Jeremiah Saucier has been working to open a 50-bed addiction rehabilitation center on the Key Peninsula for about two years.
At this point, he feels like he’s on a stationary bicycle.
“It feels like I’m pedaling and going nowhere,” Saucier said. “But I know really we are farther than we feel.”
The Hope Recovery Center, a potential $10 million project, is looking to break ground on an eight-acre lot that belongs to the Lakebay Community Church, 4706 Key Peninsula Highway. A community garden that supports the church and the center is on the lot, providing organic produce to neighbors.
Before Saucier can break ground on his dream project, he must receive building and zoning permits from Pierce County. To get them, he’s working with Richard Day of RJD and Associates LLC.
Saucier says he must stay patient while Day works, pro-bono, to help bring the rehabilitation center to fruition.
Because the facility will need a conditional-use permit, center officials met with the county in February to discuss Saucier needs to do to get the permit.
Pierce County Senior Planner Ty Booth said no permit applications have been submitted yet.
“Since the meeting, I have received a handful of follow-up emails from one of their consultants with questions,” Booth said. “It is my understanding that they are still working on preparing the application.”
While Saucier waits out the process, he’s reminded of the need for care in his community.
“I am an avid runner,” he said. “And when I am on my runs I keep finding and cleaning up syringes. It reminds me we really need this treatment center out here.”
Saucier proposed the nonprofit, in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation and counseling center two years ago and has received support from county and state officials, community leaders and others.
Opening the center is his way of keeping a promise he made years ago while in prison, Saucier said.
“I was an addict, and I served prison time over 12 years ago,” he said. “A church leader from Virginia chose to visit me. And he asked me, ‘If you died today, Jeremiah, what would your life legacy be?’ He helped me see I have value. I promised to give back.”
Since his stint in prison, Saucier recovered from drugs at the Crossroads Treatment Center in Lakewood. Afterward he went back to school to become a drug recovery counselor and started working at Crossroads in 2009. Three years later, he became the director of the center and in the past year he and his wife, Lilah Saucier, bought Crossroads.
The Hope Recovery Center would be controlled by a board of directors, Saucier said. In addition to offering detox and traditional rehabilitation, he hopes to supply employment opportunities and education counselors, a church ministry and mental health resources.
Scott Ludlow, chairman of the Lakebay Community Church Board of Directors, supports Saucier’s idea.
He suggested using the church’s land, and a year ago the church signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the center to be built on the land. Ludlow said the final decision on donating or selling the land to Saucier will be up to a vote of the congregation.
“It’ll go in favor of the center I am sure,” he said.
The church has many reasons to support the center, such as a need to heal and protect its community, said Ludlow, for whom fighting the opiate crisis is personal.
“Three years ago my daughter was homeless and addicted to heroine,” he said.
Tristan Ludlow came to her father for help, but the family was left stranded by the lack of resources in Pierce County. Ludlow ended up taking his daughter to Port Angeles for her five-day detox but she then faced a 60-to-90-day wait to enter any rehabilitation centers in the county.
Instead of waiting, Tristan Ludlow was sent to a rehabilitation center in Ohio, where she now lives. She recovered from her addiction and is working as a cosmetologist and is married.
“Trying to help my daughter really brought the (opiate addiction) issue to my eyes,” Ludlow said. “And it affects everyone. We need to help keep our people healthy.”
Saucier said he has received a lot of support from the community.
Recently, the annual Guns and Hoses Softball Game, where local firefighters play against the police department, raised $9,000 for the center. Local politicians, including Pierce County Councilman Derek Young and State Reps. Jesse Young and Michelle Caldier, attended the event, Saucier said.
In February, Young held an opioid epidemic summit with leaders from Pierce County. According to statistics presented at the summit, from 1999 to 2015, admissions to treatment centers in the county for heroin and opioid addictions rose 193 percent. A steady number of high school students use opioid-based drugs, and a large portion of homeless residents are addicted to opioids.
Saucier said he is waiting to start a financial campaign for the $10 million rehabilitation center until its receives the needed county permits but knows he will find a way to open the facility.
“I am not bound by borders,” he said. “I know we need this out here. This is the biggest project we have ever took on, but I keep hoping we will see it through.”