Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) speaks at an open house celebrating the opening of Set Free Alaska’s outpatient services building Monday, Jan. 16, 2020 on Ocean Drive in Homer, Alaska. Set Free Alaska is based in the Mat-Su Valley and is a faith-based nonprofit that works in addiction treatment. This outpatient services building will be joined in April by an inpatient addiction treatment center being developed 15 miles out East End Road. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) speaks at an open house celebrating the opening of Set Free Alaska’s outpatient services building Monday, Jan. 16, 2020 on Ocean Drive in Homer, Alaska. Set Free Alaska is based in the Mat-Su Valley and is a faith-based nonprofit that works in addiction treatment. This outpatient services building will be joined in April by an inpatient addiction treatment center being developed 15 miles out East End Road. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Outpatient addiction treatment services open in Homer

Run by faith-based Mat-Su organization, services have been long time coming

After about a year of working on a project to expand services to Homer, a faith-based nonprofit that deals in addiction treatment has opened outpatient services in town.

Set Free Alaska, based in the Mat-Su Valley, held an open house last week for its outpatient addiction treatment services building on Ocean Drive in Homer. The organization was awarded a state grant of about $1.5 million last year in order to establish addiction treatment services on the lower Kenai Peninsula.

Executive Director Philip Licht said at the open house celebration that that grant was originally intended to be put to use in the Anchorage or Mat-Su areas, but that Set Free Alaska made a pitch to allow the funds to be used in the Homer area. He said he’s wanted to bring services to Homer for several years and that the nonprofit is now at a place where that can happen.

Licht worked with members of the local Southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task force, which identified addiction treatment resources for men as the greatest need in the Homer area right now. He went to the Homer City Council last year asking for matching funds when applying for the state grant.

The city council ultimately voted not to use public money to help fund a religious organization without more information about the project. Set Free Alaska was still awarded the state grant and started looking for possible locations for an inpatient treatment center in Homer. Met with opposition in several neighborhoods, the organization finally settled on a former bed and breakfast lodge 15 miles down East End Road as the location for the inpatient treatment facility where a handful of men in recovery will live for the duration of their program.

That facility is currently being remodeled and is slated to open in April.

Though they were not present because a city council meeting was happening at the same time as the open house, Licht gave special thanks to members of the city council and to Mayor Ken Castner for being supportive of the project even through the council voted not to provide matching funding for the grant application.

“Even though they didn’t want to fund the program and agreement, their belief in the program and their desire for the program was very strong,” he said. “… I just want to acknowledge them publicly and thank them for their support and their leadership of this community — coming along and saying, we need this, we want this, we believe in you all and we support you.”

Licht also thanked the 10 different churches in the Homer area who he said all signed a letter in support of Set Free Alaska. He credited the Opioid Task Force and the Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) of the Southern Kenai Peninsula for all the work those groups have already put in locally tackling the issue of addiction and how to encourage recovery.

“The MAPP group and the Task Force … I see as the groups(s) who (have) provided the leadership in this community, moving in the effort in freedom from addiction and bringing awareness to these issues,” Licht said. “Not just addiction, but resilience and all these issues in the community. They’ve done incredible work and in so many ways, we’re not coming to start a work here, we’re coming to continue on with the work that they’re doing.”

Catriona Reynolds, director of Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, is a member of the MAPP Steering Committee and was present at the open house. She said in a later email that Set Free Alaska is a welcome addition to the current offerings in the community as far as addiction treatment and recovery go.

“Their services and approach will work well for many people,” Reynolds wrote. “SetFree is not a panacea for the opioid crisis or addiction in general; they provide another option that closes some of the gaps in essential services in our area. I appreciate how Philip Licht has reached out to include a broad range of community partners and stakeholders.”

Set Free Alaska uses a faith-based approach to helping people gain resilience and stay in recovery. However, the organization admits people of any faith or no faith to their programs.

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, also spoke at the Jan. 16 open house, saying that outpatient addiction treatment services have been a need in the Homer community for a long time.

“It does take the whole community in order to make this happen,” Vance said. “… The healing that happens for the individual struggling with addiction isn’t just going to happen in this facility or in the residential (facility) — it’s going to happen by all of us as community members partnering with the work that they’re doing to help with the recovery, to help make sure that once the community members go through your program, that we help keep them on that right path by offering that support.”

Licht told the small crowd assembled in the outpatient services building that Set Free Alaska dedicates each one of its programs. In the past, inpatient or outpatient programs have been dedicated to clients, or to founding board members. This program is being dedicated to the city of Homer and the surrounding communities, Licht announced.

“May the reputation of the beauty of your people surpass even the reputation of your natural beauty,” he read from the dedication. “Let hope, healing and resilience become manifest in individuals and families all through this region.”

The outpatient addiction treatment services are located at 1130 Ocean Drive in Homer and the phone number is 907-235-4732. The facility will provide outpatient counseling to both men and women, including substance abuse treatment, assessments and diagnosis, continuing care and trauma-informed treatment. The facility accepts both private insurance and Medicaid, and sliding scale fee arrangements are also available.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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