Transitional living program for fathers with addictions expected to open end of summer, county officials say

Melissa Pola provides drug and alcohol counseling at Her Place, the drug treatment home that ten years ago fostered her recovery from addiction. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

A new transitional living program run by Marion County will provide childcare and addiction treatment for fathers with substance abuse disorders who may otherwise be court-ordered to a facility where they can’t live with their children.

County officials say the program, called His Place, will provide an alternative to the current practice of placing children in foster care while their fathers receive treatment.

It’s a near replica of Salem-based Her Place, which has for over 20 years helped mothers with substance abuse disorders with long-term recovery and reuniting with their children.

Marion County Circuit Court judges can send parenting mothers to Her Place for court-ordered treatment and know the mothers have access to childcare and other services.

Ryan Matthews, Marion County health and human services administrator, said people who go through traditional residential addiction treatment have to then start the process of reuniting with their child while maintaining their sobriety and what they learned in recovery. At Her Place – and soon His Place – he said people can live their day-to-day lives while parenting and staying sober.

“I think that’s just not something you’re going to get to experience when you do it separate,” he said.

Matthews said that inequity led county officials to pursue a program that mirrors Her Place for fathers, providing onsite treatment, transportation, childcare and food.

The new program will serve around seven fathers at a time along with their children, said county spokesman Jon Heynen. Their time in the facility typically varies from three to six months.

Her Place serves between 25 and 30 people per year, and the same expected for His Place, Heynen said.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners on March 29 authorized the $775,000 purchase of 1505 and 1507 E Blaine St. in Woodburn for His Place, to be run by the county’s Health and Human Services Department.

Matthews said county officials are aiming to start accepting referrals to His Place by the end of the summer after making a few modifications to the property, buying remaining furniture and getting clearance from the Oregon Health Authority to operate an addiction treatment program.

He said he expects most of the people the program serves will likely be from Salem based on population, though they could come from anywhere in Marion County.

The building sale included a $500,000 donation in February from Portland-based insurance company PacificSource, with the rest paid for by state and federal dollars the county’s Health and Human Services department has received for addiction treatment.

Commissioner Colm Willis told Salem Reporter PacificSource reached out to him and said they had money set aside as required under state law for insurance companies, which was just sitting in a bank.

“We’d really like them to go to do some good in the community. Do you have any ideas?” he recalled them asking.

The biggest hurdles in opening a His Place, Matthews said, were finding a home that would serve the program’s needs and getting the money to pay for it.

The county bought the new His Place building from two homeowners, Ivan and Olga Keptene, who previously operated a residential adult foster care home at the location.

Matthews said county officials bought the Woodburn building because the property was “perfect” for the program, providing seven beds, a second house on the property for a staff office and space in the yard to build areas for children to play.

Willis and Matthews both said the continued success of Her Place was pivotal in county officials’ decision to start a matching program for fathers.

They said many people who went through the program went on to become county employees that work with Health and Human Services and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office to help the next generation of people struggling with addiction in the county.

“Hearing those stories and then seeing what good work they’ve done for us and for the county, I think that was very motivating for us,” Willis said.

He said all Marion County residents are living in a world where people struggling with addiction are living on streets and oftentimes having to get treatment multiple times before successful recovery.

“So when you have a program that works like Her Place where you have consistent success year over year, many different people from many different walks of life, many different life experiences, it sort of calls you to invest more in that model, that this is something that’s working and there’s lots of things that aren’t working,” Willis said. “The reason it works is because it invests in the family, not just the individual. It sees the individual as part of a family, as part of the community.”

Matthews said the timing of the new program was due to both PacificSource’s donation and an influx of funding for addiction treatment after Oregonians passed Measure 110 in fall 2020, intended to take drug users out of jails and put them into clinics.

Matthews said he hopes that, by serving more parents with substance abuse disorders, the county can eventually open a “Her Place 2” and “His Place 2.”

Her Place was created in the early 2000s by Bridgeway Recovery Services and later bought by Cascadia, a former Multnomah County Company that wanted to extend its services to Marion County. When Cascadia went bankrupt, the county bought Her Place and took over its operation in 2008.


Salem woman who faced her own struggles with drug addiction now helps other women toward recovery

 Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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