime is addiction or a lack of finances, housing or employment, the court can direct the person to the proper resources to prevent further offenses.

Minot’s municipal court, which already is on board with a recovery focus for certain crimes, would be the place to start with a community court, Schultz and Bachmeier said.

“We’ve already seen that if we can cut down on why people commit crimes, then we can take the load off the judicial system and off the police,” Schultz said.

The Recovery Communities Organization also is working to make people aware of its presence. To that end, the organization works closely with other support and recovery services in the Minot area.

“Being able to work with all the agencies in town is really awesome – and essential. We’ve had a lot of really good response,” Bachmeier said. A supportive response is necessary to establishing Minot as a recovery community.

“If we don’t have a community to recover into, it’s very disheartening,” Bachmeier said.

“I’m really glad the community is rallying around this,” Schultz said. “In the last four or five years I’ve really appreciated seeing local government and our state Legislature and those policymakers really come to accept this kind of possibility. That’s been incredibly rewarding.”

The organization will be creating a Facebook page and developing a website. In the meantime people wanting to learn more are encouraged to reach out to Chairman Scott Burlingame or Bachmeier, both at Independence Inc., in Minot, or any board member.

In September, the organization held a luncheon to invite groups ranging from law enforcement to public health to discuss recovery efforts and find out what the community believes still needs to be done.

In October, the organization participated in a trunk-or-treat event for children. In November, members attended the statewide Recovery Reinvented in Bismarck.

Early in 2020, the organization plans a community dinner with a guest speaker. Board members also are planning to visit the Minnesota Recovery Center in St. Paul and have been in contact with Donald McDonald, a technical expert in addiction recovery, from North Carolina.

Bachmeier said the Minot organization wants to find out what has worked for others in the process of identifying local solutions.

“This is a first of its kind here, so we’re kind of trying our best to make sure that we get it right,” she said.

In addition, the Minot organization has been talking with the Bush Foundation to update the activities and objectives associated with the grant award, ensuring funds are available to address specific needs as they are identified.

“Now that we’re formed, we’ve really become a lot more clear on our objectives and what we want to accomplish,” Bachmeier said. “The Bush Foundation has been amazing to work with. They’re very supportive of our progress in getting it right the first time.”

Schultz said other communities are watching what happens in Minot, too.

“A lot of eyes are on us,” he said. “If we succeed, we’re going to help others succeed too.”


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