According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in five adults in the US suffers with mental health issues. It’s estimated that 50 percent of those individuals also deal with addiction. Homelessness, deaths from overdoses and suicide, leaving educational programs, and chronic unemployment are just a few of the results of mental health and addiction issues.
On May 29, Recovery Café Longmont (RC) opened its doors to anyone who needs help recovering from mental health or addiction problems, or who is experiencing loneliness. The welcoming space is already buzzing with a sense of community and caring. At the helm of the program is Lisa Searchinger, the executive director. Searchinger was the ED for HOPE Longmont, a homeless outreach organization, for five years prior to helping start RC Longmont.
“If folks can get help with their addiction and mental health, it’s a great step toward getting out of homelessness,” Searchinger said.
Central Longmont Presbyterian Church (CLPC) has a history of founding and supporting social causes, including OUR Center and HOPE Longmont. It was the church’s desire to assist with other unmet needs in the community that led to a board member stumbling on the Recovery Café Network. CLPC has committed to house RC Longmont for the first few years, but it’s important to note that the program is not religion-based.
The roots of RC began with founder Killian Noe who opened the first RC in Seattle, WA in 2004. Recognizing the needs of those “on the margins” in her community, the café model is not a treatment program, but rather is designed to provide long-term free support to those dealing with trauma, homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.
It’s stunning to note that 98 percent of Seattle’s RC members surveyed reported the program is responsible for helping them maintain sobriety and rebuild their lives. There were so many requests to replicate the successful Seattle program across the country that RC formed a “social licensing entity” a couple of years ago.
Communities interested in starting the program go through a lengthy application process and, if accepted, become “emerging” members supported by the central network with experts who share best practices, content, and offer training and mentoring. Longmont’s RC also received a $50,000 grant from the overarching network to help it get on its feet. Searchinger, a program manager, and a part-time front desk manager who offers “radical hospitality,” operate the café in Longmont.
What makes the RC model work Searchinger said, is that it’s “person-centered, peer supported, and people are held accountable.” Participants are called “members” because they belong to a community where they know they belong and are valued. Being held in “loving accountability” is integral, because it demonstrates that others care enough to be sure each member is doing the right thing.
Everyone is invited to be a guest to RC before joining, and being involved with other recovery programs is not discouraged. There are three requirements: 24 hours of sobriety, presence at a weekly recovery check-in called a “recovery circle” led by a trained facilitator, and members must give back in some way such as helping to keep the café clean, teaching a class or serving food at the communal lunch that’s provided each day.
Members spend time at the café playing games, having conversations and attending classes through the RC “School for Recovery.” Classes cover a variety of topics from yoga and meditation to resume writing and crocheting. Volunteers are trained “ambassadors of hospitality” and spend time at the café offering support. Café cooks are also volunteers who provide food for daily lunches.
The café partners with more than 30 other service providers in Longmont which will refer people to the program. Ten board members are steering the organization, several working in the mental health field.
“Evidence is proving that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety,” Searchinger said “it’s connection.”
The café is open Monday through Friday from 12-4 p.m.. Recovery circles are formed according to when members are available and what their particular needs are.
To become a member, to volunteer or donate, visit www.RecoveryCafeLongmont.org. Recovery Café Longmont is located at 402 Kimbark Street, Longmont in the Central Longmont Presbyterian Church building.