It’s one day at a time for the men and the facility
Challenge is an inherent part of Crested Butte. It can be a challenge just to get here since it is at the end of the road in the middle of Colorado. It is a challenge sometimes living here since it can snow in any given month, and in December and January 20-below temperatures are expected. But throw in the test of trying to overcome drug and alcohol addiction issues, and the challenge can be huge. That’s where the New Adam’s House comes in.
NAH came into being a little more than three years ago through the Crested Butte Oh Be Joyful Church. Church pastor at the time Jim Kunes and church elder Chris Gibson had a vision of starting a residential recovery program for men in transition between addiction treatment and a regular life. The two originally proposed the facility to be located by the church in the northeast side of town, but neighbors protested and so they searched elsewhere. The search ended with a house located about one mile south of town on Highway 135. The house was gutted in the summer of 2010 and renovated to provide a living situation for Gibson and his family downstairs and room for six clients upstairs.
Thus far, three years after opening for business, New Adam’s House has taken in 30 men. The vast majority of them took to the program and remained sober through their stay. In fact, Gibson said the NAH has a 79 percent success rate while the men are residing there.
“We’ve had minimal relapses with the men staying here,” explained NAH director Gibson. “We are getting to the point where we will be trying to track the success rate after they leave as well.”
Gibson said the model that originated with NAH has remained pretty much the same and it appears to be working. For a modest $600 per month, the men receive a bed, meals, group sessions and on-site supervision. “I think that model really contributes to the success of what we’re doing,” said Gibson. “We have had a lot of comments about the family atmosphere of the place. There’s not a huge interaction between the men and Edie [Chris’ wife] and our daughter, Makaila, but it is there. I think having a family with a seven-year-old daughter on-site shows that we have trust in these men as individuals and I think that matters. It’s never really a spoken part of the place but it’s there. I think it helps as we try to teach the guys life skills that they can take to the next phase of their lives.”
As might be expected for a program that grew out of the Oh Be Joyful Church, the program “is Christ-centered. We have a Biblically based curriculum,” explained Gibson. “Church attendance is expected weekly. We have daily 12-step meetings. There is a morning devotional time every day. The guys are also expected to perform community service work and get a job. They have to go out and find work if they are staying with us.”
That too can be a challenge. Not so much finding a job but what type of job. Being a tourist town, Crested Butte is no stranger to easily available drugs and alcohol.
“In the summer, there are plenty of physical labor jobs available like landscaping,” said Gibson. “In the winter it is a bit tougher since restaurants are always looking for people. And as most of us know, the restaurant work scene can lead to easy exposure to drugs and alcohol. It’s just the nature of the business. I always advise the guys to at least try to get a breakfast or lunch shift if they get hired at a restaurant. Night shifts are just easier to fall into old habits.”
And what Gibson is seeing lately is that those old habits include not just alcohol but opiates and heroin. He estimates that probably half of the people coming to NAH are dealing with heroin addiction.
“Alcohol is involved in almost every case but it seems a lot of the guys start out also using prescription drugs and opiates. That can be expensive so when they run out of money, they turn to heroin, which is very available and a less expensive alternative,” Gibson said.
“We have had some wonderful successes in working with men from many different walks of life but who come to us with a common problem,” said Kunes. “Most of the men have been able to maintain their sobriety with us for at least the 90 days following their clinical rehab and a few have had extended times of sobriety with us with as much as six-plus months. One gentlemen recently has returned to join us for our summer banquet and gave testimony that he is now celebrating over two years of sobriety, has a full-time job in Denver, and gave thanks to how NAH played a major role in making that possible. Another client has reported back to us of his continued sobriety of over one-and-a-half years and who is now currently employed at a similar type of facility in Minnesota. Another long-term client has moved on into our community, staying here as a productive, employed and sober member of the upper valley.”
Kunes said not every single client of NAH is considered a success. As with most things, that is part of real life. “We have certainly had a few men who lasted only a couple of days. They were not suited for what we had to offer or were not ready for it,” he said. “Fortunately, we have more positive outcomes than not with what Chris, the house, the church and the recovering community have all contributed in helping to make NAH work. Our vision to help those who are struggling from our faith-based perspective has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled, and it is by God’s grace that we have made it this far.
“Another struggle has been in developing an effective board that collectively works together beyond Chris and myself in supporting NAH,” Kunes continued. “Though I carried the flag in getting things up and running at NAH, I am definitely not the CEO type for development and sustainability. We are so grateful to the current board for coming alongside Chris and myself in helping us get this far. We just need more good people to help and who have a heart, time and energy for recovery.”
In the course of three years, the facility has stayed steady, in both numbers and program. “We average about ten guys a year,” Gibson said. “Some stay for a month and others stay for 250-plus days. Our average length of stay is about 110 days. Some men come in and can’t believe it is snowing in September or they have to walk to work when it is minus-20 outside. Not everyone lasts long here. Not everyone can handle the weather in Crested Butte. But having 10 guys a year is keeping us busy. We could treat a few more or a few less, but we seem to have a comfort level where we are at.”
Before entering NAH, the men must stay sober for 30 days. There are two rooms upstairs in NAH, with three bunks each. Two bathrooms cater to the maximum six men. “Historically, our comfort level tops out at four or five men in the house. Adding a sixth makes things a little tight,” admitted Gibson.
The goal, according to Gibson, is to teach the men how to stay sober and have a good life. “We are a place where people who want to learn can learn valuable lessons while in transition,” he said. “We are a transitional care facility and similar to a ‘half-way house’ in that we are a step in the process of helping these men reintegrate from primary treatment back into home life.”
Gibson has tweaked the program to cut down on the number of required 12-step meetings. He had originally hoped men would be able to participate in meetings held in Gunnison as well as Crested Butte. “But a lot of the men don’t have cars and this creates a challenge getting to and from Gunnison at the established meeting times.”
And clients have come from all over the country to benefit from what the NAH is offering. While there have been a few local clients, several of the men have originated in Denver while others have come from Oklahoma. “We are networked with treatment centers around the country,” Gibson explained. “We also have made connections through second-home owners who attend our church while they are here.”
It’s not just the men in the NAH facility who face a daily challenge—it is the program itself. The $600 per month fee is the same price as when NAH opened three years ago. Gibson said that means the center relies of contributions and fundraisers to help make up for the cost of the treatment facility.
“Of course, we have faced a few struggles ourselves, with finances being the primary one, as it is with most non-profits,” explained Kunes. “We subsidize each client by at least 50 percent of what it costs to house and supervise any one client. Thus far, kind and gracious donations have made that possible through the faith community and a small grant here and there. From the beginning it has been a hand-to-mouth existence and remains so. Our faith is in God to provide for our existence and it has been amazing to see His provision during these few years of operation. We operate one day at a time and remain grateful, knowing our existence is fragile.”
When Kunes thinks back over the last three years at New Adam’s House, he shakes his head. “Against great odds we came into existence, and the odds are against us for sustainability,” he summarized. “But we believe and trust God for what is being done at NAH and we will continue to do so by His grace. Contrary to those who were skeptics in our attempts to do something in this area of deep need it is working despite the challenges and for that we are grateful.”