Ruth Haven: 2016, a year of recovery; 2017, a year of hope
Phyllis McLaughlin, Courier Staff Writer
Saturday, December 31, 2016 10:01 AM
For Ruth Haven, a transitional home on Presbyterian Avenue for women recovering from addiction, 2016 was a very
It began when the board of directors of Jefferson County Transitional Services Inc., which operates Ruth Haven, hired
former board member Cherilyn Miller as a full-time house supervisor in January.
With help from a live-in night monitor, whose role is to be available to the residents during evenings and weekends,
Miller has been able to keep the house at full capacity for most of this year.
With residents paying $135 in rent each week, keeping the beds filled has helped the organization stay out of the red
and on budget.
Rent includes utilities and food, and the residents take turns helping to cook meals and are assigned chores around the
Out of the 42 women who have been accepted into the program this year, 12 have graduated and have moved on to live
successfully in sobriety. These success stories are what keep her going, Miller said.
To graduate from the program, which takes from four to six months, residents must meet numerous requirements.
For example, once admitted a resident must attend 90 Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings in the
first 90 days, then attend at least five per week thereafter. They must also find a sponsor and stay in contact with that
Residents must obtain a full-time job within the first two weeks of arrival, unless they are on disability. They must work
either the first or third shifts, so that they can eat dinner together and then attend the required evening meetings, study
sessions and educational programs.
Most of the women are hired on at factories, including Madison Precision Products and Arvin Sango, and restaurants,
including Frisch’s and Ponderosa.
Reasons for leaving or being removed from the program are varied, Miller said. Some of the women are just not ready to make the
commitment required to let go of old habits and relationships to stay sober, and so choose to leave. Others may be dismissed for
infractions against the rules of the house, such as missing curfew or testing positive for drugs or alcohol.
“I don’t know what determines who’s going to be successful. They all are given the same tools,” Miller said, adding that age doesn’t seem to matter, as the women who have completed the program this year range in age from 21 to 42. “I don’t know what the common denominator would be.”
Still, the house has gained a positive reputation for its work, getting referrals from Jefferson County courts and from other counties, including Scott and Harrison.
Miller said she retains two waiting lists: One list is of women who have been interviewed and accepted into the program, and are just waiting for a bed to become available; the other is a list of those who have been referred and have yet to be interviewed and accepted. Both lists can have 10 or more names at any given time.
The success, combined with the obvious need, has encouraged Miller and the JCTS board to begin looking for ways to expand the program – either by finding a larger facility to allow for more beds at Ruth Haven, finding a location for a “three-quarter-house” program, or find a building that would allow for both programs to be housed on one campus.
Increasing the number of beds, Miller said, would help to alleviate the wait that some women are faced with after they are accepted into the program.
“It could be four or five months down the road before a bed is available,” Miller said. Sometimes she has to turn them down, which is difficult to do when someone is really ready for recovery. “It kills me every single time, because I wonder what happens to them.”
A “three-quarter” program would provide more independent living for women who complete the Ruth Haven program, but still give them access to programs and a support network, Miller said. It would be similar to a program offered at Bliss House in Jeffersonville.
“Often, Madison is not where they are from,” she explained. Many of the women who enter Ruth Haven are under court order and come straight from jail. When they graduate, they are cast out on their own.
Often they choose to stay here because of the success they have had, the support systems they have built, and because they have good-paying jobs.
When they leave Ruth Haven, “they have nothing,” Miller said, adding that she has sought donations for everything from cooking and eating utensils to beds and bedding. “They’re starting from scratch.”
Relapse can happen at any time, but often it can happen soon after graduation because of the sudden freedom and lack of supervision or accountability that they’ve been living with for so long, she said.
The “three-quarter” house would provide interim support between graduation and moving out on their own. The requirements – rent, meetings, etc. – would be the same, but the women would have more freedom while maintaining their sobriety in a supportive environment. It would ease them into the freedom of living on their own again.
To that end, the board is planning to kick off a capital campaign to raise at least $50,000 in “seed money” in 2017, which would be set aside and used as a down payment, should the perfect building come along.
Virginia Hardwick, who served as board president this year, said the best option would be to find a building that would enable the organization to both expand the current program and add the new one.
“It would be great for them and great for the community,” she said. “I think it’s important to be able to help more women that have an addiction problem. Unfortunately, the need is great, and that’s proven.”
However, she said, the board agrees that starting with the capital campaign to raise funds first is the sensible thing to do. “We feel it’s very wise not to rush into something. We’re actively looking (for a new building), but we do need to have that money in place to make that next step.”
The idea for a three-quarter house, actually, was brought to the board by two of the women at Ruth Haven. Board members agreed that it would be a logical next step.
“I know our ladies; when their graduation dates get close, they’re scared. They’re scared of messing up. To go out on their own is a very frightening thing,” Hardwick said. “Some of them are ready and hit the ground running, but there are still those who need that extra step.”
When news comes that a Ruth Haven graduate is struggling or has relapsed, she added, “it’s heartbreaking. You have so much hope for them.”
For more information about the program, contact Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 274-2907. Donations to the capital campaign may be mailed to Ruth Haven, P.O. Box. 611, Madison, IN 47250.