Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is committed to taking good care of Arkansas residents, and a new grant has opened doors for the continuation of that effort.
Ask anyone struggling to overcome addiction if they have “recovered,” and they will likely respond with, “I’ve not recovered; I’m recovering.” Recovering from addiction is not a once-and-done thing. It is a life-long, step-by-step process. And for many, the very first step is into the doors of the Nehemiah House, the drug and alcohol recovery program of the Union Rescue Mission in Little Rock.
The Nehemiah House offers a 9- to 12-month, faith-based drug and alcohol recovery program for men dealing with chemical addiction with the ultimate goal of graduating men thoroughly equipped to be solid, contributing members of society.
“We are not in the business of giving handouts to individuals,” said Keith Medlock, chief executive officer of the Union Rescue Mission. “We are in the business of giving people in genuine need a hand up, where they can become contributors to society.”
Derek Jones, executive director of the Union Rescue Mission, agrees. “We focus exclusively on programming designed to facilitate life change,” he said. “We looked at what we were doing that was having the most success, and in light of that we assessed what would be most beneficial, most effective, in order to produce long-term success for our clients.”
The classes include Christian 12-Steps, Anger Management, Relapse Prevention, and Workforce Preparedness. And now, thanks in part to a $147,200 grant from the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas, they offer a phase that helps clients transition back into society – Mission Life Park, a community of transitional living units for clients who have completed the residential program and are reintegrating into society.
Blue & You Foundation Grant Brings Hope
“When you are recovering from addiction it is a big help to know you are going to have to look someone in the eyes every day who is going to hold you accountable,” said Derek. “Mission Life Park is a mid-step between on-campus help and complete independence. It provides more freedom but still with accountability.”
The first four units – each one housing two men – is scheduled to open in January 2023 in Jacksonville, with more units already in the planning stage. And, to help provide accountability in this critical, transitional stage, there will be a full-time staff member who resides on the property. Residents will be required to check in with staff on a regular basis and there will be weekly Zoom meetings.
“We’re trying to teach people responsibility,” said Derek. “At Mission Life Park the residents will have to take care of themselves, utilizing the tools they’ve been given during the program.”
According to Derek, it’s the small things that matter most.
Small things, over the course of time, can put you in a place where you never thought you’d be,” he said. “The discipline our clients can gain over a year or two of living at Mission Life Park will establish a pattern of making the right choices so that they have the habit of making the right choices when they move on.”
But the project almost didn’t get off the ground. The property was acquired several years ago but sat vacant because the Union Rescue Mission did not have the resources necessary to move forward with their plans.
“The Blue & You Foundation is what made it possible for us to build and use the property for what we needed,” said Derek. “There is no Mission Life Park opening this year without the Blue & You Foundation.”
There are plans to expand Mission Life Park that include units for women from the Dorcas House (a recovery program for women who have been victims of domestic abuse or who suffer from chemical dependency), units for families, and a community center.
“We can eventually build as many as 40 units,” said Derek. “That may be a 10-year vision, but it’s there.”
In December, it was announced that the Blue & You Foundation approved a second grant to the Union Rescue Mission for this very project.
“The Blue & You Foundation is pleased to support Mission Life Park. We recognize the need for providing not only transitional housing for individuals recovering from substance addiction, but also giving them a purpose to live a productive life and people that provide a strong community of support,” said Rebecca Pittillo, executive director of the Blue & You Foundation. “Union Rescue Mission is providing the ‘three P’s’ that are crucial to recovery and healing: People, Place and Purpose.”
According to Derek, Mission Life Park may eventually become a resource for the surrounding community for anyone struggling with addiction.
“Anyone living in the neighborhood around Mission Life Park who struggles with the exact same problems as our clients have dealt with now has a resource right next door,” he said. “Our guys are equipped to help people with those kinds of problems because they’ve been there. This can be a game changer. The potential for the community at large is huge. And the Blue & You Foundation is the catalyst that got it all started.”